The Story Behind Sun Devil Soccer Star Olivia Nguyen’s Success

The Story Behind Sun Devil Soccer Star Olivia Nguyen’s Success

Graham Winkworth, the head coach of the Sun Devil women’s soccer team, said Nguyen has always been a player who wants to learn. She brings a list of questions to each of their individual meetings because she wants to be better and to grow. Last season, she played more minutes and scored more goals than she did her first two years combined. Winkworth credits this change to her increased confidence and her drive to surpass any expectations put in front of her.

“She’s so coachable, she’s just elevated her game and is playing at a higher level than not just what I expected she might be able to perform at, but at what she expected she could probably perform at,” Winkworth said.

Nguyen emphasizes being a team player and embracing your role on the team. For some players, they play all 90 minutes of the game. For others, they are the loudest voice on the bench cheering on their teammates. She believes both roles are equally important and dependent on each other. If everyone embraces their roles, they can all work in the same direction to reach the same end goal.

Olivia Nguyen participates in the team’s culture group, which works to keep the 31 players on the same page. Her teammate, Isabel Dehakiz, said Nguyen not only finds creative solutions to fix a divide in the team but takes time to create genuine connections with individual players.

For example, when Dehakiz found out she tore her ACL, Nguyen was in the first group of girls who went to Dehakiz’s house to check-in. Later, Nguyen and her mom arranged a lunch with Dehakiz and Dehakiz’s mom. Dehakiz said she is grateful for this friendship because the pair can talk about soccer, fitness, school or relationships and she knows Nguyen will always be there to listen.

“We’re the same grade, same age, and [have been] playing for more than a decade of soccer…she’s my best friend, but I still look up to her,” Dehakiz said.

Dehakiz and Winkworth both describe Nguyen as a leader because of the dedication she has to the sport and the team.

“She leads by example in where she was as her role on the team, with regards to playing time, and where she is now,” Winkworth said. “The younger players can see what she’s done…and see that she wasn’t given it on a plate…That speaks very loudly even if it’s not vocally.”

During the summer, the coaches do not have contact with the players. Winkworth said this is a true test of character because there is no one watching to see if the players are keeping up with their fitness routines. However, Nguyen keeps up her strong work ethic even during the off seasons.

Dehakiz said, “She didn’t get to where she is overnight, or because of genetics…it was because of how much work she put in months in advance.”


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