Carlos Saenz ’12
Nebraska u.s. soccer Olympic development program representative in Sioux city, IA
degree: bachelor of science in exercise wellness
Mount Marty College (MMC) alum Carlos Saenz is one of the lucky few who has managed to turn his love of a game into a successful career.
A native of Lima, Peru, Saenz spent much of his youth on the soccer field, traveling to tournaments in Spain, Mexico and Chile before moving to the United States at age 17. His love of soccer carried him to MMC, where he played for the Lancer Soccer program before graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. Today, he’s the group fitness coordinator at the Norm Waitt Sr. YMCA in South Sioux City, Nebraska, where he also serves as a Wellness Coach. In addition to his work at the Y, Saenz serves as head coach of the Siouxland Diablos, a youth soccer club based in South Sioux City.
|When I came to Mount Marty, my English was terrible. The effort, how patient the teachers were in helping me not only learn the language but also the material, I honestly don’t think other colleges would have done that for me. They made the effort to help me succeed, and I will always be thankful for that.|
Carlos Saenz '12 | Exercise Science
Group Fitness Coordinator, South Sioux City YMCA
And it’s that position, coaching 14- and 15-year-old boys in a small town in the middle of America, that’s earning him a lot of attention.
“I got licensed as a coach during my senior year at Mount Marty, just to understand what coaches wanted from their players,” Saenz says. “And I started realizing that it was something I really like. I felt like I was good at it because I understood what the players were expecting from a coach and what the coach was expecting from the players. I could see both sides.”
Saenz was more than good at it. In just two years, he’s helped build the Siouxland Diablos into a U-16 soccer club with international clout, one that just this week returned from the Gothia Cup Soccer Tournament in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“The tournament is known as the youth World Cup,” Saenz says. “The most established, high-level clubs were there from 78 nations. These teams are almost like professionals.”
The Norm Waitt Sr. YMCA organized much of the fundraising for the club’s trip. And the Diablos had a fair showing for their first year in the tournament. They won against a team from Sweden, tied with a local team from Gothenberg, beat a team from Germany and lost to a team from Norway before getting knocked out of the tournament by a team from England.
“For youth, there’s no higher level than that tournament, and we showed we could keep up,” Saenz says. “We didn’t try to select players for the tournament — we went with the players that we had. And we showed everybody that it doesn’t matter where you come from. We’re here in Nebraska, in a city with a 14,000 population, and we’re doing things right. Our players have the training to compete at any level that they want.”
From Nebraska to National
Saenz fell into coaching the Diablos almost by accident. After he graduated from MMC, a friend and fellow Lancer helped him get the job at the YMCA in Sioux City. As a thank you to his friend, Saenz began coaching a group of girls who wanted to learn how to play soccer.
“And they started getting better,” Saenz says. “The South Sioux City Soccer Club saw me coaching them and saw how much they were improving, so they asked me to work with the boys team. And that’s how I started with the Diablos two years ago.”
The Diablos improved quickly, too. Before long, they ranked as one of the top three soccer clubs in the state of Nebraska. Saenz won the Nebraska State Soccer Association Coach of the Month. And then the U.S. Soccer Olympic Development Program came calling.
When the Nebraska State Soccer director asked if Saenz would be interested in attending the U.S. Soccer Olympic Development Program as a representative from the state of Nebraska, Saenz jumped at the opportunity. At just 27 years old, he was one of the youngest coaches in attendance and one of only 20 selected to represent the Midwest region. The regional camp features the best soccer players from 13 states, who are all waiting to be seen for the next level. Some of them will go on to be starting players for the U.S. National Team.
“It was a lot of work, long days but a great experience,” Saenz says. “At the regional camp, all the coaches are well-known coaches with a lot of experience and very good at what they do, so the expectations are really high. You aren’t there to do things well; you’re there to do them almost perfectly. That’s why you get to work with these athletes.”
Although he might have fallen into coaching, Saenz is hopeful that it’s a career he can continue building for the foreseeable future.
“It started as a thanks to a friend for finding me a job, then it was a hobby, then a part-time job, and slowly it’s become something that takes most of my time,” he says. “I think if things continue the way they’re going, it’s a crazy dream, but I could see myself coaching the U.S. National Team. That’s my goal.”
Saenz says he also sees coaching as his way of giving back to a country that has given him so much.
“I’m very proud to be Peruvian and proud to be Latino,” he says. “But I also recognize everything the U.S. has done for me. It’s given me great opportunities and a great education.”
This June, Saenz officially became a U.S. citizen.
“It was a long process,” he says, “but I’m always talking about how thankful I am to this country, and I think this is my way of showing it.”
He’s also thankful to MMC and the investment the college made in his future.
“When I came to Mount Marty, my English was terrible,” he says. “The effort, how patient the teachers were in helping me not only learn the language but also the material, I honestly don’t think other colleges would have done that for me. They made the effort to help me succeed, and I will always be thankful for that.”
To learn more about the U.S. Soccer Olympic Development Program, visitusyouthsoccer.org/programs/olympicdevelopmentprogram. To learn more about the Siouxland Diablos, visitfacebook.com/SiouxlandDiablos. And to find out more about the MMC Lancer Soccer program, visit mmclancers.com.
All photos submitted and republished with permission by Carlos Saenz/Norm Waitt Sr. YMCA. © 2016. All rights reserved.