Awesome 20+ questions from our local Division 1 soccer coach Orlando Cervantes! If you are interested in playing soccer in college, this is a must read.
1. Where are you from?
I’m from San Jose, California. I lived about 6 years in Phoenix, AZ until high school graduation, and went back to San Jose for college.
2. How much soccer did you play while growing up? What clubs did you play for?
I played a lot of soccer, but also played baseball and football. I did not concentrate solely on soccer until my senior year in high school. I played for the Tempe Soccer Club in Tempe, AZ and Manteca Rangers in California. I also played in a top-level adult league for a team called Angeles and also Academica.
3. Did you play other sports? If so, did you ever specialize in just soccer? If so, at what age?
See above. My best sport was baseball. I stopped playing baseball my senior year in high school. I still regret stopping, but I was getting serious with soccer. I still kept playing baseball on the side in adult leagues.
4. Do you think youth soccer in the US has changed from when you grew up?
It has changed tremendously! I am 39 years old, and soccer was an afterthought in this country when I was a kid. I would enjoy being able to watch the 1982 and 1986 World Cup on TV, and most of those games were only on the Spanish-speaking channels. I am fluent in Spanish, so that was fine, but it shows you that soccer was not important here. The qualification of the USA for the 1990 World Cup was a turning point in this country, and of course hosting the 1994 World Cup really got the country going.
5. What is your all time favorite pair of cleats?
Adidas Copa Mundials made in Germany. K-Leather. Awesome.
6. Top 3 movies.
Tropic Thunder, The Sandlot, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
7. Give us a history of your love of the SF Giants. How did that start?
My parents grew up in Mexico, but in Northern Mexico. Soccer was not a part of their culture. They are from a mining town called Cananea, close to the Arizona border. The mine was owned by Americans, and their was a big American influence there. Baseball is my dad’s favorite sport. He passed that love on to us kids. Growing up in the Bay Area, you watched the Giants and the A’s. We would play outside all summer, and my dad would come home from work and we would watch the Giants games together. Those are great memories. I am very passionate about the Giants.
8. What is your current job? What did you do prior to this job?
I am the Head Women’s Soccer Coach of Lamar University. It has always been a dream of mine to become a Division I Head Coach, and am grateful for the opportunity to do that here at Lamar. Before this, I was an Assistant Coach at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and an Assistant at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. I have been a Head Coach at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona and Holy Name University in Oakland, CA.
9. In the men’s game, do you ever see the US being a Top 5 team?
Definitely. Population alone of the US will force them into one of those top spots as we continue to develop players. Another key is the pro league here (MLS), and the ability of our players to play in the best leagues abroad. There are many immigrants in this country now where their kids grow up with a passion for the sport, and more American kids love the game. It takes time. We are a young soccer country, and will grow.
10. Do you have an opinion as to why the US Women’s team is world class while the men do not compete as well internationally?
Women’s athletics are a priority in the US. Females are encouraged to play sports here, where other countries are just catching up. We have relied on athleticism to win games on the women’s side, and other countries caught us by being more technically advanced. We are now beginning to emphasize technique on the women’s side and making it a focal point of development at the youngest ages. The men have never had that. We have been playing playing catch-up with European, South America, Africa, etc. when it comes technique. Kids in other countries play soccer all day long. We don’t do that here. Our players are beginning to develop at younger ages and turn professional earlier. We are getting there, but again, it takes time.
11. What are your 3 favorite things about living in Southeast Texas.
I love the people here. Everyone is so nice and friendly. I enjoy being at Lamar, and being the only Division 1 program in the area. We have great support here. I enjoy the proximity of Beaumont to different places: Houston, New Orleans, the Florida Gulf Coast. I love exploring new areas of our great country.
12. What position did you play growing up? Did you specialize at any age?
I was a back. I specialized as a back since I was young, but not by choice. Coaches now are smart enough to move players around for their development, but that didn’t happen much when I was a kid. I played what was called a stopper in college, as well as outside mid. I wasn’t the most technical player, but I had decent speed (had), could read the game, and win the ball. I knew what my role was as I got into college. I would win the ball and give it to the central midfielders.
