Spotlight Profile: Santo Rivas of Hollywood FC
Like many modern soccer clubs looking to improve, Hollywood FC wanted a highly qualified coach to lead their new team.
They could hardly have chosen a better person for the job - Santo Rivas is a coach’s coach.
He holds an “A” level license and has more than 20 years coaching experience at every level of the game, including the Club, High School, and NCAA Division II College levels.
He is a USSF National Staff Instructor and has trained hundreds of coaches nationwide in pursuit of high level national professional coaching licenses. He also conducts coach licensing courses locally for CalSouth.
To the great fortune of Hollywood FC’s youth players, Santo took over as Director of Coaching last August and the program - formerly known as Silver Lake FC - hasn’t looked back. The club now has more than 260 players benefitting from the latest training techniques brought on board by Santo.
“The level of coaching education is making a huge change in the game,” said Santo. “A lot more clubs are understanding how important it is and Cal South is trying to raise the bar.”
One of Santo’s most impressive achievements was helping to rebuild the shattered New Orleans youth soccer scene in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He took over as DOC for the New Orleans Soccer Academy at a time the club’s 27 fields were still under the control of FEMA, the government agency that set up temporary housing for those left homeless by the natural disaster.
Despite working in the most challenging conditions, Santo was named USYSA Coach of the Year in 2008 and took one of his teams to the Louisiana State Cup Championship that same year.
Here, Santo tackles football.com’s Q&A:
1. Can you sum up your soccer philosophy?
SANTO: It’s about making a strong commitment to individual development - looking beyond how teams act and what they do and looking more at the individual development of the player.
Soccer in this country is still a square plug in a round hole. There are still things that don’t fit. A lot of youth soccer clubs still believe it’s all about a team winning. From the ages of 12 to 18, some kids hop around teams as many as 5 or 6 times.
2. What are the most important attributes you look for in a young player?
SANTO: Coachability is number one. Attitude and an appreciation for the game are the key to the door.
3. Who is/was your favorite pro player and pro team?
SANTO: Hugo Sanchez and AS Roma.
4. Sum up your own background in soccer?
SANTO: I came to Southern California from New Jersey when I was 9. One of my first memories of the game was watching the New York Cosmos with the likes of Pele and George Best. I played in Cal South in the ODP program with a team called the Foothill Flyers before being recruited to Cal State LA and playing NCAA D1 and later as a pro in the USISL/A-League.
As a coach, I have served as Director of Coaching for the prestigious New Orleans Soccer Academy and I’ve coached club teams to the highest levels of national recognition and achievement, including finalist and semi-finalist placement at Surf Cup and Dallas Cup.
In 2008, I was named USYSA Coach of the Year, the same year one of my teams won the Louisiana State Cup Championship.
5. What’s the best advice you can offer to a youth player?
SANTO: To be a high level player, they must become a student of the game. More and more, the resources are available for a young person to study and learn the game.