Fullerton Rangers’ Jimmy Obleda Named NSCAA Youth National Coach of the Year
Jimmy Obleda, a former professional player and the current Director of Player Development with Fullerton Rangers, has been named Youth National Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The announcement came during the NSCAA Annual Convention in Kansas City.
Indepth Article on Obleda: One on One Spotlight on Jimmy Obleda, Fullerton Rangers
The honor comes on the heels of one of Obleda’s most successful years ever as a coach, during which his U-14 team won Dallas Cup, Western Regional Championship and National Championship. Obleda had previously been named NSCAA Western Region Youth Coach of the Year.
The NSCAA/Mondo Youth National and Regional Coaches of the Year awards recognizes dedicated, high-quality youth coaches at the regional and national levels. In order to be considered for regional or national recognition, youth coach candidates must be “dedicated to the total development of his or her soccer players,” is able to create “an environment conducive to learning and having fun” and be a “teacher of the game.”
Obleda grew up in New York and moved to California at age 14, moving overseas after high school to play professionally. He began his career with Danubio Futbol Club in the Uruguay First Division in South America before moving on to play in Europe and Mexico. Obleda returned to play in America with San Jose Clash (MLS) and Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (APSL), and also had two stints in the U.S. Men’s National Team pool before moving on to coaching.
Seven years ago Obleda was in the right place at the right time to begin his career with Fullerton Rangers. “I was doing my A License at the Home Depot Center,” Obleda remembers, “and one of the board members from the Fullerton Rangers was there doing his A License as well. They were in the process of hiring a Director of Coaching, which they had never had before, and Tony Bruce said, ‘You might want to talk to him,’ meaning me. The director approached me and from there the rest is history, as they say.”
What Obleda found when he arrived at Fullerton was a club that had many assets that it was not taking advantage of. “Back then we were losing a lot of great players from our community and the neighboring area, who should have been playing for us, to other bigger clubs.”
One of the first things Obleda did was to change the focus at Fullerton. Before he joined, the club had been primarily recreation oriented. Obleda saw the possibilities and worked hard to put the club on a new path.
“When I came in I said to them, ‘Look, we have to change this. We have some great players in the community, we have great facilities, we have all the resources necessary as an organization to be a successful club. There’s no reason not to be better.’”
His first move was to change the philosophy of coaching by having staff coaches instead of parent volunteer coaches. He created a curriculum that was put in place from the U-11 level on up to better prepare players to reach higher levels. He also convinced the directors to drop the age level to U-9, which they had not previously had.
The moves clearly worked because the club’s first-ever U-9 team won the 2011 U-14 National Championships.
“We just started changing our philosophy with the curriculum,” Obleda explained. “We created Project 2015, which is a goal-oriented development project. We felt if we did certain steps and put in certain processes and procedures in our development, as far as with training and players, that we would be able to win a National Championship by the end of 2015. We were fortunate to accomplish that ahead of schedule.”
Obleda talked about that championship team and what he felt had brought them to the level they had reached. “Aside from being a very talented group, they are a great group of kids,” he said. “They have been together for a very long time. The majority have been together since U9, going through the process with our club. They are kids who really believe in their club and really love their club. They’re the kind of kids you want in your club. They have a real passion for who they are and who they play for.”
Jimmy Obleda is rightly proud of what Fullerton Rangers have accomplished in his seven year with the club, particularly in helping players grow and improve.
“I think what sets Fullerton Rangers apart from other clubs is development,” Obleda said. “We’ve been developing our club and players since 2004. We’ve had a curriculum.”
“We have coaches who only work with certain age groups and then pass them on to the next coach in two-year cycles,” he explained.
“We put our coaches where we believe they are going to be most successful. So what separates us from other clubs is that we actually have a plan. We don’t just throw it out and say, ‘You coach this team, you coach that team,’ with no rhyme or reason to what we do.”
This focus on planning carries through at every level of the club. “With every team from our Little Rangers to the oldest players,” Obleda continued, “we have a starting point and a finishing point of where we want them to end up. For some it might be getting into college or into a professional environment.
We believe in the steps that need to be done, and I believe that’s what sets us apart from 90% of all of the clubs in Southern California, not just in our area. We have a written document of what we do, that the coaches commit to and have bought into. We’re more than a club. We all believe in what we’re doing and we’re making huge strides.”
With national recognition both on and off the pitch, Jimmy Obleda has shown that he knows what it takes to turn a club around. Recently he has had offers from overseas to come and develop youth programs, but for now he has decided to remain with Fullerton.
“The Fullerton Rangers are an up-and-coming club,” Obleda declared, “and a club where we’re trying to do the right things. We want to stay in the forefront of player development.” If the Rangers are fortunate, Jimmy Obleda will continue to be part of that development for years to come.