By Chelsea Flintoft '14
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Not only is Eric Yamamoto thoroughly involved with the Santa Clara University men's soccer program as the team's associate head coach, he also plays a huge role coaching with US Soccer.
As a former Bronco from 1986 to 1989, Yamamoto played on Santa Clara's 1989 NCAA co-National Championship team. After being named an All-America goalkeeper for that year, he eventually returned to the Mission Campus to train athletes and be a part of the SCU coaching staff.
"One of Santa Clara's former head coaches, Mitch Murray, used to work as one of the head coaches for the national youth teams. So he presented the opportunity to me," said Yamamoto, describing how he first became involved coaching with US Soccer. "I began working with different teams, and from then on and I have pretty consistently been working with several youth national teams for the past 12 years."
On the men's side, Yamamoto is involved with all the youth national teams aging from the U20s all the way down to the U15s. Yamamoto also works with the women's U21 team and the women's national team.
His role ranges from being a hands-on coach, to a recruiter on the US Development Evaluation Staff, where he looks for the most talented athletes for possible placement in the program. "I always do quite a bit of going out and finding players, watching players, and identifying them," said Yamamoto. "Because I have worked with the U18 boys team for a number of years, I have a history with the team and I am able to track the progress of these players and see the level they are at."
Working with the US Development Evaluation Staff, Yamamoto asks himself many questions when looking for the right player. Are they a good player in all aspects of the game? Do they have the techniques? Are they tactically aware? Are they mentally tough? What is their potential physically?
Some of the players he works with in the national programs become Broncos. Mykell Bates, Brandon Zimmerman, Erik Hurtado, and Kevin Klasila are four examples. Yamamoto comments on these players saying, "Those guys are great leaders, great players, good people, and outstanding students. They have all played at a high level and showed great leadership on the youth teams. The transition to the collegiate level for all four of those guys was relatively seamless. They all saw playing time as freshmen."
Yamamoto has gone on several trips for international tournaments and training camps with the U18 squad. Most recently, he travelled with the team for international competition in Israel. "I've known this age group for a long period of time and I've been to a number of the same tournaments with them, so I can tell the other coaches what to expect from the teams we may face."
Yamamoto was named the 2007 "National Assistant Coach of the Year" and continues to develop outstanding talent at Santa Clara. The Broncos were recently listed among the NCAA's top programs in developing professional players. As a unit, Santa Clara is fresh off winning the 2010 West Coast Conference Championship.