Hector Diaz believes in the city of Chula Vista. He is also a firm believer in the power of family.
As the Director of Soccer Operations and the Head Coach of the successful and rather unique U-23 squad at Chula Vista FC, Diaz has found a true purpose in life that encompasses so much of the community he holds dear.s
A veteran of the United States Air Force and a lifelong student of the game of soccer, Diaz sat down with SoccerNation to discuss the current happenings of Chula Vista FC, including the club’s recent run in the U.S. Open Cup that featured a memorable win over San Diego’s Albion Pros, and their upcoming campaign in the So Cal Premier League.
In an engaging three part interview, we get to learn about the history of Chula Vista FC. Spotlighted is the club’s commitment to the local population and its long-term vision in the South Bay, as well as some of the challenges the club faces.
Enjoy a great look into the young and motivated soccer mind of Hector Diaz. Here’s the third and final part of the conversation in our latest SoccerNation Sitdown.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): “Hector, what do you love most about your job, and your various roles with Chula Vista FC?”
Hector Diaz (Chula Vista FC): “I’ve been very lucky to have full support at this club, people who are aligned with our vision for where we want this club to be. That flexibility to work within the community and establish relationships in the specific ways that we want to, that is what I love and value the most.
We all love coaching games, running training sessions, and doing all the little coaching things we know so well. But the best thing for me in this job is the relationships, the true community involvement. At the end of the day, if I ever find myself thinking whether or not I should keep going with all this stuff, it’s those people and those relationships that keep me going. It’s humbling when you know that people are depending on you. It’s a powerful feeling, and it all comes back to loyalty. I love the loyalty we have with this club.”
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): “Now we’ve spoken all about the community first mindset of Chula Vista FC. But it’s interesting to note that your club is being recognized not just in the South Bay, but in other places around Southern California and beyond, as a sort of benchmark for what a locally driven club can be. What does that mean to you?”
Hector Diaz (Chula Vista FC): “I think it’s telling us that what we believe in is the right thing, that what we’ve done over the last few years is on point. We believe in our community. We’ve always believed in it. This is our community. We feel comfortable, safe, and empowered here.
So often, I see clubs obsessed with what I call horizontal expansion, the type of expansion that spreads a club’s reach in order to create more funds. We believe in our community to a level where we feel we can expand vertically, helping our community first and foremost and building from within ourselves.
Having an adult team is a huge thing for us. Our U-23 squad, again what we like to call our senior-team, I hope is a trend setter in this region and beyond. I would love to see other clubs embrace what that means to have these guys who have been a part of this community and this club still representing the badge as adults.
I’ve never turned down guidance. I want to see how other clubs around the world run. Myself and so many people within our club are studying clubs from around the world all the time. From what we’ve seen, hyper local is how it should be. It’s unfortunate seeing the way that clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City, your Barca’s and Real Madrids, etc. are operated these days. They’ve gone so far away from what football is all about. They hardly care about their own communities. But for every one Man United, there are hundreds of other clubs that are run with a local first mindset, clubs that truly reflect their communities.
For us, it’s neighborhood to neighborhood before anything else. Its common sense to us. Those conversations that other folks around the region have been having confirm that what we’ve been doing is the right. It’s awesome to know that other people are seeing it this way as well. It’s a great compliment, and I hope other communities benefit from the example we feel we’ve set.”
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): “Now within the city of Chula Vista, there certainly exists a collective underdog spirit. A significant portion of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, and so many of the most talented soccer players in the city come from underprivileged backgrounds. How does all this tie into the way Chula Vista FC operates as a club?”
Hector Diaz (Chula Vista FC): “When we came into the club, we wanted to make sure that the cost to play was super low. I particularly fought for this. Within our mission statement and the views of our fantastic board members is the desire to make sure we have a place for everyone. When we say everyone, we mean everyone. Since I have been with the club, we have never turned down a single player due to cost, and we will never do that. Our club is open to all, regardless of economic privilege.
