Most coaches experience a pivotal moment in their career, one that ultimately defines their purpose of devoting countless hours on the field. But for Craig Winans, the moment went beyond the soccer field and straight into the core of his being.
His voice cracks as he thinks back to the year 2007, when he was the Assistant Women’s Coach at San Jose State University. It was also the year both his parents had passed away within 23 days of each other.
"The girls helped me get through one of the toughest times in my life", Winans admits.
His team was playing a match against the United States Air Force Academy, with the game dedicated in honor of his mother.
"When one of our players, Roxy Kamal, scored a goal, she immediately ran to our bench and gave me a great, big bear hug," Winans recalls, then adds in a shaky voice, "That’s when you look at it and you know why you’re coaching."
No doubt, Winans has a passion for soccer. He devoted 41 years to coach both girls and boys teams and just this year, landed a spot on the California Youth Soccer Association board as District 1 Commissioner, which encompasses his hometown of San Francisco.
His resume is robust and impressive, to say the least, although one would never know this by conversing with Winans. And this can be attributed to his soccer philosophy.
"If you coach for the wins, for the trophy at the end of the year, then the coach has lost the reason why we do this," he says matter-of-factly.
A fourth generation native of San Francisco, Winans began playing at the age of 8. He held the position of forward throughout his teen years, later switching to center midfield once he joined the U.S. Air Force Academy team. Two years later, he was recruited to the semi-pro team San Francisco Glens, which at the time, ranked #2 in the nation.
His coaching career began as a freshman at Archbishop Riordan, when he coached 7th and 8th graders, followed by high school and later, Club coaching for CYSA. He recently wrapped up six years as Assistant Women’s Coach for the San Jose State University, where they garnered two WAC Championships and four NSCAA Team Academic Awards.
In addition to earning a plethora of coaching licenses, including a USSF A license, Winans held the positions of District Olympic Development Coordinator (ODP), District Coaching Coordinator and Region IV Staff Coach at Girl’s ODP Camp. He continues to be a CYSA Coaching Instructor.
When asked how he feels about the beautiful game of soccer, Winans doesn’t skip a beat when stating it’s the best sport for a youth.
"For me, soccer players learn sportsmanship, how to work together, and leadership skills – things you don’t learn in a classroom," he says with determination. "In the workplace, you have to learn to work with others because it’s not just about you. If you work with others, you can be so much stronger."