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Former Cerritos and Gahr High Football Coach Jon Nielsen Now Managing Travel Softball Team 

Jon Nielsen, manager of the Athletics 14-Under travel ball team, with his daughter and current Cerritos High standout Jadyn Nielsen.


June 19, 2019

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

Jon Nielsen hasn’t slowed down for anything for over three decades and he has no intentions of doing so anytime soon. Nielsen, the former offensive coordinator/recruiting coordinator for the Cerritos High and Gahr High football teams has now dipped his feet into a new adventure.

Nielsen, who has been involved in travel softball previously, has his own team that he runs, manages and coaches himself, along with former Mayfair High and University of Memphis softball standout Tyler Johnson. That team would be the Athletics 14-Under. Many know Nielsen from his days at Gahr from 2005-2013 when he guided his nephews Corey (2005-2008) and Casey (2009) and other quarterbacks to some of the top passing marks in the state. Now, he is coaching his daughter, Jadyn, with the Athletics. Jadyn, who is primarily a shortstop but can also pitch, just finished an outstanding freshman season at Cerritos.

“It’s kind of an evolution, again,” Nielsen said. “Even when I had Corey, Casey, Colby and even my son, J.J., I was coaching for the city of Cerritos sports, whether it was baseball, basketball, soccer [or] football. So really, the base of my coaching started at the youth level, going all the way up until we got to high school. When Jadyn started playing, I got kind of fully immersed in softball. When she started playing travel, I was talked out of running my own team by a couple of organizations that I won’t name. I actually believed that, and I tested the waters.”

Nielsen says he got involved with travel ball four years ago and immediately liked it because he kind of uses all his different things that he does for a living with the brand management and marketing.

Nielsen, who is keeping up with the silent title as Mr. Everything, owns The Aquaries Group, LLC. Among his current clients are Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals, former Gahr standouts and current National Football League players Josh Perkins and Dwayne Washington and the music group Boyz II Men.

“Jadyn and I played for a few different teams and I came to the same thing,” Nielsen said. “These guys don’t know what they’re doing. There’s a lot of bad coaching out there. Again, I kind of know how things work and how things have to be, and I was like, ‘this can’t be the way’. So, with that and a couple of [other] things I’m decided to do my own thing. That’s how I started doing my own team.”

Nielsen, who was involved with Cerritos Girls Softball from 2011-2014, had attached himself to other organizations as a favor and helped spread the word about their teams. The Athletics has always been his vision and started with a 12-Under team a little over four years ago, the Easton Wahine Softball. He then switched over to Easton Preps for a year, then to American Athletics before dropping the American to go with his current Athletics.

He has always trained at an Anaheim-based facility called Stars (Sports Training and Rehabilitation Services) and now uses that as his home base for the Athletics. Stars owner Jason David, a former defensive back who won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, has been a ‘great asset’ for the Athletics, according to Nielsen.

“I do everything; I wear all the hats, which is fine,” Nielsen said. “Because, I only have to worry about my team. I don’t have to worry about anybody else. People always ask, do you want to do an organization? I say no. I [tell them] I’m going to ride this team out.”

In the business of, ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’, Nielsen has used his contacts and connections with the state of Hawai’i and brought on board four players from the Aloha state to his squad of 13 players. While it’s not uncommon for travel softball teams on the mainland to have a player or two from Hawai’i, it’s rare that you see a team field as many as four players. But at the same time, travel softball has become more and more popular on the islands.

“It just kind of goes back with what I do,” Nielsen said. “I do cater to the market of Hawai’i with the athletes and the companies that I work with. I always wanted to create a platform like I did with football for softball. I wanted a platform where I could showcase girls that weren’t necessarily showcased in a great way or didn’t have a vehicle to do that.

“There’s a lot of talent in Hawai’i,” he added. “A lot of those girls don’t have the resources to come out here to be seen or to be showcased the right way.”

Nielsen, who has always given back to the City of Cerritos and others for a few decades, has always controlled and navigated all his teams even though they have gone under a couple of organizations. He has also been able to have some of his professional clients help fund the Athletics and even some ‘cool companies’ who support what he is doing.

“It comes down to credibility,” Nielsen said. “A lot of guys are hype guys. I’ve never pushed one kid that I didn’t think could play at that level, and that’s why I still, to this day, have college coaches call me about kids in the area. To have that authenticity, to have that credibility is everything. All I know is this, whenever I play in a showcase, I know what schools are going to come watch.

“Everything flowed out of this thing for a reason,” Nielsen later added. “I never said I wanted to be this, that or whatever. I just knew that playing professional football was going to open up doors for me, and the relationships I have with that. And it’s still producing fruit from the tree.”

Like many coaches out there, whether at the recreational, or youth or high school level, Nielsen says this is all about helping young female student athletes achieve their full potential, both in the classroom and on the dirt. Some, especially in the past, may not agree or like Nielsen or some of his tactics. But he reiterates that he takes what he does very seriously, and he has 13 parents that believe in his vision for their kids and they trust him to navigate his college recruiting process.

“With the NCAA rule change, it is essential for the players to develop their skills until their junior year when colleges can have official contact with them,” Nielsen said. “I have about a year and a half left with this group of talented young ladies. We are playing in some pretty high-profile college showcases the rest of this year: Champions Cup in Irvine and Legacy in Atlanta this summer and D9 in Orlando during the fall. I look forward to what the future brings. I never thought I would be doing this with such a passion. So, who knows what this year will spawn off into for my career.”

The Athletics recently went 5-0 in the Triple Crown Sports Zoom Into June Tournament in Riverside, their first showcase tournament this summer.

Nielsen, who was a quarterback for seven teams from five football leagues from 1996-2001 and was a scout for the Calgary Stampeders and Ottawa Renegades of the Canadian Football League from 2004-2006, still leaves the door open for coaching professional football one day. But right now, his attention is on softball and it seems to be that way until at least when his daughter graduates from high school. He doesn’t take vacations with his wife and family and says he will slow down when his job is done, and who knows after that.

“I don’t think a parent’s job is ever done,” Nielsen said. “But I think a coach’s job is done when you can hand your kids and your product off to somebody else you trust and know they’re in good hands.

“I’ve always said that I would have liked to have taken my offense to college, and I’ve had that opportunity a couple of different times,” Nielsen continued. “But things didn’t work out. In another life, I probably would have been an NFL head coach by now if I had taken the path that was offered to me right when I got done playing. But I chose not to. I made a promise to Corey when he was in the third grade I would come back and coach him. The rest is history. Numbers don’t lie.”