The love for this sport runs through his veins. He started playing soccer when he was only four years old and his love for it just grew stronger over the years.
Meet Enrique Sandoval Jr., the new head coach for the boys’ varsity soccer at Rock Island High School. Mr. Sandoval was born and raised in Quad Cities.
“My parents’ first home was on Hero Street in Silvis, IL. I have spent my entire life in this community and am proud to call it my home,” he shared.
He is a graduate of Alleman High School. He holds an Associate’s degree from Black Hawk College and a Bachelor’s degree from St. Ambrose University. Sandoval has also done some studying at Western Illinois University in Macomb.
When it comes to soccer, the sport has a special place in his heart.
“I can’t say I chose soccer. It chose me. It was more of my birth right,” Sandoval explained. “A family tradition passed down from my father and his family before him. He immigrated to the area from Mexico, brought the game with him, and played with some of the first men’s teams.”
Sandoval was four years old when he started playing soccer with local clubs in East Moline and Moline, IL. He told us that he got to travel all over the Midwest when he was part of a travel soccer team. Unfortunately, he could not play soccer because the school had no soccer team at that time. He tried football.
“I played some football and got involved with other activities, but nothing could match my passion for the game of soccer,” he said. “After high school, I did not have much of a resume to play at the collegiate level, so I joined a club team and played as much as I could while away at school at WIU.”
After graduating college, Sandoval started a family and put his soccer playing days on hold; instead, he got heavily involved in coaching his children.
“I became a licensed coach and official,” Sandoval said. “I got involved as a member of the board for the clubs I coached in, and I started holding my own training sessions and camps to try to share as much of my knowledge of soccer with young people in this community.”
While coaching his children, he got to see many of the kids grow up in the game and move on to play in high school. As he was watching them grow, he decided that he had the right aptitudes and experience to coach soccer at the high school level.
“I was fortunate enough to get my first coaching opportunity at Alleman as the head girl’s coach,” Sandoval shared about his first coaching job at the high school level.
After that, he went on to become an assistant with the girls’ program at North Scott High School in Eldridge, IA. He stayed there for three years.
“I was then asked to take on the boy’s head coaching position with the Lancers and spent 2 seasons with them before stepping back from coaching, ” he added.
When he took a breather from coaching, he started to play the game himself again.
“I have one of the longest running teams in the Davenport Adult Soccer League,” Sandoval proudly shared. ” My team, Real QC, has fielded teams since 2010 and continues to play almost every week all year round.”
While playing the game, Sandoval had a chance to meet and get to know many different coaches from clubs and schools all over the Quad Cities. He assures that those connections he made had fired up his passion for coaching once more.
“When the opportunity at Rock Island presented itself, I took it as a sign to put my name in for consideration,” Sandoval said. “I consider it an honor that I was chosen and am excited to start this next chapter of my coaching career.”
Although Sandoval felt burned out by coaching and did not think he could coach again, he now believes that this position as head coach at Rock Island High School is a great opportunity.
“I am a firm believer that God puts us where we belong and always has a plan. So now must be my time to once again take up this responsibility and try to use the gifts I have been given for the benefit of these young men at Rocky,” he shared his thoughts.
Before diving into the actual coaching, Sandoval already took time to get to know better some of the players he will be coaching and had a meeting with the school board.
“I told them that it is my intention to build a program that will be based on respect, honor, and hard work. That my staff and all our players will respect each other and those around us no matter the situation or activity.,” he shared what was discussed and what goals and expectations he has. “That we will comport ourselves in a manner that brings honor to the game and to one another no matter what obstacles or success we achieve this season. And that we will work to our full potential at all times on the field as well as in the classroom.”
As of now, Sandoval does not plan to make any significant changes to the soccer program. He explains he first wishes to see what his players’ strengths and weaknesses are, and he will move on from there.
“Some coaches have a tendency to make the team conform to their vision of how the game should be played. But other coaches like myself like to take a look at the players first and figure out what they might have to offer,” he said. “Over the next few months leading up to the season I want to connect with as many of these kids as possible, so I can get to know them and start that process.”
Soccer has always been part of his life. Before becoming a coach, he was a player. Enrique Sandoval has a deep-rooted love for the sport, and a load of experience as a coach, and that makes him a great fit for the position of head coach of the boys’ varsity soccer team at Rock Island High School.
“I have had some of the greatest moments of my life on or around the soccer field. Moments like watching my father play all over the QC area when I was a boy, traveling 5 hours to another city in the back of my parents’ station wagon to play three games in the sun, and loving every second on the field. To watching my oldest son work his way to a varsity starting position in high school and then become the first one in our family to sign a scholarship letter to play in college, and seeing my youngest at the age of four recently score her first goal on the same fields I started on when I was exactly her age. If I can accomplish one thing in my time at Rock Island High School, I hope that it is that I helped to create some great moments in the lives of some of my players as well,” coach Enrique Sandoval wanted to share his emotions and excitement for what is yet to come.