First generation Mexican-American uses lessons from her parents to coach VCU lacrosse

Posted at 12:40 PM, Oct 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-13 23:33:41-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Like most coaches, VCU women's lacrosse head coach Nicole Flores got hooked on her chosen sport at a young age. She was signed up for a clinic in the sixth grade and knew right away that she had found her athletic home.

"I was immediately like yes, this is for me. This is the one I want," Flores said.

Flores played both field hockey and soccer in high school in Connecticut but the uniqueness of lacrosse had a unique appeal.

"It's a fast-paced sport where you can actually possess the ball. It's like basketball on a bigger field. The concepts, the IQ and just the speed is something that's really fun and it keeps people engaged," Flores said.

However, as a first-generation Mexican-American, Nicole doesn't exactly have a pedigree or family history with the sport. She still doesn't.

"My mom's really great nowadays. My aunt will send her the link for the game that day. Usually, she's good because she knows I'm a moody human being. She'll say, I saw the score, call if you want. She knows better otherwise," Flores said. "They're still not up to speed. My parents are great. They're great human beings but they own a restaurant and that's their first child."

The restaurant, Jalapeno Heaven, is approaching three decades of service to Brantford, Connecticut and closes only three days each year. Flores may not have inherited her athletic ability, but she did get her work ethic from her parents.

"Hard work brings you places. Between the two of them, my dad is an immigrant, my mom never even graduated high school, which I didn't even know because she has had such a successful job in running the business so well," Flores said.

Her father Hector originally came to the United States illegally and was deported for a time. But at that time, he worked at a restaurant in Georgia where he built a friendship with one of the regulars who helped his favorite employee come back legally and who also went on to big and better things.

"The one and only Jimmy Carter who happened to be the governor at the time. It's such an impressive and random thing to have happened, but I wouldn't be here without that. I think it's the relationships that you make and the person that you are that helps you along the way," Flores.

In her parent's restaurant, Flores did every job growing up, from waitressing and food prep to learning the books and doing payroll. She also learned that how you treat people goes a long way in many different walks of life. It can help with customers and recruits in very similar ways.

"My upbringing is just like coaching in a sense because of recruiting and the relationships. I can still have a spot in my brain for certain people's orders when they walk in because the same relationships you build with a customer, it's the same way with recruiting and your team, getting to know them and inviting them into your family," Flores said.

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