New soccer coach brings major league experience to SF State
SF State’s new Men’s Soccer Head Coach Javier Ayala-Hil grew up in East Palo Alto at a time when things were rough and distractions like gangs and crime surrounded him. Despite these circumstances, Ayala-Hil stayed focused on playing soccer and became the first in his family to attend a four-year university and graduate.
“It’s definitely achievable if you put in the work, time and sacrifice,” Ayala-Hil said. “Being able to do that shows people things can be done despite the circumstances you come from.”
He attended Menlo-Atherton High School in East Palo Alto where he was considered one of the best players on the soccer team, a four-year starter on the varsity team and first-team all-league selection. He went on to play soccer and continue his education at the University of California, Berkeley for four years and was a two-time All-PAC 12 selection.
After graduating from Cal, he got drafted by MLS’ Chivas USA in the second round of the league’s supplemental draft in 2008. He traveled around the world looking for any opportunity to play for a team.
“I considered myself a professional tryout player,” Ayala-Hil said. “I traveled everywhere because I was passionate about the game so any opportunity I had to go play I would go for it.”
He had one-year stints with Bayamon FC in Puerto Rico and Luckenwalde FSV63 in Germany’s Oberliga. He also traveled to Southeast Asia where he tried out for teams but never signed.
Ayala-Hil spent the last three years as an assistant coach at Cal where he was mentored by one of the nation’s best men’s soccer coaches, Kevin Grimes. He learned a lot from his time as a player and on his coaching staff. Ayala-Hil noticed that Grimes ran his teams like a professional football club, making sure they were structured, organized and succeeding both on and off the field.
“I’m coming into this program trying to build the same structure in terms of making sure the guys are organized and managing their times so they can focus on the academics and soccer,” Ayala-Hil said.
Senior Emmanuel Serrano still expects the team to play hard and carry the defensive momentum from last season. Even with a new coach, Serrano said the team goal remains the same: to reach the playoffs.
One of Ayala-Hil’s goals for the team this season is to find a team identity and create good team culture where everyone gets along on the field and works hard.
Ayala-Hil’s experience being a student-athlete should help him relate to his players better, senior Ashley Watson said.
“If you come to him with a problem on the field or off the field, he might be able to relate a bit more because he’s been in our shoes,” Watson said.
Ayala-Hil wants his players to compete hard as a unit and be confident.
“At the end of the day it’s going out there and enjoying yourself and if you put in the work throughout the season, you may accomplish big things,” Ayala-Hil said.
This story has been updated to reflect that Ayala-Hill attended Menlo-Atherton High School.