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From Player to Coach: A Conversation with Edwin Villareal

By EP Locomotive FC , 10/27/23, 1:15PM MDT


EL PASO, Texas – El Paso Locomotive FC Youth Soccer is all about providing opportunities to local youth within the sport of soccer and in the case of Edwin Villareal, he has had the chance to serve on both the field and on the sidelines.

Currently a coach for the Locomotive U12 Gold team, Villareal’s journey to becoming a coach for Youth Soccer is an unconventional one. 

He started as a player, having spent many years pursuing the professional player dream at clubs like FC Dallas (MLS) and Club Pachuca (Liga MX) before coming back home to El Paso as an inaugural member of the Locomotive Academy in 2020.

“I saw the opportunity to come back home, and I knew I had to take it because being able to play and represent your hometown is something special,” Villareal said.

After an impressive first season with the Academy, Villareal caught the eyes of the first team coaching staff, who brought him in to become one of the first four academy products in club history to sign a USL Academy contract – which would allow a player to play with the first team while allowing them to keep their eligibility should they choose collegiate soccer following graduation from the Academy.

Eventually, the end of his time at the Academy coming to an end and he was left wondering what he would do after. College wasn’t necessarily his first choice, but he still wanted to be around soccer. That’s when he was approached by Colin Herlinger, Director of Youth Soccer and Programs.

Herlinger asked Villareal if he was interested in coaching a team. When Villareal heard this, he immediately assumed it’d be for an assistant coach position, as that was the only prior coaching experience he had. To his surprise, he was being offered an opportunity to lead his first ever team. Albeit a bit hesitant at first, Villareal was excited about the chance to gain some valuable coaching experience under an organization that had taught and provided him with so much, so he accepted.

“To trust a then 18-year-old to help lead the next generation of players, it shows a level of dedication from an organization like Locomotive to provide young people with opportunities,” Villareal said.

Though he was slightly nervous about the responsibility of leading his own team, Villareal had Herlinger’s help and slowly became more comfortable getting to know his players and families, and more confident about his ability to lead coaching sessions and games. His first team – 2011 Silver, Boys – eventually went on to compete at several various local and regional tournaments, bringing back some trophies along the way.

Certified with his U.S. Soccer Grassroots Coaching License, Villareal is now working on getting his “D” license (the second step in the Coaching License Pathway) with the help of Locomotive Youth Soccer. Just like Locomotive did for him, Villareal now wishes to pass down opportunities to move up in soccer to the next generation of young El Pasoans.   

In this next step in his coaching career, Villareal looks to help increase interest in the sport for young players and help them learn the fundamentals, with the hope they stay within the Locomotive system and jump up to the Academy teams, or even better, the first team.

“Locomotive gave me the opportunity as a young player to surround myself with a different professional environment and opened the door for me to become a coach, which allows me to be the first soccer coach for many kids.” Villareal said. “I’m so grateful for what Locomotive has given me and I look forward to continue helping our players.”