13. How do you define player development for youth soccer programs?
Ball skill and mastery. I cannot emphasize that enough. I missed that as a kid, and had to teach all of that myself. Coaches need to develop a player’s confidence with the ball. That is a spring board for all players.
14. Please introduce us to your family.
My wife is Rachel. We have been married almost 12 years. We met when we were both teachers in California. I like to say she picked me up on the Four Square court, which is actually where we met. We have 2 kids, Canon and Graciana. Canon is 10 and Graciana is 5. She goes by Gracie, but don’t call her Grace. She will tell you her name is Graciana. They both attend Legacy Christian Academy. I try to get them involved in many sports. We have a new dog named Cali. It’s our first dog. She is a pug.
15. Please rank the following famous Southeast Texas food 1-5 (1 being your favorite): Crawfish, fried catfish, bbq, tex-mex, chili
5. Fried catfish
16. Who is your favorite professional soccer team?
Internationally, it’s Barcelona. I love to watch them play. Their attacking style, creativity, and the fun they have while playing. Domestically, it’s the San Jose Earthquakes, because that is where I’m from. However, I used to work for the Houston Dynamo when they were the San Jose Earthquakes, so I like them a lot. When they moved, they brought their players and staff, whom I knew. I follow teams that have former players of mine. There are still some on the Dynamo, and throughout the MLS.
17. Highlight of your playing career?
I would love to say it was in college, but it was actually in high school. I played the game of my life against Chandler High School in Arizona. It was during a big tournament. I was injured and it was raining. I was winning every ball that night. I never got tired. It was the first time I can remember being what is called “the zone.” Everything was going right. I found out the next day I played on a fractured foot, so I was out for a weeks after.
18. How much do you recruit from high schools as opposed to clubs?
We mainly recruit clubs. I will watch a local high school game to make sure I see the area players, but for the most part, we spend our time at club tournaments. We see more players at one time and see them play against top-level players.
19. What is the practice/playing commitment for a scholarship soccer player (hours on weekly basis — in season and off-season).
The NCAA allows for 20 hours of practice a week, but we don’t come close to that. In season, our players have Monday off, train 1.5 to 2 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 1 hour on Thursday. We play Fridays and Sundays, so we train on Saturday. Rest is really important to us. Unlike some college coaches, we allow our kids to have a social life as well. We feel balance is important. Players do come in for extra work throughout the week. Off-season we are not allowed much time with players per NCAA rules. We expect them to play on high-level teams in the summer, and give them workouts to do.
20. What advice would you give a soccer player who wants to play college soccer?
You can play college soccer somewhere in this country. You may not be able to play at UCLA, Stanford, Texas, Florida, etc., but there are many small schools where you can play if you are serious. Market yourself. Coaches are limited in their budgets where they can recruit. Do your best to be seen by schools you are interested in attending. Go to college ID Camps where there are many different colleges represented. Make sure you are communicating with coaches (not your parents). You can achieve your dreams.
21. How do you discover soccer players? What should prospective players do to get the attention of a college soccer coach?
I find players anywhere I can. I have been to Europe and South America looking for players. Different schools have different recruiting needs. Since we are not in a BCS football conference, we are sometimes not a players first choice. When players get to campus, they most always like it. We recruit Texas, California, and internationally heavily. Players need t market themselves and do everything they can to have coaches look at them in pressure situations.
22. What are the advantages of playing ECNL, Premier league, State Classic league, Division 1, Super 2, Division 2, soccer in terms of preparation for college? Where do you go to look at players?
They higher level you play, the more you get evaluated by coaches. Players can be evaluated and recruited at all levels of club soccer, but they have to work harder to get coaches to come to games and tournaments. You need to provide video of yourself (putting it on YouTube is really helpful). You can also guest play on higher level teams if your club does not offer that level.
23. Can you rank the following leagues in terms of where you recruit at: ECNL, Premier League, Division 1, Super 2, Division 2, Recreation soccer or any other organization.
3. Premier League
5. Junior College
6. Division 1
7. Super 2
Thanks Orlando. If there is any other information you want our there, let me know and I will push it out.
If you want to mention our camps going on this winter, that would be great. We have our College ID Camp for Girls on December 14th. That information and registration is at www.lamarsoccercamp.com.
Many thanks to Orlando for taking the time to share with us.