Coach Gonzalez stays humble through success

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Monica Gallardo, Sports Copy Editor

Looking at women’s soccer head coach Ruben Gonzalez’s overall record (194-17-14), it is no surprise that for the second time in his career he received the National Coach of the Year award for the 2013-2014 season.

He was presented with the award at a coaches convention in Philadelphia after other coaches across the state voted for him.

“I’ve been blessed and fortunate to have won other coaching awards. I think that comes with the success of the team, and here at Cerritos College, we consider ourselves a family,” he said.

His many accolades include leading the Falcons to their first ever National Title in 2008, winning the West Region Coach of the Year four times and South Coast Conference Coach of the Year six times.

Athletic Director Dan Clauss said, “Coach Gonzalez is one of the hardest working coaches we have. He’s a relentless recruiter and he has a very good relationship with the athletes. He cares a lot, and all of that combined makes for a good program.”

As a boy growing up in Paramount, he began playing soccer at the age of 11, taking after his father who was also a soccer player. He attended Pius X High School in Downey, now known as St. Pius X or St. Matthias Academy, and later received a scholarship to play soccer at Cal State Los Angeles.

While coaching the women’s soccer team at Rio Hondo College in 2005, he was approached by his college teammate and Cerritos’ former men’s soccer coach Juan Sanchez.

“He asked me to come to Cerritos, so I came and he left to (Mt. San Antonio College), so sometimes things happen for a reason.”

With great success comes great discipline. Gonzalez credits his mentors for the knowledge they taught him.

“My father was always about discipline and I saw how he would get up at 5 a.m. to go to work,” he said. “He’d work overtime. He came into this country illegally. [It’s] just the way he (was as) a human being, so I think you kind of learn from that.

“My coaching mentor is Leonardo Cuellar, who I played for at Cal State L.A., who was a professional player in Mexico and now he’s been the women’s national team coach for the last 12 or 13 years.

“I’ve been able to go to Mexico every year and spend a couple of weeks [there] during the summer and learn from what he’s learned, so it’s fun because you see what (that program is) doing at the highest level. He’s produced a lot of college players that have gone on to play at top universities. I talk to him on the phone all the time and I ask him questions.”

Gonzalez values any knowledge that he can gain. “I have a younger brother who played for the U.S. Under-20 National team and [I] learn from him even though he’s younger than me. You learn from everyone.”

He uses that knowledge to help his team consistently be successful. He said, “Every year it’s a different group of young women and it doesn’t get any easier. We try to keep them motivated and explain to them that we expect to win every game. We preach to them that we have to prepare for every game.”

The care and determination of his athletes is evident to Gonzalez. “It’s a lot of hard work. We have a weight training class Monday and Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. and on Sunday mornings we have practice,” he said. “It’s preparation and discipline and I think it carries over to the success.”

Goalkeeper Savannah Pilovsky said, “He’s there if we need to talk, he’s good at motivating us. It’s well-deserved and I hope he gets it again this year.”

Defender Kimberly Oliveras added, “I really like his style of coaching. He knows what he’s doing and in order to get us (to) where we want to be, he knows what training and drills we need in order to be successful.”

With all his success and an impressive record, Gonzalez recalls one particular moment that he treasures more than others.

“Even now I get a little teary-eyed. In 2006 I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer and in 2007 we [Cerritos College] were playing for our first state championship and we were just happy to be there.”

He recalls coaching the Falcons against the No. 1 team in the country and trying to encourage them while his two best players were injured.

“Deep down inside as a coach, I didn’t think we had a chance. Well (the athletes) proved me wrong,” he said.

With the Falcons down 1-0 in the 88th minute, one of his players managed to tie the game, sending the sidelines into a frenzy. Three minutes later, another player, who was right-footed, scored the game-winning goal with her left foot.

“Those that believe in God, I believe my mom, an angel of mine watching out, made it happen. To me, it was a miracle.”

He hopes to continue the success of the Cerritos College women’s soccer team. “That’s our goal – to get those young (women) the opportunity to get an education, have a great experience here, continue to win and move on to the next level.”