Earlier this year when I was a volunteer for Club Xolos USA, I met a new coach to the staff by the name of coach Lio, who was going to help the program with the teenage and youth players. I had limited small talks with him and his experience with coaching youth in the San Bernardino/Colton area. I’ve heard about his time sending women players to Mexico but as busy as the program was, I didn’t get the chance to know his story. Fast forward to now, a lot more people have free time due to the COVID-19 situation and I decided to have a chat and get to know a little bit more about coach Lio.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Lio had a love for soccer from his uncle who took him to the soccer fields and spend all day playing. That is the reason why soccer is apart of his life. He grew up playing the game since he didn’t have television at home and remembering playing in a park called Romero Manso, which was termed as “the mecca of soccer in TJ”. At the age of 9, he moved to the inland empire, where he played in the streets and Sunday leagues with adults as a forward or midfielder in San Bernardino. One day a friend invited him to play club in Redlands, Lio hesitated because he had no money or transportation but nevertheless the friends’ grandfather gave him a ride. He got to travel a lot, playing with the youth club and because of his playing abilities the club sponsored him with shoes.
After 3 years, his time in the youth club has ended due to how expensive it was and he went on to play for San Bernardino high school for four years. After graduating and becoming a father, his coaching career started with his son, which is ironic since he didn’t want to coach. He saw how unsuccessful the coaches were in developing his sons skills and decided to take matters into his own hands. He coached his son and oldest daughter and thought his coaching days was over. However, the youngest daughter had talent as lio’s wife mentioned and encouraged him to cater to this talent. So he went up to her coach and offered some help. “I used to coach boys but no idea how to coach girls.” Despite the lack of experience coaching females, it was at this moment that the doors of opportunity opened for him and his girls team.
The opportunity ranged from networking with the Seleccion Mexicana Femenil, copa alianza and cal south. “I see there was no opportunity for them (women players), the coaching was not really there”. So far, he has taken three girls to be seen by the women’s national team in Mexico, although due to the COIVD-19 crisis their showcasing has been paused. Now a days he scouts and networks with colleges and made a ODP team called Socal Select as his independent project. Based off his experience observing talent in the IE and elsewhere, he says the inland empire has a lot of competition/leagues and teams, all at a high level from Sunday league to indoor soccer. “Soccer should be the number one sport in the country but it doesn’t get a lot of exposure and coaching”.
As he shares his experience to me, I asked him what player attributes stand out to him compared to others when he is coaching? He stated that a work ethic says a lot about a player, second nature of approaching the ball, vision, body language and confidence is what leads to a player to being successful. I thought while on the topic of attributes of players, I then asked if he can name one positive and one negative trait that IE players have. Both of his answers have correlated to what I experience in the soccer landscape of the IE, his answer for positive traits were that there is a lot of soccer for players to develop, access to indoor/futsal facilities, 7v7 and 11v11. His negative response? Players not taking the opportunity to further their career and thinking where is the money, as in how much do I get paid. “It takes baby steps” he stated as I nod in agreement.
After that I had a light bulb moment and after some reflection, its 100% true. I figure it could be due to an American spoiled mentality that players in this country have but maybe that’s a story for another day. My last question I asked him was a personal one, which before he replied said “wow I never thought of that before”. I asked him when his involvement in soccer is over, what legacy would he like to leave the IE soccer community? He said he’s always true to himself and to be giving. To emulate his youth coaches that gave him shoes to play when he was young, he wants to do the same for others. To give and expect nothing in return.
You can connect with coach Lio on his Instagram with the link below