Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 28
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
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(Photo Courtesy of Seton Hall Athletic Communications)

INSPIRATIONAL RETURN: Esmeralda Negron gives instruction last fall as an assistant coach for the Seton Hall women’s soccer team. Last month, Negron, a former Princeton University star who has scored more points (112) than any player, male or female, in school history, returned to her alma mater to serve as an assistant coach for the Tigers. Negron had served on the Seton Hall staff for the last four years and is replacing Scott Champ after he moved to the Arizona State to take an assistant coaching and recruiting coordinator position there.

PU Women’s Soccer Great Negron Aims to Inspire As She Returns to Alma Mater as Assistant Coach

Bill Alden

While tactics and preparation are key factors in coaching, Esmeralda Negron’s four years of working as an assistant for the Seton Hall women’s soccer program have taught her that winning players’ hearts is even more important.

“I have learned that it is not as much about on-field stuff; you need to connect with the players,” said Negron, a former Princeton University star who has scored more points (112) than any player, male or female, in the school’s history.

“You need to inspire and motivate them. You need to pick them up when they are down. My approach is to learn what will inspire the kids. I am very passionate about coaching; I like being around the game and having an impact on kids’ lives.”

This fall, Negron will be looking to inspire the players at her alma mater as she is returning home to serve as an assistant for the Princeton women’s soccer squad.

For Negron, the chance to return to Princeton and work under her college head coach, Julie Shackford, was a no-brainer.

“I am really excited to be here to help them compete,” said Negron, a 2005 Princeton alum who scored 47 goals during a college career that saw her lead the Tigers to the 2004 College Cup semifinals and earn first-team All America honors.

“I am excited to work with Julie. She had a great influence on me and I am excited to learn from her. I was very proud to represent Princeton academically and athletically when I was a student. It is a great institution and a special place. I have a sense of pride; I want to help take the program where my class left it.”

Tiger head coach Shackford is thrilled to have Negron back in the program.

“Es is definitely the most passionate player I ever had; her love of the game is unparalleled,” said Shackford, who hired Negron to replace assistant Scott Champ after he moved to Arizona State to take an assistant coaching and recruiting coordinator position there.

“She lives for the game; she loves to win. She was a good player when she came here but she left as a tremendous player. She worked really hard to get there.”

Negron put in a lot of hard work at Seton Hall, learning the ropes under Pirate head coach Kazbek Tambi.

“I had a lot of responsibility; I was thrown into everything,” said Negron. “I did a ton of recruiting. I was on the road, making contact with kids. I also helped with the behind-the-scenes academic stuff.”

Dealing with the highly competitive scene around the Big East conference helped speed up Negron’s development as a coach.

“The play and level of competition in the Big East is different than the Ivy league,” said Negron who helped Seton Hall go 25-41-6 over the last four seasons.

“There is a different demographic of kids and the training schedule is more rigorous. The Big East teams have practices five days a week in the spring while at Princeton, you only get 10 spring practices with the coaches. Playing against teams like Notre Dame and Connecticut is exciting. I am super competitive and I love going against high-level teams like that.”

As Negron comes back to Princeton, she realizes that the Tiger players face a high level of pressure on and off the field.

“I understand that everyday is a challenge,” said Negron. “There is a rigorous work load academically and that is more demanding when you are playing a sport. I need to teach them to do things on their own to get better.”

Shackford believes Negron is uniquely suited to establish a rapport with the Princeton players.

“Es can tell the players how it is a process and help them learn the nuances and what it takes to be really good,” said Shackford, who will have Negron focus on the forwards in addition to handling administrative and recruiting duties.

“She has charisma; either you have it or you don’t and she has it. She is easy to like. Ron [assistant coach Ron Celestin] and I are a little older; we try to connect with the kids but I think someone like Es can really connect. She understands what it is like to be a student-athlete at Princeton.”

Negron, for her part, hopes she can help the Tigers be really good. “I think the team has a lot of potential,” asserted Negron, ruefully noting that Princeton beat Seton Hall 3-1 last fall and ended up falling just short of the Ivy title as it went 9-6-1 overall and 4-2-1 in league play.

“I want to help them pick things up a notch. When I was here, I put my sights on something higher than the Ivy League. I wanted to make an impact nationally and go far in the NCAA tournament.”

With Negron providing a shot of inspiration, the Tigers could well make a big impact this fall.

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