Bay Area soccer coach teaches life skills on the field

(KTVU) - A Bay Area high school varsity soccer coach is using his love for the sport to help underprivileged students.

James Quijano tells KTVU he grew up in an upper middle class family in Moraga, but he saw how hard his parents worked to give him a better life.

As he played soccer as a teenager, he saw others from low income families around him struggle and he wanted to help.

Now, he says he can.

The 30-year-old  teaches dedication and discipline along with the fancy footwork  to De Anza High's varsity soccer team

"A lot of these kids,  they have nothing least give them this little outlet," said Quijano.

He says every team member comes from a low-income Latino family.

The athletes say Quijano has paid many of their soccer expenses out of his own pocket and his words of advice have helped them stay on course.

"Without soccer, I  think I  would be out in the street doing bad things that I'm not supposed to do," said Jose Gomez Junior, 16 years old.

Several students have been homeless, such as 17 year old Luis Lopez.

"It's a time where I can just be myself out on he field, forget about other things that are around," said Luis, a senior.

His father lost his job a few years ago. At times, the family slept in a SUV. Then came the death of his mother.

"That just taught me a lesson.  It helped me become who I am now ...has really built my character," said Luis.

The coach says he uses the field as a classroom of sorts.
"I show them what they can do by going to school and playing soccer versus not doing any of that and the pros and cons," said Quinjano.

Luis is receiving a full soccer scholarship from Cal State East Bay to attend college next fall.  He has a 4.0 gpa.

Teammate Jose is hoping to follow in his footsteps.

"Whether I help them, somebody donated money or they're able to save up their meager savings to get something off of that , they have that chance. They can compete with everybody else . They're no different than anybody else," said Quijano.

Under the brights light overlooking the soccer field, there is hope for a bright future.

The coach says the average gpa of the team is 3.2.

Many also play for Oakland's Montclair Soccer Club, helping with club fees and giving them exposure to national tournaments.