August 16, 2018

A native of Aba, Nigeria, Caleb Ikwuagwu moved to the United States in 2011 to pursue his education as a full-time student. As the oldest of six siblings, he grew up playing soccer barefoot everyday in the streets of Aba. At times, when no soccer ball was available, he and his friends would use cans or plastic bottles to fill their passion and love for the game.

He began his education at Davis & Elkins in Elkins, West Virginia before transferring to Shasta College in Redding, California. After transferring from Shasta College, he would play two seasons at NCAA Division III Simpson University in Redding from 2012 and 2013 before completing his bachelor’s degree. He is now currently completing a master’s degree in Education.

As one of the youngest black college head coaches across the country, 27, Ikwuagwu was thrilled for the opportunity when he received the call to to lead his alma-mater. We had the pleasure to speak with him to learn more about what his native Nigeria means to him and what his short-term and long-term goals are as a head coach. You grew up in Nigeria and were the oldest of six children to leave the country to pursue a degree here in the United States, why did you feel that you needed to leave to come to the US?

CI: First of all, I am thankful for my motherland – Nigeria. It made me who I am today. I simply felt called to the US to experience what it has to offer, while making an imprint of my culture, beliefs, and life philosophies in this diverse nation. You were called on in August of 2017 to lead your alma mater Simpson University’s men soccer program, what did it mean to you when you were named head coach?

CI: I can’t even begin to describe what I felt. It was a dream come true, simply put. You played at Simpson from 2014-2015 after transferring from Shasta College, so you have a good understanding of how the program operates, what are some things that you would like Simpson’s athletic department to improve to continue building your program?

CI: We have a fantastic athletic department here at Simpson University; I work with some of the most dedicated people you’d ever see. One of my goals for the program is for it to become the City’s team (where everyone in the City of Redding, CA, looks forward to attending our games). Everyone in my department knows this, which is why our SID and his team are working tirelessly to build our presence in our city, mainly through social media. With a year under your belt as head coach, what are your expectations for this upcoming season?

CI: My expectation is to apply the lessons that I learned from my first year to this upcoming year. My hope is that the guys will come together and play up to their potential. If these two things happen, we’ll be in a position to get good results, and experience more positive growth as a program. What are your short-term and long-term goals for the program?

CI: Short-term, I’d like for us to make it to our conference playoffs. Long-term, to make it to the national tournament. What is your style of play and so far how difficult has it been to find student-athletes who suite that style?

CI: I emphasize ‘balance’ in all areas of the field offensively and defensively, offering no weaknesses. On the ball, we try to keep the ball and make the opposition chase. For a possession style of play, you need technically sound players. Finding the players is not where the challenge lies, in my opinion. It is training them to play together in that style, look for the same scenarios, and be on the same page with each other during possession. How did recruiting season go this summer and can you fill us in a bit more about what you look for in a student-athlete?

CI: It went really well. I’m thankful for the kind of players we have coming in. After establishing that the player has the talent and the intangibles to help us win, I try to get to know the recruit on a personal level. I try to make an emotional connection with the recruit, and show them why our program is the best choice for him.  What are the next steps in developing the men’s program moving forward?

CI: Establishing our identity as a program, implementing our style of play, recruiting highly talented players for the future, and building strong relationships with our Redding community (people, businesses, and local teams) will help us move the program forward.

We thank Caleb for taking the time out to answer our Q&A. To follow Simpson University this season, click here to view the schedule.

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