As an 18-month-old crawling with a soccer ball in Mommy and Me class to a center midfielder on varsity, Coppell freshman Nicolas Radicic has been immersed in soccer for as long as he can remember.
Growing up learning how to play soccer in Croatia, Nicolas was part of a professional youth system and only played with others in his age group. While exposed to professional coaches, training and players, Radicic never truly experienced being on a team with those older than him. As one of two freshmen on varsity soccer at Coppell, Nicolas had to adjust to the new environment.
“Playing with the older guys, I’m learning more things through them,” Nicolas said. “Playing with others my age, I never saw how much more I could improve and would be fine with where I was. But on the [Coppell] team, some of the guys are better than me, and I want to prove myself to the coach. It makes me want to work harder, play harder.”
Despite being younger than almost all his teammates, the age gap does not make Nicolas afraid of playing his best and pushing others to do the same.
“As a freshman, he comes in not necessarily nervous or afraid to step on anybody’s toes,” Coppell coach James Balcom said. “Because he’s trained at high levels, he sees we’re here for one purpose: to get the team better. He knows it’s about all being high-level players, training together and getting better together regardless of what grade he’s in.”
The decision to move from Croatia to America in 2016 stems from greater opportunity and a more hopeful future for him and his sister, AnaMarija Radicic.
“Opportunities in the [United States] versus opportunities in Croatia are not even comparable,” Nicolas’s mother Vesna Radicic said. “Croatia is a beautiful country but very politically damaged, economically damaged and corrupted. We knew that was not the place for [AnaMarija and Nicolas] to build their future. We as parents wanted to give them the most we can.”
For Nicolas, transitioning from Croatia to Coppell was not much of a struggle due to his frequent trips to the United States while living in Croatia and his naturally outgoing personality.
“Nicolas is a happy, happy fellow,” Mrs. Radicic said. “He will find the good in anything. He loves people and adores soccer. Nicolas is the type of kid who goes into a room and comes in front of everybody and says, ‘Hey guys, I’m Nicolas. I want to play, who wants to play?’”
Playing on varsity has allowed Nicolas to more than just increase his soccer skills, but has also given him lifelong lessons and a family he can always count on.
“I’ve learned so much through soccer with my friends on the team,” Nicolas said. “I now know how to persevere through things. I can’t think everything will go on by itself; I have to work hard for the things that I want and just keep on moving and going forward. With the guys on the team, I’ve really become one of them, and we’re just like a family now.”
Playing center midfielder or center back, Nicolas does most of the talking on the field, telling his teammates what to do and where to go. In his later years on the team, his leadership role will only increase.
“It’s tough to come in as a freshman and assert yourself as a leader of the group,” Balcom said. “But when [Nicolas] does speak up and want to lead, everybody’s going to follow. We see that at CHS9 already, and a lot of freshmen look up to him. And in the next few years, he’ll step up even more as a leader.”
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