The Students Become the Teachers at El Monte CBI

Daniel joined Soccer for Success as a coach-mentor during the 2012-2013 season at Madrid Middle School. It was there that he first met players Jonathan and Giovanni “Gio.” Little did he know that, just over six years later, he would be coaching alongside them as Soccer for Success coach-mentors.


Daniel remembers Jonathan, who started the program in the 7th grade, as timid. Jonathan explains that when he first started, he “was still pretty new to soccer,” and agrees that he was very shy. “I wouldn’t ask many questions. I’d just be in the back,” he says, also remarking that he “thought that playing in an after-school program with people [he] knew” might help him improve his soccer skills.

Throughout Jonathan’s experience with Soccer for Success, coach-mentor Daniel saw him grow as a person and come out of his shell. Daniel explains that Soccer for Success provided a place where Jonathan could both discover his interests and develop a sense of independence. “I feel that Soccer for Success really helped Jonathan out a lot, because once he got to high school, he didn’t need help from anybody, even counselors.”

Though Gio was playing on a club team, he enjoyed coming to Soccer for Success practices because they allowed him to play soccer with his school friends. Additionally, he felt that Soccer for Success taught him to value the impact nutrition had on his game—an aspect of athleticism not emphasized at his club.

“Before practice, the [Soccer for Success coach-mentors] would talk to us about nutrition, and I was never into that [before],” Gio explains. “It just got me interested because they started talking about how it could benefit you to be a better soccer player when eating right.”

After graduating from the Soccer for Success program and as he entered high school, Gio continued to integrate what he had learned about nutrition into his daily life. “I started incorporating [the nutrition lessons] after the program,” he recalls. “I was just more disciplined in watching what I ate.”

Coach-mentor Daniel emphasizes that the most critical thing that both Jonathan and Gio learned from their time in Soccer for Success was team building and team relationships. “Even in their younger days, they really valued that,” he explains. “They would prefer to lose but with a team that would play together and give an effort together as opposed to being on a team with a lot of individuals looking for a scoreboard.”


In high school, Jonathan and Gio maintained a close relationship to the Soccer for Success program. “Every year that I can remember — from their freshman to senior year — they were constantly asking me about the program: if we have the same coaches, if we have more schools, how are our games going,” recounts Daniel. Jonathan and Gio “were always indirectly involved with the program after they left, just checking up. Every now and then, they would go to our sites on Saturdays where we’d have our Saturday games.”

However, it was through different experiences that Jonathan and Gio came to realize that they wanted to be coach-mentors.

For Jonathan, his realization came through a guided discovery with his coach-mentor, Daniel, who also happened to coach at his high school. Throughout Jonathan’s senior year, the two would work one-on-one so that Jonathan could improve his game. “I would ask him to help me out with soccer in general,” Jonathan remembers. “We would talk about the…mentality of players and just the philosophy of soccer.”

Jonathan in high school

Daniel, too, saw that Jonathan’s interest was piqued the more they trained together. “Through those practice sessions, he began to get more and more interested in coaching. He began to offer me ideas…He began to ask how my week would go with my program.”

Throughout those sessions with Daniel, Jonathan’s confidence in his own ability grew. “I really felt like I could do a good job of explaining soccer to other kids the way [Daniel] did for me.”

For Gio, the moment he wanted to become a coach-mentor was almost immediately evident. Having played soccer since the age of six — on multiple club teams, as a Soccer for Success participant, and for the U16 U.S. National Team — he knew that soccer was always going to be a part of his life. But it wasn’t until he suffered a career-ending injury in his junior year of high school that he knew he would be a coach. He says, “The injury made me realize ‘I don’t want to stay away from soccer, from the thing that I love.’

So, when Gio came across the coach-mentor application, he says, “it brought back a lot of memories.”

Jose Vega, the El Monte CBI program manager who, among other things, oversees the hiring of new coaches, says he always asks one question of prospective coach-mentors: Why do you want to work with us and with kids? Jose recalls that both Jonathan and Gio had similar responses. They said that the “program has been one of the things that has opened [their] eyes; that [now] there are so many things that we can do.” He further explains that they “have that mentality of wanting to give back.”


Now, with a season of Soccer for Success coaching under their belts, Jonathan and Gio have been able to reflect on their time as participants and how to use their own experience as players to keep their kids engaged.

“When I was a player,” remembers Jonathan, “I would look up videos [to learn more] and I would go back to those videos [as a coach] to refresh my memory.”

jono coaching

“[Jonathan and Gio] wrap their head around concepts and ideas very quickly as well as being aware of how the program was back then and what we’re trying to do with it now,” explains Daniel. “It’s really helped us with a few of [the participants] primarily because it literally is a first-hand voice on what participants think about the program.”

