Lukic joined NoCo Rush club shortly after signing with Hailstorm
One of the main goals of the Northern Colorado FC since its inception is to help grow the sport of soccer by supporting local children.
This can show up in different ways. It might mean giving out autographs to young fans or taking pictures after games. Just last weekend, the team collected donations of school supplies.
Midfielder Stefan Lukic, originally from Serbia, has taken it a step further by joining the staff at the local youth club.
Lukic is the technical trainer for the Northern Colorado Rush and is expecting to coach one of the individual teams this fall.
“Soccer is the biggest passion of mine. After soccer comes kids. I decided to join those two passions together — my love for soccer and my love for the kids — and help them a little bit more and help them become the best versions of themselves,” Lukic said. “My mission is to motivate young soccer players to become the best they can possibly be. That’s what I’m trying to do with Rush.”
Northern Colorado Rush director of coaching Matt Foster spoke highly of Lukic and what he’s brought to the club. He said the young pro has raised the expectations for the kids and the other staff members, while still being someone they feel comfortable around.
Lukic was hired by the club in March, about a month after he signed with the Hailstorm. His resume already includes coaching experience having founded Maestro Soccer Academy, which operates in Oklahoma and Florida.
Foster complimented Lukic’s personality and ability to challenge their players, pushing them to improve. Lukic often has the kids try different skills or activities that might otherwise be outside their comfort zones, not wanting to “babysit,” Foster said.
Still, the 26-year-old can relate to the kids. His strong European accent can be kind of intimidating for players the first time they meet him — Lukic said people from Balkan countries are seen as tough — but Foster said they have warmed up to their newest addition.
“The kids absolutely love him,” Foster said. “He brings a different type of training, different mentality, and he’s been great. He’s a fantastic addition to our coaching staff. We’re very fortunate to have him.”
The parents have also been great, too, Lukic added.
He had car issues last week and asked his players’ parents if they could recommend a mechanic. Instead, one father offered to help fix the vehicle.
“He did, which is just something that made me feel very happy, very satisfied,” Lukic said. “I love being part of the community. I believe that the community — that is the most important thing.”
Foster’s wife is 31 weeks pregnant, so they are moving back to Kansas City to be near family. Longtime Rush coach Andy Green will step into the director role. Lukic has little to do with daily operations, but Foster is still excited for Rush’s future.
“I think his presence in the club is important, because it lets players, parents and outside organizations know that we’re trying to improve the quality of our coaching staff,” Foster said. “From the coaches I’ve been around, he’s one of the best coaches I’ve seen.”
Lukic came to northern Colorado after an already-successful youth and college career. He played with Partizan Belgrade in Serbia as a teenager, starting at the Partizan Academy at just 11, U.S. Soccer reported. He was considered a top young prospect but didn’t receive an offer from any teams in the country’s top league, and another deal with Everton FC in England fell through.
Ultimately, he landed at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. He was an NAIA First Team All-American every year of his career, including earning the NAIA National Player of the Year in 2019. He finished with 24 goals and 43 assists.
During the 2019-2020 season, he spent time with Corpus Christi FC in USL League Two.
With the Hailstorm, Lukic has made 12 appearances with one goal. He’s added nine scoring chances, six tackles won and 21 duels won, as of Friday night.
He received two yellow cards in the team’s game against Central Valley Fuego earlier this month, the same game where Rush players were ball retrievers, which translated into a red card. Lukic accidentally hit an opponent in the face.
When asked if he had to explain the situation to his players, Lukic said no, because it was not intentional.
“I didn’t get the red card because I was mean or rude. That’s definitely not the message I want to send to kids,” Lukic said. “That’s something I’m not proud of, but if they watched the game, they could see that I did not mean to hit the guy in the face. I’m sorry that it happened, but that’s part of the game, too.”
His singular red card aside, Lukic is pretty happy right now. Of course, he would like to jump up the ranks eventually, but things are good with Northern Colorado.
Plus, Lukic’s wife is also pregnant and due in two weeks. While it’s not soccer-related, it is another thing for him to be joyful about during his time in Windsor.
“That’s the biggest blessing, I believe, is to have a kid,” Lukic said. “We are super excited, we are ready, and we are looking forward to it.”
Everything with both jobs — though he doesn’t consider them work — should stay the same, he said. Besides, he’s already had practice caring for his younger soccer players and there are several other dads on the team who can help him out.
The couple, however, is crossing their fingers that the baby arrives when the team is home. Northern Colorado will be in Tennessee this weekend and Wisconsin the next.
“That’s not the most ideal part of the job, because this weekend, it might happen, and I will be out of town,” Lukic said. “So I hope it doesn’t happen on weekends.”
Pulled from www.greeleytribune.com