Cape Coral High has a new boys' soccer coach for the upcoming fall season, but he is no stranger to the school, the players, the soccer scene in Southwest Florida or the man he is replacing.
Paolo Acosta should be a name recognized throughout the school because the newly introduced coach was a senior co-captain of the Seahawks' 2011 State Championship team.
Acosta replaces Aldo Nardiello, who held the reins at Cape for seven years leading the Seahawks to a 124-27-22 record, including three district titles, six appearances in the state playoffs and that Class 4A State Championship team that Acosta played on.
"After seven years it's just the right time for me," said Nardiello. "Seven years is not a long time, but on the other side I've coached for 35 years at college, high school ODP and club levels. I'm still coaching the U-11 boys with Cape Coral Soccer Association and refereeing and teaching."
Acosta is familiar with the players in the Seahawks program because he was at the side of his father, Felix, when he coached many of them as 11-year-olds in the CCSA.
"It will be a benefit to me, being a young person at 21," said Acosta. "I will have a closer connection to these players. I can understand the things going on with them better. I am not worried they will not respond to my decisions."
Acosta said coaching the Seahawks is a dream job for him. He has always wanted to coach soccer and has an eye on the collegiate level in the future.
"It's an honor for me to coach my high school team," said Acosta, who recently earned his U.S. Soccer Federation National "C" coaching license. "I'm also a trainer for the CCSA U-12 girls team, so it's a huge leap for a young person to coach at this level. The next step would be to coach in college in five years or so."
Just three years removed from graduation from Cape High's International Baccalaureate Program and a four-year soccer letter-winner, Acosta attends FGCU and is pursuing a sports marketing degree.
"It's kind of ironic," said Nardiello, 56. "I was about Paolo's age when I started coaching way back when."
While Nardiello is amenable to helping Acosta with advice, he closed the zipper on any talk that he might be anywhere near the bench or at practices.
"I will not be looking over his shoulder," Nardiello said with emphasis. "That will not happen. I want to squelch that right away. Only if he asks will I give advice, or do anything for him that he needs, contacts with college coaches, that kind of thing. He needs to establish himself."
CCSA director of coaching Eddie Carmean, also a Seahawks soccer alumnus, called Acosta highly qualified to take over the Cape High program.
"He is gifted and a rising coach in the CCSA program," added Nardiello. "He is highly qualified, he's young and on the cutting edge of soccer with energy and vigor. He has worked very hard to get his coaching certificate."
Acosta understands the high expectations of the program, but is confident in himself and those who have mentored him along the way.
"I know there will be many eyes on me and the program in this transitional year and I look forward to facing the strong competition we have locally while continuing to grow Cape High's soccer reputation in the state of Florida," said Acosta. "I am thankful to Principal Scott Cook and his wonderful staff for believing in me and giving me this honor as the new head coach. I know they will be providing tremendous support during this journey ahead."
Acosta credits his father for teaching him the sport and mentoring him throughout his career.
"Felix, Aldo and Eddie Carmean are the reason I am here today," said Acosta. "I?thank them for their contributions. I have been eager and excited over the last four weeks and can't wait to get to the first team tryout. It's great to be back."
The 2011 State Champion Seahawks finished 25-1-3 and scored three times in 12 minutes to overcome a 2-0 deficit. Caio Amaral's second goal of the game with 20 minutes to play was the game-winner against Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee 3-2.