Jonathan and Gio are also grateful for the impact their coach-mentor had on them. “He was so inspiring to me,” Gio says of Daniel. “I got everything he taught me, and I taught it back to the kids, giving them speeches and how they could improve every day, not just in soccer, but in their lives.”

gio coaching

“He was a good mentor, even now,” says Jonathan. “He’s the reason why I have the job in the first place.”

While Daniel played a role in Jonathan’s and Gio’s growth, both as players and as coaches, Daniel is confident in their abilities. “They still have a pure love for the game, and it shows in their coaching,” he says. “I think they’ve discovered a lot of who they are.”

Jonathan agrees that without Soccer for Success, he’d be a different person. He says that without it, “I’d be a bit more reclusive…I definitely think I wouldn’t appreciate the game as much…both as a player and a coach.” He says that now, “I’m more outgoing. I’ll speak louder. I’ll ask a lot more questions. A million times more different than back in 7th grade for sure.”

Now, as coach-mentors, Jonathan and Gio have a new avenue through which to appreciate soccer. “I fell in love with coaching,” says Gio. “[The kids] don’t just see you as a coach, they see you as a mentor.”


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DICK’S Sporting Goods and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation believe that participation in sports makes people better. Since 2014, DICK’S and The DICK’S Foundation have pledged more than $100 million to support youth sports teams and leagues in need.  Through our Sports Matter initiative we strive to increase awareness for underfunded youth athletics nationwide and provide much-needed support through equipment, uniform and monetary donations. For more information on Sports Matter, visit



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Kwik Goal, the Foundation’s Official Supplier for goals, seating, boundary equipment, training equipment and coaching accessories, will be supporting a variety of Foundation programs and initiatives including: Soccer for Success, National Training and the Safe Places to Play program. Over thirty years ago, Kwik Goal was founded on the revolutionary concept of providing transportable goals for coaches at all age levels. Since that time, Kwik Goal has continued to focus on helping coaches and soccer programs create safe and dynamic learning environments by supplying high quality, safety tested soccer goals, field equipment and training equipment to the domestic and international market. For more information, please visit



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As a proud corporate partner of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Musco is dedicated to helping the major charitable arm of American soccer create new opportunities through high-quality sports lighting. Their Total Light Control—TLC for LED™ technology is engineered as a system with lighting, structural, and electrical components designed to work together for streamlined installation and long-term reliability. TLC for LED delivers superior field lighting while eliminating glare and spill from impacting surrounding neighborhoods. And Musco’s long-term warranty covering parts and labor means U.S. Soccer Foundation partners don’t have to handle any maintenance on their system, or pay for it, for 25 years. Visit to learn more about the grant program and application process.

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SCORE Sports, the preferred provider of shin guards to the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, is a family-owned and operated business specializing in sports equipment, uniforms and apparel. SCORE is an industry leader and has been involved in the sports community for over 40 years. SCORE outfits athletes with high-quality uniforms that SCORE develops, designs and manufactures in the U.S. SCORE takes pride in working with various non-profit groups and causes to give back to athletes who may need some extra support to play the game they love. SCORE is environmentally cautious with the materials it uses for its products and does its part in minimizing our environmental footprint. SCORE proudly offers a wide variety of products to provide customers with a one-stop shop for all your soccer needs. For more information, please visit, the Foundation’s National Partner for Soccer Equipment and Uniforms, was founded in 1984 to provide high quality soccer gear at reasonable prices through its nationally circulated catalog. embodies a passion for the game that extends to the people who play, coach and support soccer. For more information, please visit






Target announced a national partnership with Safe Places to Play in 2017, along with a $6 million commitment to build 100 new soccer play spaces with the U.S. Soccer Foundation by 2020. This is the latest initiative in the Minneapolis-based retailer’s multi-dimensional approach to the sport of soccer, bringing the game to more kids and families across the country, and unlocking access and increasing involvement at all levels.

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TGI Worldwide, the Foundation’s National Partner for Visual Branding (Signage, Event Décor, Pageantry, Sponsorship Activation), Perimeter Field Board Systems, Creative Services and Event Operations is proud to support a variety of initiatives and programs throughout the United States. Headquartered in the U.S., TGI is an internationally recognized sports marketing company delivering high profile Visual Branding, Live Event Management, LED, and cutting edge Digital Sports Applications to enrich the experience at major events and deliver commercial impact for sponsors and partners. The company has a 20-year history in providing its various solutions for many top-tier domestic and international events, organizations, teams and companies, with proven success and turn-key solutions across 1000+ events, 160+ cities and 50+ countries globally.

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