By Bryant Iriarte
“Shuffle across, right to left,” says Alfredo Sainz, founder of Sainz Futbol Academy. The kids, 12 of them concentrated and focused, watch and listen as Sainz demonstrates a skill move that is made famous by one of the world’s best soccer players, Andres Iniesta. After the demonstration, it’s the kids’ turn. Each kid moving the ball ‘right to left’ as quickly as they can and across to their teammates at the other end. “Again Tim! On the ground, I don’t want that ball up,” says Sainz, 28, as he picks at his students through every detail of the move.
This isn’t your ordinary soccer training session. Sainz teaches kids of Santa Clarita the individual skill moves and technical aspects of the game that are used by the world’s best players throughout Europe and South America, something that critics say has been missing in American players for decades. The detail into his work and his coaching style has helped grow Sainz Futbol Academy to more than 150 clients in just five years.
“I started out with one kid after the parents had seen some of my YouTube videos and called to ask me if I would do a private training session with their son,” Sainz said. “I trained him for almost two months and then they got me another kid, and the business grew through word-of-mouth.”
Sainz was introduced to the world of soccer from the day he was born. His unique skillset was developed at a young age with the help of a man he idolized growing up: his father.
“My dad always pushed me to be outside, juggling and messing around with a ball and trying new things, watching games and seeing some of the most creative players do all their things,” said Sainz.
His father, Fernando, played professionally in their native Bolivia for one of the biggest clubs in the nation: Wilstermann. The passion for the sport that’s been ever-present in the family helped push Sainz to help develop the future generations of American soccer in order to see his adopted country succeed at the world stage.
“I do specifically skills and agility, everything with the ball, so what separates my academy from others is I don’t coach teams, I teach individual skill and more creativeness,” said Sainz, who himself played for Wilstermann in the past.
With the United States men’s national team struggling at the world stage of soccer for most of its history, Sainz nods with a smile when asked whether he believes his lessons will help fill the void that’s been missing at the world stage.
“It’s definitely the next step in growing the national team and making them better with skills and agility,” said Sainz, who has been an ambassador for Nike’s “SoccerX” campaign, a movement that promotes the creative and technical side of the game. “More importantly gaining confidence for the guys and the girls because I know that’s their biggest thing, they’ll see an opponent one-on-one and they’d rather play it back than take that person on and create something.”
Sainz Futbol Academy has operated in Santa Clarita for five years, where people can find Sainz and his players at Bridgeport Park from Monday to Friday. His sessions last an hour and one of his most important business plans are that he gives every new client their first session free-of-charge in order to assess the player’s level.
After that, he invites new players to train in groups, with beginners and advanced classes on offer. Group trainings cost $25 per player, while a private one-on-one session costs $50.
Sainz develops the best talent in the city through challenging them, physically and mentally, with a strict coaching style that keeps his players focused. After training though, he’s a friend and mentor to all his players, which helps develop a close bond with all his players that keeps them around for many years and has brought success to his players and his business.
With over 150 clients, Sainz Futbol Academy has players ranging from ages 8 to 17, which include many young Santa Clarita residents who play for local clubs such as F.C. Valencia and Real So Cal SCV. Other clients include standout high school talent such as Melissa Lagunas, a three-year varsity player for Golden Valley High School and Eagles soccer club out of Camarillo, who is in the process of deciding where to play at the collegiate level.
Another standout talent is Tyler Stierli, now 12, who developed his skills at Sainz Futbol Academy for two years until his talents took him to England where he accepted an offer to join the academy of professional club, Wigan Athletic.
The success of Sainz’s training has been showcased through the performances of his players in competition, which then drives more business from new clients who want their kids to play the same way.
Perhaps his most successful talent to date is a young, 10-year-old girl by the name of Olivia Moultrie, a local SCV resident. A girl who has been with Sainz since she was seven and has developed at such a high level, that she now plays with the top boys club team in the state, TFA. You heard that right, boys. This comes after a year in which she scored over 90 goals playing against the best female competition on offer under SoCal Blues SC. KC Moultrie, father of Olivia, believes Sainz’s technical training is to thank for the accelerated growth in development.
“First thing is the ball skills and comfort with the ball at her feet, that’s a direct result of Fredo’s training. And second thing, is soccer sense, the way she moves with the ball and stops the ball. All that is because of who she’s grown up around as a soccer player. She has the same movements as Fredo,” says Moultrie. “I feel like another thing is that Fredo is our partner in this journey, I don’t consider him just a trainer, that’s insulting to me. Alfredo is like a friend and our mentor.”
Despite trying out other trainers before Sainz, Moultrie says what made Sainz standout was how much he genuinely cared for his daughter’s career and well-being.
“He’s more personable and easy to talk to, and I think even more importantly Liv feels very comfortable working with Fredo,” said Moultrie. “The fact that Fredo can demonstrate every move he wants to teach his players is very valuable. There are very few people that can do what he can do with a soccer ball.”
“With other trainers, it doesn’t feel like they care as much,” said Olivia Moultrie. “With Fredo, he’ll invite you to play futsal with his friends and puts more effort than other people, he really cares about my career.”
It’s that caring personality and special player-mentor relationship that has developed Sainz into one of the most popular and well-known soccer trainers in all of Southern California, and perhaps one day, taking over the nation.