After nine years as the head boys' soccer coach at Mount Vernon High School, Robert Garza announced that he will be leaving Mount Vernon to coach the Robinson High School boys' soccer team next year.
Garza attended Mount Vernon with his brother Tony. They both played soccer there, then returned to coach teams at their alma mater.
The Mt. Vernon Majors peaked at No. 5 in the Washington Post’s All-Met rankings and No. 8 in the state of Virginia this past season. Both are accomplishments no other Mount Vernon soccer team has ever before achieved.
Patch caught up with Robert Garza recently to discuss coaching at MVHS, and to look ahead to leading Robinson.
Patch: What were some of your favorite moments of coaching at Mount Vernon?
Garza: There are so many memories and pictures I could paint regarding my time at Mount Vernon. The few that come to mind, of course, are winning the National District Championship on our own home field this past year. Another would be my very first game as head coach at Mount Vernon, a 4-2 win over Annandale. There was also the practice in the snow and the many cold, rain storms we braved. One thing I will always remember is the humorous side of the players outside of the soccer field. When they would be in the locker room or in my office or just at team dinners, their wit and personalities would come out, and not only would you see the kid come out in them they would revel in funny stories that would literally have me bent over in laughter.
Patch: What were some lessons you've learned coaching at MVHS?
Garza: Some of the lessons I have learned at Mount Vernon are that every kid is different. Granted, I can coach a certain way, but each player is different in how they take constructive criticism, assistance, or in how they asked for help. I learned that every kid has a background and, no matter their skill, there is something extraordinary behind their stories that make them succeed. It made me not want to take certain privileges in life for granted. Most importantly, I learned that no matter how much a player may struggle in the classroom, on the field, or in life, a simple smile goes a long way with them.
Patch: What were some of the challenges of coaching at MVHS?
Garza: One of the challenges I had to deal with, besides their commitments to travel soccer and the USSF academies, is finding a way to take a team full of talent and get them to work as an unit for three months – to gel in a way that brands a team image. Of course coaching in a school where the student population is very diverse, every year it was a challenge to ensure every kid was eligible both academically and age wise. It’s every coach’s dream to not have to rebuild rather to just “multiply” your players. It was always a blessing at times and a struggle at times to get players that were academically in good standing and the proper age.
One of the biggest challenges besides the above mentioned, was the commanding of their standing during the off-season. Some would be more dedicated than the others, while some chose to let their grades drop and not participate in any off-season activities. Overall, it was an experience that aided me in picking the right players and not just the best players, as we strove forward for recognition in the Northern Region and state.
Patch: What are you looking forward to most about coaching at Robinson?
Garza: I am looking forward to the new challenges Robinson has to offer. They are a storied program — much like Duke or UNC in college basketball, so I know there will be big shoes to fill. I am looking forward to building upon their fan base and implementing a new sort of style that will bring their fans to their feet and raise the level of excitement their community brings about. And I am now looking forward to playing in the strongest district in the state.
Patch: What will you miss about MVHS?
Garza: What I will miss most about Mount Vernon is the fan base. When I started nine years ago as their head coach, I was told I would be lucky if I got five people to come to the games. Our second game my first year as head coach at Mount Vernon we had two fans in the stands. Over time, our fan base has grown and our community has supported us in a way many thought would never happen. It was a true testament the past few years with the record number of gate receipts and fans who packed our stands. It felt like a small country town wherever we went that we knew we had a following. I will definitely miss the players at Mount Vernon as they were like my family but the outpouring of support from the Mount Vernon community, for the players, the sport, and the staff, will be most missed.