Julio Serrano on advocating for Latino coaches in the USA

Julio Serrano  was appointed Chair of the United Soccer Coaches' Latino Coaches Advocacy Group in October 2019. Serrano, who previously coached youth club soccer (Palo Alto SC), high school (Half Moon Bay) and college ball (Cañada College, assistant) in California, currently serves as Director of Coaching at Heart of the City, in Waukegan, Illinois. He will also represent Latino coaches as a member of the United Soccer Coaches Advocacy Council.

SOCCER AMERICA: What was your introduction to soccer?

JULIO SERRANO: Growing up in Mexico until the fifth grade, it was everywhere on TV, in newspapers, before, during and after school, as well as watching my father play soccer and tagging along with him to his games. So it was everywhere.

SA: Your favorite childhood soccer memories?

JULIO SERRANO: Is and always has been watching enjoying the game with my dad, Cain Serrano. Even when I was very young, we would discuss the games and share ideas with each other of things we would do or change in each team’s tactics.

SA: What is it about soccer that inspired you to pursue a career in the sport?

JULIO SERRANO: I first started coaching as a community service project. We needed so many hours of volunteering to graduate and one of the organizations on the list was coaching soccer at Half Moon Bay Sports Club, including the recreational program. I noticed the impact and change that can happen in a young person's life when they have someone who supports them and allows them to explore the game.

SA: Your favorite teams and players growing up?

JULIO SERRANO: After we moved full time to the San Francisco Bay Area, we lived in a canyon off Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay. We had no cable TV, but we did have a rooftop antenna. One of the channels that we were able to get was the RAI Italian TV channel. They would often show highlights and tape-delayed games. Because of this, I fell in love with Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan that included Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Carlo Ancelotti ... But one of my favorite players to watch played for Napoli at the time: The Brazilian Alemão.

SA: How do describe the Heart of the City program?

JULIO SERRANO: A great organization that is trying to do its part to provide more soccer and educational opportunities to underserved communities in the Lake County area of Illinois.

SA: Any experiences in your various roles at different levels of the game that you think are particularly valuable as chair of the United Soccer Coaches' Latino Coaches Advocacy Group?

JULIO SERRANO: My journey has been a non-traditional one and every role that I have had -- college coach, DOC, instructor, youth coach -- we have made mistakes, but I believe that all those mistakes have prepared me for this role! One of them is to not take ourselves as coaches too seriously. We have an important role to play and it’s not just winning games. Sometimes as coaches and administrators we get too wrapped up -- as Simon Sinek says -- in the "how" and the "what," and too often than not we have forgotten about the "why?"

SA: What were your first steps after being appointed Chair?

JULIO SERRANO: Contacting as many Latino soccer coaches that came before me. Striking up conversations with them and asking what they felt has changed and maybe was has stayed the same. One thing I found was that all of them, like our Latino community of coaches, had a little different twist. But most were echoing similar points!

SA: How would you describe the mission of United Soccer Coaches Latino Coaches Advocacy?

JULIO SERRANO: To advocate for Latino coaches in the game, as well as supporting United Soccer Coaches’ mission to enhance, encourage and contribute to the development and recognition of Latino soccer coaches. With four areas of focus: Enhance the Latino membership experience; recruit and promote Latino leadership; develop the Latino coach’s environment; recognize and celebrate excellence by Latino coaches in the game

SA: How will you judge whether your tenure as chair is a success?

JULIO SERRANO: By how many people are actively involved with our group and how well we mobilize as a group. We would like to leave a group that communicates, that is diverse and focuses on goals and results. We need to continue to lay the groundwork and continue the work that our predecessors have started. We want to leave the group stronger and more invested in each other.

SA: From your vantage point over the years, what progress have you seen for the USA's Latino soccer community at various levels, such as opportunities for youth players, college soccer opportunities, coaching at higher youth levels, college, and U.S. national team program.

JULIO SERRANO: The game, in general, has made incredible strides across all levels in the USA. In a lot of ways the game has been more accessible than ever for a player to rise through the various mainstream levels: through youth brackets, ECNL, DA, High School, JC/CC, NAIA, NCAA, etc, etc. And in a lot of those areas, it has certainly benefited the Latino and Latina players. Right? It's simple math: more youth soccer leagues equal more teams, more college-sponsored soccer teams more rosters spots, more youth international levels, more opportunities. Since there has been a progression in the creation of all of that, on the surface, yes, Latino and Latina players have benefited.

