The Secret Behind Atletico Santa Rosa's 80% College Success Rate
If there is a secret to getting accepted into college to play soccer, then Adolfo Mendoza may just have discovered it.
Last year, 80% of his Atletico Santa Rosa club high school senior-age roster got into college.
The statistic is all the more impressive considering Adolfo insists on an inclusive, everyone plays philosophy through all his teams.
Atletico’s list of 2015 college commitments read:
- Cesar Farias – Harvard University
- Javier Macias – U.C. Berkeley
- Evan Martinez – Saint Mary's College
- Alejandro Gomez – Cal State Northridge
- Christopher Lopez-Ortiz – U.C. Riverside
- Hannah White – The Master's College
- Briana Quintana – Knox College
- Erik Nunn – UC San Diego
- Acacia Lara – UC San Diego
- Derian Saldana – Southern Oregon University
- Martin Macias – Southern Oregon University
- Matthew Quinn – UCLA
- Omar Coronel – Otero College
- Jesus Velasquez – Pacific University Oregon
- Bryan Juarez – Dominican University
- Christopher Villa – Cal-Poly SLO
- Irvin Colin – Cal State University Monterey Bay
- Alan Gomez – Northwest Christian University
A quick scan of these colleges illustrates just how far the club has come since 2003 when Adolfo sat at his kitchen table with a pen and a piece of paper and a dream of founding a new type of soccer club where everyone who signed up got to play and, perhaps even more importantly, wouldn’t be priced out by exorbitant fees.
Thirteen years later, Adolfo’s club blueprint is a thriving model for those who believe soccer success doesn’t have to depend on bank balances but should reward talent, hard work and commitment.
‘We don’t have try-outs, so everybody makes the team,” explained Adolfo. “Everybody also pays the same fees. They all pay $70 a month and that pays for everything - coaches, uniforms, fields…everything.”
Adolfo founded the club when his son was 10 and had few options to play in the Santa Rosa community about 50 miles north of San Francisco. “I wanted to make it affordable and let every kid wear a uniform , play and compete,” he continued.
Less than a year after Mendoza’s pencil-and-paper moment, Atletico Santa Rosa joined US Club Soccer as a competitive club. Today, the club boasts 500 kids in 36 teams at every age group ranging from academy to U-19s with some age groups having more than one team. All its teams are playing within the US Club Soccer-sanctioned NorCal Premier Soccer League, but the core philosophy remains the same - every kid, whatever their skills or their parents’ income, will play.
Adolfo has also maintained a focus on education and on guiding the players in his club towards college and even the pros.
“The road to the MLS is college,” he said. “And after soccer, whatever level you reach, you need a degree to work; you need an educational background.
“Our focus is keeping the kids busying teaching them about life and values through soccer and sport.”
He is proud of the high percentage of his players accepted into colleges, most of them to play in soccer programs.
“If it wasn’t for soccer, quite a few of these would not have made it to these colleges. When you get to the Ivy Leagues and the top colleges, 4.2 or 4.3 grade averages may not be enough. You need that something extra.
“When they are looking at our young men and women, the colleges know that they have the tools to solve problems on the field.”
The club’s progress has come in spite of having to rely on public parks for fields - now the Atleticos are in negotiations for a soccer complex that would be another major boost for the community.
Here, Adolfo explains more in our football.com Q&A:
1. Can you sum up your soccer philosophy?
It is important our players understand the core values of our club; to be a good person, be a leader, to not give up and maintain good sportsmanship. We want to be sure that no kids get left behind. But we also look to instill the technical fundamental concepts of the game.
2. What are the most important attributes you look for in a young player?
Somebody that can make good decisions and has a good personality and a good temperament. If you are fast and quick that’s even better!
3. Who is/was your favorite pro player and pro team?
Hugo Sanchez/Chivas Guadalajara
4. Sum up your own background in soccer?
I never played college or professional soccer; I grew up in California playing American sports but I got into coaching soccer through my son. I’m more of a student of the game. I was looking for a way to give back to my community.
5. What’s the best advice you can offer to a youth player?
Go with your passion and do what you love. Find the right position and don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it.