We also have to hold people accountable, those who can afford to pay the full fees and help to keep the club strong. Above all, we want to make sure everyone can play the sport they love.
We so often compare ourselves to folks around the world. For us, the comparisons are almost always with Mexico because it’s so close, the border just a few miles away.
In Mexico, when a 13 year old kid gets signed by a club to be a part of their youth ranks, it’s likely that all that kid is thinking about is doing what they can to become a star, not for personal gain, but to support their entire family and get them into a better life.
It’s hard for the United States as a soccer country to catch up with that mindset when people can’t exactly relate to that. But the fact of the matter is, we do have that here. There are plenty of kids that grow up in poor and underprivileged upbringings who have that same level of motivation. They need to know that there’s an outlet here for them. That’s what we are trying to give to these young people in Chula Vista.
We need this game. The game needs us. Our National Team needs us, this unique passion of the true American dream. I’m not saying Chula Vista FC is going to win the World Cup for the U.S., but I feel like we have a model that should be followed. It’s about passion and belief, things that are shared among every member of this club. It’s about equal opportunity. It’s about feeding off of the desire to grow and become great.”
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): “Speaking of that desire, I have to ask you about your younger brother. The immensely talented Alberto Diaz. He is a star and a leader for the Chula Vista FC senior-team, and scored a stunning goal in that memorable Open Cup win against Albion. What is it like coaching your little bro?”
Hector Diaz (Chula Vista FC): “It’s awesome. There’s eight years difference between us, but we are just as passionate about the game of soccer.
I think back to when he was just a baby. We’d be playing soccer in our little garage, my other brother and I, and my mom would tell us to take care of him. We hated it, because it would interrupt our little garage soccer games. We’d always put him in his walker and then put the walker up in the garage so me and my other brother could keep playing 1 v 1. We thought we had it all figured out. But then he started walking super early in his life. He was always in the way of our little games. So finally we decided we’d let him play, but we changed it to quick two goal games, I guess in an attempt to get him out of the way quicker. He couldn’t have been older than three or four.
I’ll never forget, one of us would score one goal against him, and then he would get really hyped up. He hated losing more than any of us. If he was down a goal in those little garage games, he started yelling “foul” at any little thing and never allow the second goal to get scored. Sometimes he’d yell “foul” and then go running inside the house looking for our dad. In his mind, he didn’t lose. He refused to lose, even in 1 v. 1 garage soccer!
I think Beto became such a good player from always struggling with us older brothers. I think that’s actually fairly common worldwide. Little brothers are so often the better players for that very reason. It’s funny how that works out.
He was called into United States Youth National Camp, making the U-15 roster, which was such a huge achievement. College was a tough thing to attain with his grades, and despite some great offers, he was never able to go to college. He stayed here in Chula Vista, and now with Chula Vista FC he has something to believe in and continue to work for.
It’s the same thing for a lot of other guys within this club. So many great players over the years in Chula Vista have grown up and then not had a place to go. Around the world, they’d have something. Here they didn’t. That has changed dramatically, and that 2015 Open Cup run was a huge part of it. That was a magical time, and Beto was a huge part of that run. It helped to spread that mission, that vision of what our club is all about.
Beto is also coaching within the club now. He loves it. He’s a young man who truly understands the game, and he has embraced what it means to be a student of the game. He’s an open minded person with so much love. He coaches that way, with a real love for the game of soccer. He has his his youth teams that he coaches always playing from the back. He’s lost some games because of it but he he definitely ain’t quitting. Beto believes in the beautiful game. He makes me proud as an older brother.”
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): “Hector, tell us about the overall goals of Chula Vista FC.”
Hector Diaz (Chula Vista FC): “We have so many goals for this club, but above all, our plan is to professionalize everything we do. We want to be comparable to other truly locally driven clubs around the world within five years. We have set 2022 as a pivotal point in our existence.
