Soccer is a major part of Refugio Sanchez’s life.
“I played soccer most of my life and just really like the sport,” said Sanchez on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park as a team from the Hollister Tremors competitive soccer club practiced behind him.
Sanchez, known as “ Coach Cuco” to the hundreds of young players and their families that he’s met on the soccer field over the last thirty years, has been named a recipient of this year’s Community Spirit Awards by the Gavilan College Board of Trustees for his service to the people of San Benito County.
“We’ve known Cuco for five years,” said Anna Jamrock, whose son Chris is a goalie for the soccer club. “He is always here and always there for the kids. He’s very protective of the kids even when they are out on the field and provide rides if they cannot make it to games outside the city.”
Sanchez has been a Hollister resident since he was 14 years old. He graduated from San Benito High School and later became part of the school’s soccer coaching staff. He has been head coach for the Hollister Tremors competitive travel teams for more than a decade, coaching teams of young boys and continuing with the same team up through their teenage years. He has been coaching one of his current teams for the past 7 years.
“I enjoy teaching the kids and watching them progress, going from six and seven years old to high school. It’s wonderful to see them getting better in the game,” said Sanchez.
Every Monday through Friday, Sanchez can be found on the soccer field putting his team through their paces in preparation for games on the weekends.
If parents are unable to travel to the games, some of which are more than sixty miles away from Hollister, Sanchez will pick up the kids. He also makes sure to keep extra uniforms available in case a player should need one and is always there to help with fundraising.
Standing in the middle of a park filled with kids and their families, Sanchez said he appreciated how soccer brought families and the community together.
“If you don’t have support from the parents it is difficult to have what we have here. We have a lot of good parents,” he said.
Jamrock said Sanchez was always willing to advise and make himself available to the kids and their parents.
“He’s always responsive when we ask him questions. He’s a good asset for Hollister,” she said.
For Sanchez, soccer is not just a way of life, but a way to keep Hollister youth on the right track.
“If you don’t direct them in the right way they will go out and do their own thing,” he said.
Gavilan College Community Spirit Awards will be presented locally at the Hollister Downtown Association Breakfast on October 25 at 7:30 a.m. at Paine’s Restaurant. Next week the Hollister Free Lance will profile Flapjack’s Restaurant, the business recipient of the Community Spirits Award in San Benito County.