Early this year I met a gentleman by the name of coach Alex. I met coach Alex as part of the Club Xolos USA program as head of youth operations. My first impression of this guy was, he is a charismatic guy who can strike a conversation with anyone. I had limited interactions with him because the man is always chatting with a parent or a person that can help grow the program, if you turn your back on him, he’s out on the other side of the field 15 minutes deep in a conversation with someone else. Like coach Lio, I didn’t know much of coach Alex’s story so I’d said why not, lets have a chat with coach Alex. Growing up in South America, he played soccer all the time, playing in the streets and his parents were very involved in his love of the game because they just loved kicking the ball and having fun. As coach Alex got older, he played academy in Colombia, which he got in since his family played pro. In the academy, he got the chance to travel and try out in other parts of the country and as well in California. When he got to California, he said playing for high school was too easy, in fact silly fun in a theatrical sense. After high school he joined the marines due to unfortunate factors he didn’t share with me but he played NWR which was recreational sports program for the troops. He then came back to play as a walk on for Cal State Fullerton. After a time playing for the titans, the staff noticed he didn’t fill out some South American paper work and his playing career was over. His journey to being a coach started soon after that when he was 23 years old. Being at the right place and time, asking the right questions, this method got him to be a coach, assistant coach for many teams at high school and technical director of coaching for several clubs. Alex didn’t mention any names or a specific timeline of his career but went on to state that being humble, listening to other people about their experiences got him to those positions. I asked him how he ended up in the inland empire and he said his parents wanted to find a affordable place live, which was in Hemet. “Do you like it here, living and working in the IE?” I asked him, “its fun!” he said with enthusiasm. Through experience talking to people about what they love about their town, he said the IE has a lot of fun things to enjoy. While on the topic of the inland empire, I asked him to compare players from the area to other places where he saw talent. “Oh boy” he sighed out loud, if the players are having fun they will get better at it. There’s too much attention at the highest level. He’s seen incredible talent but not all in one team, they are diluted to decent teams, but you don’t get a quality sense of a high level team. He noticed elite teams that have players play a “specialty assignment”; only defenders, only midfielders, only forwards,etc. “It blows me away that players don’t play more than one position”, in his belief, a really good player should play anywhere on the field, including goalkeeper. While on the topic of his opinions on players, I asked him if he has ever coached successful players and if so what made them stood out, he listed maturity, passion, drive and someone who can think on their own, the problem is that other people block those opportunities because of their own interest. A good question I like to ask coaches is to name one positive and one negative trait of IE players, coach Alex said that one positive trait is that players understand their level of skill and handle tasks. One negative trait is that adults (parents or coaches) tell players what they can and cannot do. Parents think kids are superstars and they put them in uncomfortable positions. My final question for coach Alex, one of my favorite questions was, what legacy what you like to leave the IE soccer community. He said “that’s a tough one because that is coming up real soon”. Best thing I can leave behind is finding very positive, forward thinking coaches wanting to learn, be open minded at the ever so changing US soccer landscape and to overcome those challenges to put a positive change in the sport. His finals statement was that, in his 28 years of coaching and operations, what he heard in the past and people will agree and laugh is “once I win the lottery, I’ll buy some soccer fields”. Coach Alex now works for Universal Strategic Management and plans on retiring from soccer operations soon.