Soccer, the Beautiful Game, is music to the ears of Chula Vista’s hottest new coach.
Two decades ago in Mexico City, J
uan Carlos Paz y Puente opened the first university recognized by the Mexican government. He applies the same teaching method to soccer that produced many successful musicians in Mexico.
“The similarities are just unbelievable,” he said. “You have to have rhythm. You have to have control of your body and be aware of your surroundings. You are a band member, a team player. You have to do everything piece by piece correctly to get the result you want, like when you are playing an instrument.”
Paz’s soccer academy, the Futbol Factory, is a popular center of learning for the region’s most serious students of soccer. Located in Eastlake’s Design District, the 28,000-square-foot indoor soccer facility foc
uses strictly on player technique for players. It is the first of its kind in California.
“We emphasize the importance of little things,” said Paz. “We dissect the movements. Running and shooting has at least six little actions. We have a method that focuses on improving those actions.”
A $100 one-time enrollment fee and an $88 monthly rate cover a pair of one-hour sessions a week, with benefits not found at any of the big soccer clubs in San Diego.
Players come from as far as Ramona and Tijuana, most between the ages of nine and 13, Paz said, to polish their skills at the two month-old facility. About 75 players currently train with five instructors.
Parents rave about the facility.
“I wanted to have my kid in an indoor facility with winter coming,” said Gina Gomez. “The people are very friendly and the schedules are really flexible.”
Christian Mederos, a 20-year-old nursing major at Southwestern College, is a coach at the Futbol Factory. He played six months with Pumas de la UNAM’s under-20 team in Mexico City and was on the United States Futsal Men’s National Team in 2010.
Lead instructor Cruz Ayala, 25, made the regional round of ODP (Olympic Development Program) try-outs and played for Division I Roma in Bakersfield. Ayala said he emphasizes the ability to stop, dribble and kick with both feet.
It is not always fun and games at the Futbol Factory. Trying to teach repetitive techniques to easily distracted 9-year-olds can sometimes devolve into daycare duties.
“Sometimes they don’t listen,” admitted Ayala with a smile.
While the Futbol Factory’s primary focus is improving player technique, it is not just a one trick pony. A classroom with six long tables and chairs greets players before entering the training arena. It was created for referee classes, tactic lectures and study time for players who show up early or await a ride home. Paz said he wants to prepare players and their families for the professional world.
“The difference between a Mexican family and an American family is that the American families are using the sport to get a scholarship and hope their child forgets about the sport to become a doctor or something,” he said. “Mexican families are waiting for their kids to be that soccer star that drags them along. In many cases that’s great because they have the family’s support, but maybe they don’t know about the professional side of the sport. This is part of the entertainment industry and it can be hard.”
Paz said he plans to open another facility in North County in the future and possibly establish a club team. He would also like to have scholarships available for promising young players to encourage them to drop the video game controller in favor of a real futbol pitch.