åçBy Irene Hilsendager
Coach Riccardo Oliva was already intrigued with soccer at the age of seven while living in El Salvador. He came from a family of five boys, but only he was the soccer fan. Riccardo said he could always be found playing the sport in the street barefooted.
Oliva was 30-years-old when he decided to head for the United States and try to make a better life for himself while still being able to kick around the soccer ball. Riccardo kept thinking there has to be a better place that he could make something of himself and find a job. He landed in Miami, Florida but only stayed for one year and said, “I am heading to California as the weather was a big factor heading west.”
Oliva found a job in Novato at the Double Rainbow Cafe, stayed for six years, but at the same time he went to school to learn the English language and to prepare for a better job. In 2006 he was given an opportunity to work for the Novato Toyota/Kia dealership.
His interest in coaching soccer peaked around this time and went to get a license for the Nor Cal Soccer Association. He received a level F in Santa Cruz and a year later went to Stockton and received his level E from the same association. Trying to figure out how to get into the leagues, he started coaching soccer by volunteering in a league in Novato.
But in 2009, the Oliva family made a big move to Rohnert Park and along with his wife, Sage and their boys they settled down in a smaller town than Novato. During the summer months he volunteered for the Rohnert Park soccer club.
Volunteering for 10 years in that position, he was awarded the Nor Cal 2016 Boys Recreational Coach of the Year and in June of 2017, the City of Rohnert Park awarded him a certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Coaching efforts and achievements.
In 2017 he also accepted the U.S. Soccer Recreational Western Region Coach of the Year award and finally received the Youth Soccer 2017 Boys Recreational Coach of the Year.
Riccardo says he coaches soccer to youngsters, ages 5-19, regardless if they want to play for one year or 20 seasons. The kids should play strictly for fun and also want to compete at the highest level of play possible. Kids are all different, in size and personality, so therefore he feels the programs should be geared at meeting the different needs of all children.
Coach says soccer provides a healthy activity since every child is guaranteed playing time and he makes sure every child is having an enjoyable time always playing with a big smile on their faces. The Soccer Association is divided into four regions, East, Midwest, South and West-Riccardo being associated with the western division.
Steve Smith from Cotati has been Oliva’s assistant coach for two years and has witnessed the outstanding characteristics that makes Riccardo such a great coach. Riccardo is always organized, punctual and greatly prepared for every practice including set-up. Explanations are always at the forefront including why and what should be expected of each player. He shows respect to each but also expects the respect in return. Coach R. makes sure his players know that he believes in each and every one. He coaches at Evergreen Elementary School and the Ranch and also for the city’s soccer League. Birthdays are never forgotten along with baked goods by Sage. Riccardo coaches at the community center but Eagle Park on Emily Avenue is where you will find soccer players on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Oliva went to Philadelphia in January for a week of training for coaches and to learn how to teach the children. After the week of intense training education, a moving ceremony was held and the biggest surprise came to Coach Riccardo- he was selected as the 2017 Boys Recreational US Youth Soccer National Coach of the Year for the western region amid getting the chance to enjoy the 2018 US Youth Soccer workshop.
Riccardo wants to keep the sport going especially during the summer months to play indoor soccer instead of kids playing x-box games and using their cell phones to waste-away the months when out of school.
Coaches are greatly needed so if anyone is interested in having fun and helping youngsters go to the next level of soccer, contact Riccardo at 707-595-3131.
Oliva says, “I did not get the award for myself, I did it for the kids.”