There are high school teams that get together for a three-month-or-so season. And then there are programs.
First-year coach Daniel Valenzuela takes over the Sedona Red Rock High School boys soccer team with intentions of creating a program.
Valenzuela aims to not only win as many games as possible, but he wants to bring the best out of each player, both as an athlete and a person.
“There’s so much unknown in them that we can potentially bring out and maybe I’ll bring one or two things out,” Valenzuela said. “It’s an overall effort to have a ball of creating interest, generating interest in the season.
“I want to impress upon them continually how good this soccer program can be.”
He spent 13 years in the metropolitan areas of New York and Connecticut training at a private skills academy called Soccer with Aldwin. He also has experience around the Scorpions team, having attended games last season, and also trained with some of the players during the offseason.
His ultimate desire is to bring the higher level, and culture, of soccer he was surrounded by on the East Coast to Sedona.
“He’s helped me a lot, helped me grow as a player honestly,” said senior Alan Ruvalcaba, who has worked with Valenzuela for about a year. “He knows what he’s doing and his teachings are very methodical. Not strange, but unorthodox. If you just look at it at a broad perspective it really helps with what we’re doing.”
Unorthodox describes a lot of what Valenzuela brings to the table.
He talked about creating all-encompassing individual plans for each player after the season. He wants to know all about the players, how long they have played and where they want to improve.
“But it’s very important to me that they walk away from these two months with the sense that ‘OK, I’ve got one or two things improved in my life, in soccer,’” Valenzuela said. “I can’t do any more than that. I can’t say I’m going to deliver seven things; maybe one or two.
“Maybe later in the future we can create more things but for now we have two months.”
It will not happen all at once, and he knows that. Soft-spoken but decided and confident in his words, his idea of soccer is that of an intelligent game.
He wants the type of style that is borne of fluidity and creativity, which comes from craftiness in the players’ feet. He wants to see the players using imagination while they are out on the field.
“How do we transmit to them that soccer is an intellectual thing? How do we get them to think and know and be more accurate thinkers inside of that soccer field?” Valenzuela said. “You know that you have new skills and you know you’re playing to the most intelligent standard that your head can produce in that moment.”
More than just coaching the athletes, he has already invested in what he considers to be another important aspect — the atmosphere.
He has made personal investments in publicizing the team’s home games at local businesses, many within the Spanish-speaking community. He said he is also in the process of arranging for a snack bar at every home game to fundraise for the program. Even a mascot is in the works, in the form of his recently rescued dog Luna.
New equipment such as 20 new balls and a sniper, which is used to cover the majority of the goalmouth except for the four corners, are other examples of on-field contributions.
“We want to spread the word out there in the Spanish-speaking community and the English-speaking community at large that they should come here,” Valenzuela said. “We want to have a bigger crowd .... I feel that generally if you feel happy about looking forward to what you will do, you might just end up doing a better job.”
Successful programs, at any level for any sport, are not created in one season or one year, and Valenzuela is only laying the foundation for the Red Rock boys.