Sam Gonzalez didn’t have a whole lot of coaching experience, but that didn’t deter Tokay High athletic director Michael Holst from hiring him as the Tigers’ girls soccer coach this fall.
“He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but Bill Belichick didn’t have any experience before he was Bill Belichick,” Holst said. “You’ve got to start somewhere, and going forward, he’ll hopefully be with us for a long time. He’ll learn stuff that new head coaches have to learn, but I think he’ll do a good job for us.”
Gonzalez, who graduated from Cal State-Los Angeles in 2015, was an assistant coach last year for the Tokay girls soccer program under Jamee Lucchessi, and also helped the boys team. The girls team finished with an 0-19-2 record, but Gonzalez soaked in the experience.
“We decided to take the big hit last year, but we wanted the girls to play more like a team,” he said. “Toward the end of the season, I was starting to see more. The girls did have more intensity. We managed to put a top team in the field the first 25 minutes of the game. To me, that was lack of experience, since a lot of them were freshmen and sophomores.”
Gonzalez is a hometown boy — he was a four-year starter for the Tigers’ soccer team, earning all-league and team MVP honors. But when he first arrived in Lodi at about seven years old, he didn’t speak any English.
Gonzalez was born in Odense, Denmark to a Danish mother and a Mexican father. After living in Denmark for about four years, the family lived in Mexico for another two before landing in Lodi. He only spoke Spanish and Danish.
Gonzalez excelled at soccer, and after graduating, he joined the men’s team at Cosumnes River College, earning all-conference honors both years, and from there went to Cal State-Los Angeles, where he graduated.
Now, Gonzalez is giving back to students like himself. He’s a para-educator at Henderson School, working with bilingual students and parents. He said that experience has translated onto the soccer field, where he has to know how to communicate with a variety of personalities.
“It helped me grow a lot. I’ve always worked with at-risk students, and just going from coaching boys to girls last year was a big jump,” he said. “It helped me a lot being with Coach Lucchessi, how to handle girls, because it’s different from boys.”
This is the first year that the Sac-Joaquin Section is playing both boys and girls soccer in the winter, as opposed to playing boys soccer in the fall and girls in the spring. It’s been a short offseason for the girls, but Gonzalez said he’s been impressed with the effort in early conditioning so far.
“To me, I want to see the girls enjoy the game more than last year,” he said. “They were upset at themselves because they didn’t get the results they wanted. My number one goal is for them to enjoy the season.”
His other main goal, aside from winning games, is to prepare Tokay’s players for college.