SA: Any views on MLS, with its increase in Latin American players, such as South American playmakers, and coaches (Tata Martino, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Matias Almeyda, Freddy Juarez, Giovanni Savarese) having an effect on the USA's view of the Latin-style of play?

JULIO SERRANO: These coaches are high-level coaches, who have brought a way, a style about how they approach the game. And it’s no surprise that they have stamped their way of playing immediately on their programs and in most cases have been relatively successful.

And it’s not just style which they affect but their rosters are also a reflection of that style.

All of that is great but I would still like to see more USA-raised Latino coaches in head coaching in MLS. I would love to see more USA-born and U.S.. national team-eligible Latino players (currently only 7%) plying their trade in our top professional league of course, but we/me/you/us must do better to make sure the pipeline of talent from all aspects of society is not blocked and broken, including seeing more Latino-based ownership.

SA: What would you like to see from U.S. Soccer, which infamously created its Youth Task Force without representation from the Latino coaching community and doesn't employ any Latino head coaches among its 18 national teams?

JULIO SERRANO: This is how I like to think about things, Mike. My role -- coach, instructor, or director -- is to do one simple thing: And that is to create an environment that allows and welcomes everyone. You want your organization to reflect the population they represent. We are traveling down that road and still have a lot of work to do.

SA: Anything else you'd like to add or address?

JULIO SERRANO: Awareness of the problems is the first step, and then putting individuals in charge who are prepared to take action as well as make a personal effort to fix the gap between enthusiasm and participation will be critical.

At this year's United Soccer Coaches Convention in Baltimore, Julio Serrano will appear at:
The Past, The Present, and The Future of the Latino Coach and Player, Thursday, January 16, 9:30 am-10:30 am, Room: CC 327.
Our Stories: Obstacles, Challenges and Triumphs, Friday, January 17, 3:00 pm-4:00 pm, Room: CC 327).
United Soccer Coaches Advocacy Hour, Friday, Jan. 17 from 4:30-5:30 pm, Room: CC Ballroom Foyer.

11 comments about "Julio Serrano on advocating for Latino coaches in the USA".
  1. Derek Mccracken, January 11, 2020 at 9:50 a.m.

    I love these comments from Serrano! It's perplexing that USSF continues to keep their head in the sand about this issue. Mostly because it is run by people with European heritage and they are not interested in allowing Hispanics, the smart thing to do, to share management of this national association. It is ludicrous that the USA doesn't have more Hispanics as players in its Youth National Program, and I think that will go backward now that Tab Ramos is gone, that there isn't more Hispanic coaches at high levels and that there isn't more Hispanic management throughout the USSF organization. Not only ridiculous, but embarrassing. 

  2. Ric Fonseca, January 11, 2020 at 1:32 p.m.

    Mr. McCracken:  First thank you very much for your comment, simply and because I too share your concerns, that actually are now almost forty - perhaps more like fifte years old. 

    I also want to wish Julio Serrano all the very best in this seemingly infurmountable endeavor, once that I am all too familiar and well versed in as other colleagues can attest, and I just fervently hope that he doesn't end up pushing that proverbial boulder up the not so insurmountable mountain as we attempted to do into the late '90s and during the early century. 

    Again, all the best to both Junio and the Advocacy group of United SoccerCoaches.

    H. Ric Fonseca
    Founder - Latino Soccer Coaches Association of America (LASCA) 

  3. Wooden Ships replied, January 11, 2020 at 1:41 p.m.

    Ric, I won't ask you if Julio has made contact yet. Sure hope so.

  4. Derek Mccracken replied, January 12, 2020 at 12:34 p.m.

    You are welcome, Ric. As one with European heritage, I recognize that Latino-American's, with it's rich and successful soccer history, MUST be given a greater role in the development of USA soccer if we ever hope to crawl out of the hole into which we've dug ourselves as a result of those with European heritage in charge for many, many decades, wrecklessly and stupidly not wanting to share power.

    This gool ol' boys network, is like a mafia, or a clique with a stranglehold on power and with no desire whatsoever to ever make any REAL changes. What's most dangerous, is that the USSF has been saying the right thing about including more Latinos as players in the national team programs, including more Latinos as coaches and more Latinos as administrators. These empty promises are dangerous because it placates people pushing for change but, unfortunately, these USSF false words are only lip service with no, or negligible, action taken. 

    The USA has always prided itself as the world's melting pot and "better together" has been a great motto. That's why it's perplexing that the USSF doesn't apply this motto to its organization and really, REALLY begin actual, tangible change to form U.S. Soccer into a wonderful melting pot with a strong Latino presence. 

