Player and Coach: An interview with Eastern Men’s Soccer assistant coach and West Chester United captain Luca Mellor

By: Marin Dremock

Huddersfield, England, c. 1998. 18-month-old Luca Mellor toddles around with a soccer ball at his feet. St. David’s, Pa., c. 2022. Adult Luca Mellor is the assistant coach of Eastern University Men’s Soccer.

Waltonian | The Waltonian Source: EU Athletic Photography

“It’s all I’ve ever known, really,” Mellor said. “Any opportunities that I’ve had have come from the game.” And soccer opportunities he has had, playing for the Manchester United Academy organization and Bradford City in England, and then Pittsburgh and Villanova in the U.S.

These pre-collegiate opportunities—although in semi-professional and high-pressure soccer environments—were less than ideal. Mellor spent hours scrubbing soccer balls and cleats and cleaning up cones for the first-team players. The team had to run if any of these chores weren’t done properly.

Now, at Eastern, Mellor’s duties have slightly changed.

“Luckily not cleaning boots anymore,” he said when asked about his responsibilities for EU Men’s Soccer. As an assistant coach, Mellor analyzes EU and opponent game film, works with other coaches to implement strategies for games and spends time looking at how to improve players.

Of course, the staff wants to develop the athletes as soccer players, but Mellor adds a more important aspect of player development.

“The biggest component is to help these young men develop in their character,” Mellor said. Time and attention dedicated to player well-being is vital to Eastern’s program, and Mellor takes this seriously.

Education has proven to be a huge part of Mellor’s life, more so here at Eastern than ever before. Mellor is pursuing his Master’s Degree in Classical Education with the Templeton Honors College here at Eastern University. He understands better than anyone the commitment it takes to keep academic study atop the priority list. Mellor runs a study hall period for all of the freshmen on the team and has academic meetings with other student athletes.

“I suppose you get out what you put in,” Mellor said of the commitment.

Mellor hopes to “lighten the load” for the athletes who are in the Templeton Honors College, but not by encouraging them to do less work. He values studying, reading and commitment to academia, especially in harmony with the game of soccer. Seeing how the philosophy taught in the Honors College could be applied on the soccer pitch “sparked and ignited a fire” in him for education.

“Since I’ve been involved in the program, it’s been tough to think of what I’ll do moving forward that won’t be connected with Templeton or at least to classical education,” he said.

In terms of playing the sport, Mellor now captains West Chester United S.C., a local adult team for players older than the collegiate level. He joined the club in the summer of 2018.

“When you bring up West Chester, all I can do is smile, really,” Mellor said of his experiences at the club. He praises coach Blaise Santangelo—future Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Famer—and the camaraderie of his teammates for making the experience so positive.

Mellor’s West Chester team traveled to Nashville and won the Werner Fricker Cup, a time which he described as “one of the best soccer experiences [he’s] ever had.” Between Coach Santangelo and the leadership of his teammates, he says that his job captaining the team is an easy one.

But when it comes to separating coaching and playing, Mellor finds a challenge in communication.

“It’s tough coaching and playing at the same time. The language that you use is very different as a player,” Mellor said.

Mellor explains that he is still working on how to talk to his players as a coach from the sideline rather than as a player on the pitch. Coaches shouldn’t have to be telling their players everything; that should be an athlete’s job. Mellor is still balancing this hardship.

Rattling off commitment after commitment, Mellor, though a bit older, sounds like the typical college student. Along with studying, coaching and playing, he values spending time with his fiancée and finding time to call his family back in England. At the end of the day, he says “enthusiasm” for everything he does keeps him going.

“I’m lucky to enjoy everything I do,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like work when I’m on the soccer field.”

Author’s Note

Luca Mellor was a joy to interview. At one point, he started asking me questions, turning the interviewer into the interviewee. Well played.

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