Crusaders Soccer Club has been staple of the San Diego youth soccer community for decades. In this feature, SoccerNation.com’s Jesus De Santiago Jr. chats with CSC’s long time Director of Coaching René Miramontes regarding the history of the club, the values on which the members are raised, the landscape of San Diego soccer, and much more!
SoccerNation: Who is René Miramontes? What is your history with the sport and how did you get started?
René Miramontes: René is a most fortunate fellow who fell in love with the game of soccer. I saw the seeds of soccer planted in San Diego. As a player, I played at a decent level as a youth. I played at SDSU and later transitioned to a couple of semi-professional teams and finished playing in the local amateur leagues.
As a coach, I began with the task of starting the soccer program at the Barrio Station (a social service organization in Logan Heights, servicing the Mexican-American community) This opportunity truly sparked the love for coaching the game and here we are.
As an instructor, I have had the privilege of teaching and sharing the game at all levels (including courses for professional players) for over two decades and have had the benefit of working with some of the top coaches in the country as well as some of the best players in the game.
SN: Tell us what is Crusaders Soccer Club, and what are the club’s core values, and why are they so important.
RM: Crusaders Soccer Club is an organization that has been around for almost 45 years in San Diego. Its mission statement is to provide its membership (Parents, Coaches and Players) with the best environment so they can maximize their soccer experience. Everyone at the club works very hard to bring our mission statement to life.
The core values that support our philosophy are: Respect, Honesty and Accountability.
We believe that each individual is responsible for his or her own soccer destiny; therefore they must take an active role in their development.
SN: How did you get started with CSC?
RM: About 20 years ago, I taught a D course and Terry Cords, (current president of CSC), was a candidate. I guess he liked what I had to offer to the game and much later, the opportunity came to work together and here we are. We working to make CSC the best club possible for our membership.
SN: What is the club’s style of play and how do you develop this style amongst the rest of the teams?
RM: At CSC, we are trying to achieve a playing identity. We seek to play an aggressive, attacking-minded game, based on immediate recovery of the ball and sound, purposeful possession. Easier say than done! Nonetheless, we look to develop this identity by a unified coaching philosophy, a common coaching approach and continuous professional development of our staff. At CSC, we value the development of the individual over the development of teams.
SN: What has been the biggest highlight for you as a player and as a coach?
RM: The biggest highlight as a player was to score the goal in the semi final game of the McGuire National U-19 Tournament to move on to the final, and eliminating the home team at their home.
As a coach, without a doubt was to reach the MLS finals against DC United. This is such a highlight, because we inherited the worst team in the league by all accounts, and to get them to the finals in one season was quite an achievement.
SN: How involved are you as a director with the coaches, teams, and players?
RM: I am very involved in the developmental process of both the staff and the players. It is a very fine line though, because my view is that I bring in professionals to coach our players, therefore, it is very important to give them their space, in order to apply their craft and express their talent, as they work with the players. The staff knows what is expected of them and if they are at CSC, it is because they believe in our approach and can get the job done. I don’t need to hover over them but I am always just one phone call away for support.
As far as player development, I am very fortunately to have Victor Melendez as the club’s assistant DOC. His main responsibility is to monitor player development. Both of us run periodic evaluative sessions and clinics with all of our teams and we provide continuous feedback to our coaches on player performance; collective, and more importantly for us, individual.
We also are present at our home fields every weekend to evaluate our teams performance and again, provide feedback to our coaches in relation to the game model that CSC promotes with all of our teams.
SN: Where do you see CSC in the next five years?
RM: In five years the goals are to have CSC with the following:
- To continue the development of our coaching staff in order to make it the best staff in the area.
- To have our players play a well-defined style of play, that reflects CSC’s game model and identity.
- To have the best recreational program in San Diego.
SN: What constitutes success for you on a day-to-day/week-to-week/year-to-year basis?
RM: At CSC we measure success in the following ways: First and foremost is player development. Are our players getting better? Are we doing everything possible to provide the best environment for our players?
And by far the most important component of our success is the performance of our coaches as teachers of the game. How effective are they in guiding the betterment of the players in their charge?
The next measure of success is performance. Because we are a competitive club, we are also judged in the win/loss categories so we also pay attention to how our teams are doing in relation to the competition. We look to place our teams at the right level of competition that allows for them to grow while competing.
SN: What are your thoughts on the current youth soccer landscape in San Diego and Southern California?
RM: Haha. Don’t Ask.
The present landscape in southern California is not good. There are no real standards of player development and the over-abundance of clubs has diluted the talent pool, affecting the level of play.
On the coaching side, recruitment has taken priority over development. The lack of coaching development in the game in my opinion is abysmal. There’s no doubt, there are some very good professionals but there are still too many directors of coaching in the youth game, with lower level licenses that couldn’t even put together a periodization plan for a team, never mind a teaching curriculum for the club; so I question the level if any, of professional development for the staff in those clubs. The fundamental question becomes this: If the coaches are teaching the players, then who teaches the coaches? Is a DOC with a national “D” license or similar low level license able to teach, motivate and inspire staff to be better? How does the lack of staff development impact player growth? In many cases, we have the situation where the players carry the coach and this is equated as successful player development. Keep in mind, this is just one man’s opinion.
SN: What advice would you give any player is trying to either play in the high school, college, or even having a dream to play professionally?
RM: For anyone looking to move to the next level, I have two pieces of advice:
- Develop good habits. Don’t just settle for doing things right; do them better than anyone! One of the best US coaches in the game today, Sigi Schmidt, told me once: “I look for players that do something better than anyone else. Weather it is passing, crossing tackling etc. has them be the best at it. I will figure out where to put them to benefit the team. It really does me no good to have a player that is an average passer of the ball with both feet. I rather have a one-footed GREAT passer of the ball.”
- Work on your game on your own. Everything comes down to time on task. The more deliberate (right way to do it) one works on something, the better one will get. Many players want to work on their game during team training (twice a week) or when the coach is present and the cones are laid out. This is what most everyone does. If one wants to be better than most anyone, then they have to do more. Additional individual work is imperative to improving one’s game. Training twice a week just won’t cut it for a high school or college player and never mind a professional one.