We need to establish our own small facility, and have it be something that’s not going to affect costs too much, which is obviously very hard. But we’re getting close to solidifying some things in that regard.
Our U-23 team needs to qualify for the Open Cup. We’ve talked about what that tournament means to us. Being a part of it is not something that’s automatic. You have to earn it.
Last but most definitely not least, we want to win the So Cal Premier U-23 Open Division Championship. We’ve done some great things in the last few years, and we’re known as a strong team by people in Southern California. But we’ve never actually won our league. We’ve never won the So Cal Premier U-23. Everyone in and around our club knows that. We want to win this thing, bad!
We love the Open Cup, sometimes maybe so much that we lose sight of our actual league. It’s a league where I can bring in young players to give them a chance, and help with the development within our ranks. But man, we want to win this league. It’s a very competitive league, the Open Division of So Cal Premier. There are more San Diego area teams in the league than ever before, combined with the Orange County and LA based teams. It’s just an awesome regional competition, and it’s our main focus for the rest of the 2017 year. We want to win that league!”
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): “Coach, before we end this thing, I have to ask you for your thoughts on SoccerCity SD and the movement for Major League Soccer in San Diego.”
Hector Diaz (Chula Vista FC): “You know Nate, I’ve had a real struggle with the whole thing. My first instinct was that I wasn’t very supportive. But the more I thought about it, the more I came around. In the beginning, maybe, I was skeptical of the motivation behind the movement. But an MLS franchise could very well provide funding for youth teams in the area.
I think an MLS team would greatly benefit Chula Vista FC, and I’m a big supporter of strong academy systems. I love the idea that kids from the South Bay with top talent wouldn’t have to pay to play the game at a high level. Instead of kids in Chula Vista looking up just to the guys on the CVFC senior team, those kids could also look up to players on that MLS team. It would help inspire young players. I think our club would be in full support.
The political side of this whole thing is what is tough for me. I just see everyone arguing and I’m thinking, man, there has to be a way to get this done, a way to build a stadium that could make everyone happy.
As a resident of Chula Vista, it’s hard, because we can’t actually vote on any of this stuff. It’s hard to fully support something you can’t vote on. But I support it in spirit, and anything I can do to help, I will gladly do.
I was a big Chargers fan my whole life. I’m still a huge Padres baseball fan. I love going to games, professional sporting events. It’s magic. Sports give something to kids that’s almost indescribable.
I’d like to think that SoccerCity is focused on bringing MLS to San Diego to truly give something to the people. But if their first option in Mission Valley doesn’t get done for one reason or another, I really wish there was another site. I understand that Mission Valley is lucrative, but if that doesn’t get done, I sincerely wish they would still pursue a stadium in another area in San Diego County.”
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): “Hector, it’s been great talking with you. Got any last words for the good readers of SoccerNation?”
Hector Diaz (Chula Vista FC): “I just want to thank everyone that has supported Chula Vista FC. I want to thank all the club presidents of the past, and all the incredible board members that have shared our values.
I also want to say that San Diego is putting soccer on the sporting map in our community, not only through players, coaches, and fans, but through passionate young journalists who truly care about the game.
I remember when SoccerNation started and I’ve seen it just grow and grow. The writers and broadcasters are so much to credit for the growth of this game, the passion of this game. And I don’t just say this because there’s articles or podcasts about our club. There’s plenty of stuff I read on SoccerNation that I don’t agree with. There’s also lots I do agree with, and things that get me fired up one way or another. SoccerNation is helping to spark meaningful dialogue.
We all play a little part in a much bigger story, and it takes that type of mindset from local communities for us to grow as a whole. When SoccerNation comes out with articles on a given topic, it generates interest. It motivates people to seek their own answers and get involved within their communities.
I’m a Chula Vista boy, through and through, but I’m all in for the city of San Diego, for our entire county and extended community. We’ve been leaders of soccer in this country for a long time. It’s time for us as San Diegans to get our due reward.”