Miguel Gutierrez saw the value of hard work from an early age. His mom, Elvira, worked three jobs to provide for Miguel and his four siblings.
“Her work ethic is something I noticed when I was young,” said Gutierrez, who guided the Sobrato High girls soccer team to the Central Coast Section Division I championship match last season. “I took that and applied that into my career and education. My ambition comes from my mom.”
It shows. Gutierrez, 25, continues a career trajectory that he hopes will one day land him a position manning the sidelines for a Division I soccer program. Gutierrez earned a huge honor recently when he was named to the United Soccer Coaches 2020-21 class 30 Under 30 program. Gutierrez was one of 30 coaches selected from a pool of over 550 applicants.
What made the honor more impressive was the fact that Gutierrez was one of just seven high school coaches chosen for the program, which is a year-long education and mentorship opportunity designed to support coaches who are 30 years of age or younger. The program will match up a mentor with Gutierrez, who will also have the chance to further his coaching acumen with an advanced diploma course. Safe to say, Gutierrez was ecstatic when he learned he had been chosen for the program.
“My first reaction was this is awesome and incredible,” he said. “I was kind of speechless at first just because a lot of coaches who usually end up getting this recognition are college coaches and high level coaches with more experience. To be able to go through this program is going to be a phenomenal and great experience.”
A teacher at Downtown College Prep in San Jose, Gutierrez spent two years as Sobrato’s junior varsity coach before taking over the varsity position for the 2019-20 season. Before that, he spent five years as a coach on the Gilroy-based Infinity club program. His insatiable appetite to learn—Gutierrez said he’s set to earn his Master’s degree in sports science in December and will enroll in a doctorate program in sports performance and psychology in March—has accelerated his learning curve.
Gutierrez has an undergraduate degree in kinesiology, and is a voracious reader. He takes a holistic approach to coaching, knowing it’s not just about X’s and O’s. He applies science behind human performance, and treats the mental aspect of the game just as importantly as the physical realm. During his time at SFSU, Gutierrez served as a volunteer coach at Gavilan College in 2016 and at SFSU in 2019. He also asked and was granted permission to observe team practices for the Stanford, Santa Clara and San Jose State women’s soccer programs.
“That opened many doors for me,” he said. “All those coaches helped me out a lot. I went there to observe and learn as much as I could and talked to them on what it would take for me to be in their shoes, because that is my ultimate goal.”
Gutierrez also has lofty goals “to make Sobrato the best soccer program in the Central Coast Section.” Gutierrez credits several figures who have served as mentors, including Armando Padilla, Erin Gemar, Ricardo Espinosa, Ted Thomas, Martin Dixon and Javier Ayala Hill. Karina Von Almen, a senior outside defender on the Sobrato team, first met Gutierrez four years ago and immediately knew she was going to improve.
“He was the first coach who truly believed in me, and that makes a huge difference,” Von Almen said. “My work ethic and everything on the field completely changed because I had a coach who truly believed in me.”
Von Almen credits Gutierrez for always coming to practice with a positive attitude, bringing out the best in the players.
“He’s always happy and excited to get started,” Von Almen said. “It uplifts your spirit.”