Soccer coach goes above and beyond

  • Written by Don Mann

Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar with daughter Isabelle. Courtesy photo.
Washington Youth Soccer announced that FC Alliance coach Hugo Alcaraz- Cuellar received the 2011 Competitive Boys Coach of the Year award.

FC Alliance, based in Woodinville, is the premier soccer club for the Northshore Youth Soccer Association and a charter member of the Regional Club League of Washington Youth Soccer — with over 25,000 coaches across the state.

Known as "Coach Hugo," Alcaraz-Cuellar’s teams at FC Alliance have seen their share of success over the last two years he’s been coaching, with his 9-year-old boys team advancing to the state cup semifinals this season.

But it’s his work off the pitch that really sets him apart.

"When we needed money for scholarships, Coach Hugo was the first person to step forward," FC Alliance president John Brezak said. "He put on a December soccer camp where all the proceeds benefitted scholarship players in our club. He actively points out volunteer opportunities for his players and leads by example to inspire participation."

In addition, Alcaraz-Cuellar puts in many hours outside of coaching, working with families who require translators to understand their child’s soccer experience. He worked with FC Alliance parent Tom Campbell to develop a grant proposal with Washington Youth Soccer to promote diversity in the game.

"Coach Hugo is especially committed to bringing diversity into soccer and recruiting low-income students into the game," Campbell said. "He puts extra effort into making sure all of his kids can get to practice and games — especially those from less-fortunate families."

Alcaraz-Cuellar is enthusiastic about his work as a translator and mentor to the Hispanic community.

"There are so many wonderful players and families for whom the biggest obstacle in joining soccer programs is that they don’t speak English," he said. "If we could just find more people to help me answer questions in other languages, we would see amazing growth in soccer throughout Washington state."

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Alcarez-Cuellar played college ball at Fresno State before a professional career with the San Diego Flash in 2001, Portland Timbers from 2002 to 2006, and the Seattle Sounders from 2007 through 2008.

He is still the all-time assists leader for Portland, second in career games played and third in points all-time for the club.

In 2010 he was ranked 15th in the USL First Division Top 25 Players of the Decade, a list compiled by the league to honor the best and most influential players of the previous decade.

"Hugo’s background as a player gives him a knowledge of the game that he’s been able to transfer to his players," FC Alliance Director of Player Development Dave Schumacher said. "But you have to understand that Hugo is more than just an excellent player. He is a great communicator and has a unique ability to understand the technical and tactical needs of his players to create realistic, challenging training sessions."

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