Soccer

Millbrook grad Cottino to coach Pioneer boys’ soccer team

Millbrook grad Cottino to coach Pioneer boys' soccer team

When Keith Kilmer resigned after 18 years as a boys’ and girls’ soccer coach at Millbrook in June, Rhonda Cottino, one of his former players and assistant coaches, said, “I always wanted to model my life after him.”

On Friday, Millbrook announced that Cottino has taken another major step in that direction.

Cottino — who graduated in 2008 as a star soccer player under her maiden name, Rhonda Runion — will succeed Kilmer as the Pioneers’ boys’ soccer coach.

Kilmer offered Cottino an assistant coaching position in person while attending her final game at Shippensburg University in 2012. In a phone interview, Cottino said her experiences with Kilmer — she assisted his boys’ teams from 2013-15 and from 2019-20 — and at the club level made her realize she wanted to lead her own high school program one day. Cottino was an assistant coach for the Winchester United Under-12 girls’ team from 2013-15 and has been a head coach for the Shenandoah FC Elite boys’ 2010 team since 2018.

“[Head coach at Millbrook] has always been an interest of mine,” said Cottino, a midfielder/forward who was first team All-Northwestern District all four years at Millbrook and started her college career at NCAA Division I Campbell University. “I had no idea when or if Kilmer was going to step down. I never wanted to do anything but assist him while he was there. But given this opportunity, it’s definitely something I’ve been interested in for a long time. I’m thankful for the opportunity and the support from the administration at Millbrook.”

Cottino is a physician assistant whose husband Matt teaches at Millbrook and coaches the JV boys’ team. Millbrook’s boys’ soccer program will have a strong family connection as a result, and Cottino wants her team to feel a connection with the entire school.

“We want, as a family and as coaches there, just to make the program something the community likes to come out and watch,” Cottino said, “but also make the team a team that supports the other sports teams, and just kind of create that culture at Millbrook where we just support the whole school.”

Kilmer led the boys’ program to a 110-71-14 over 11 seasons, including a 9-5 record in 2021 that included the Pioneers’ first regional tournament berth since 2014.

“I know what’s gone on there the last couple of years, and I still know a good number of the players, or they’re at least familiar with me,” Cottino said. “I just want to build on what Kilmer’s already put there and extend the legacy of someone I’ve always looked up to.

“I will do things somewhat differently. I think every coach will do things in their own manner. But it’s been a good program, and that’s what I want to keep going.”

In a phone interview on Friday, Kilmer said Cottino’s attitude is a big reason why he twice brought her onto the coaching staff.

“She has the expectations of her athletes the same as she did for herself,” Kilmer said. “Which clearly, to get to Division I, makes her demands pretty high.

“It was hard coaching her, because she’s so intense, and she coaches the same way. She expects everyone to be at her intensity, and that’s an absolute comment.”

Kilmer fully expects her players to respond, because they’ll see how much she’s invested in them as people.

“For the seasons she helped me, I doubt you’ll find a player that didn’t absolutely love her as coach,” Kilmer said. “She’s very approachable, she’s very personable. She truly cares. Her profession is caring. She’s a physician’s assistant. She’s all about caring about people.

“She’s got the intensity. She’s got the IQ, no question. She’s got the coaching experience. She’s been around the game at all levels, all the way up to Division I college. To me, she’s just the complete package.”

In a news release, Millbrook coordinator of student activities Scott Mankins said he’s been impressed with Cottino’s work ethic and passion since she played for the Pioneers, and added she continued to make an impact as an assistant coach.

“During the time in which she served as an assistant coach for our boys’ soccer team, her knowledge of both the technical and tactical aspects of the game was very evident,” Mankins said. “It’s always nice when one of our own wants to return to Millbrook to lead one of our teams and I’m confident Coach Cottino will continue to build upon the past successes enjoyed by our boys’ soccer team.

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