    Without true incorporation of Latinos into all facets of the USSF, it's like this national organization is entering a fighting ring with one arm tied behind it's back. It's mediocre results the past decade, or so, is evidence that the good ol' boys network, the ancient cabal, currently in place at US Soccer IS NOT WORKING! The sooner this cliquish group makes a real change, the better.

  5. Ric Fonseca, January 11, 2020 at 1:56 p.m.

    Vis-a-vis ONLY 7% of USA-born-raised Latino coaches, players, and administrators in the pro ranks?!!?  This in and of itself is an insult to my/our community and prompts me to ask and say: what, we don't exist?  Mucha y buena suerte Coach Serrano!!!

  6. Ric Fonseca replied, January 11, 2020 at 2:04 p.m.

    Senor Wooden Ships, not directly though I did have a very interesting and lengthy concersation with Jake Morrison - who is working with Coach Julio Serrano, but sadly no, I've not yet had any other personal contact with coach Julio.  As they say, hope springs eternal!  

  7. Ric Fonseca replied, January 12, 2020 at 1:05 p.m.

    I failed to make an old, very old comparison in sports, and that is that IMHO, we in the Latino communities of the U.S. are treated by US Soccer, much in the same way Jackie Robinson was treated in the baseball world almost three quarters of a century ago...

  8. frank schoon, January 12, 2020 at 12:52 p.m.

    Good Job, Julio, keep it up. The only thing that I"m missing here in this whole discussion is raising the quality of "player development".  This discussion here centers on job opportunities. But I expect some mentioning also about youth player development, which is disappointing to me when one takes into account the Hispanic community has a step up an advantage due to soccer being a deep part of hispanic cultural experience, unlike the typical American experience.
     I also expect from our Hispanic brothers more leadership due to their cultural advantage, vocally and otherwise on youth player development, instead it's all about job opportunities. Getting more opportunities is a good goal but without direction of a new ,stronger emphasis on youth development leaves me to think that the changes represent not much change at all but the same old, some old.......

  9. Ric Fonseca replied, January 12, 2020 at 1:17 p.m.

    Senor Frank Schoon:  Muchas gracias por su comentario, pero, methinks you miss the point as you obviously feel that it has to do with "job opportunities...", partially, and I mean partially correct.  The matter of the situation is all encompassing, from players, to team administrators/coaches, club/league officers, scouts, etc.  And FYI, we tried this approach, in fact that was part and parcel the main goals and objectives when we launched LASCA in '93-94 and were successful.  As to what happened, I encourage you to stay tuned and wait for Mr. Julio to provide his plans in greater detail.
    Anbd you say that you "expect from our Hispanic brothers more leadership...(sic)", but you see Senor Frank, we've been knock knocking on the US Soccer's door and all they do is to open it just so, and then shut it in our face.  I could name many Hispanic/Latino coaches that have worked with US Soccer, from Reyna to Ramos to Michia to Ramirez, Tarantini, Sagastume, Perez, and Juarez, and we will all tell you that yeah, we tried, but it is a two way street.  And I take off my hat to United Soccer Coaches for reaching out more so in the first few years of LASCA, than US Soccer has done, though I encourage USC not to subsume the newly organized Latino coaches too much as you did at the close of the '90s and into the new century.

  10. frank schoon replied, January 12, 2020 at 1:36 p.m.

    Ric, I suppose you're right. Ofcourse there is more than job opportunities as you say, but when we bring up the Hispanic experience here it always deals with lack of opportunities . I have yet to hear from the Hispanice community in addition to their lack of opportunities a good Healthy dose of criticism on the playere developing experience as your hear me often ramble on about.

    You have talked  to some of your compadres, as you mentioned, why don't seriously write a good column for the SA concerning what they have stated personally to you without naming names. You have a wealth of info on this and and experience...would like to see something on that ....

  11. Bob Ashpole, January 12, 2020 at 3:07 p.m.

    I was waiting to see what Ric had to say before I commented. Not being Latino I have zero insight into discrimination other than to see the objective evidence of discrimation and exclusion.

    I believe in the American dream of equality, but that is not why I regret the exclusion of Latinos from USSF affiliated soccer. In my experience Hispanics and ethnic Protugese are Passionate (with a capital Tee) about the sport. It is horrible to deprive our youth of the opportunity to experience that passion.

    The same applies to all fields of endeavor. Hispanics are passionate about whatever pursuit they love, business, sports, education or science. Our nation is poorer for its present elitist bent.

    Effective leaders in every field know and rely on inclusion as the path to great success.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications