The UCSB Men’s Soccer Team is one of the most successful soccer programs in the nation. With a 2006 National Championship to their name, and a top 20 ranking this season, the Gauchos once again have their eyes set on claiming a title in 2011.
But not before they help out the community first.
“It’s very important to us to have our players accessible to kids, particularly kids in this community,” said Gauchos head coach Tim Von Steeg. “We have a lot of requests that come in every single year for grammar schools, junior highs, and other groups like the Boys and Girls Club. They are all looking for young men, role models, that will not just teach soccer skills but be role models for young boys and girls in town.”
The Gauchos had a busy summer helping out Santa Barbara children, offering their services to numerous charitable organizations and youth groups in the county. On August 27 the Gauchos took part in the AYSO Skills Day at Girsh Park. With over 1,000 AYSO players, coaches, and parents in attendance, the UCSB men’s and women’s soccer players participated in skills training, autograph sessions and face painting with AYSO players. Furthermore, the UCSB coaches ran coaching clinics for all of the local youth coaches in the area.
“We have players from all over the world in our roster and within our team. It gives a different perspective to the kids [that we help],” assistant coach Greg Wilson said. “We have many hispanic speaking players, players from Africa and Germany and all over Europe. It is a great opportunity for the local kids to see what a global sport we are and what a global initiative we have.”
In September the Gauchos paid a visit to Adelante Charter School where they met and played with the K-6 children in attendance. The trip included the Gauchos players running a mini-clinic for the young students and interacting with them on a personal level by signing autographs and showering them with attention. Furthermore, Gauchos mascot Ole made an appearance and was a big hit with all of the children.
According to Adelante Charter School Principal Juanita Hernandez it was an experience the kids will cherish forever, and one that showed them the importance of living in a diverse culture.
“What the Gauchos brought to the school today was a glimpse of what the kids can become, that they can pursue a dream,” Hernandez said. “I think what was most impressive about the team is that they are from all over the world and they speak different languages. That is what we want our kids to see and understand, that knowing more than one [language] is really the best.”
The Gauchos success on the soccer field is an important part of has made their soccer program one of the best in the country.
But their work with the community, whether it be running coaching clinics or taking a trip to a local school, is something that they feel is the most important of all.