By Salvador Torres of Rialto https://iesoccer286813440.wordpress.com/
Once referred to as south Colton during the mid and late 1800s, the city of Grand Terrance was voted into a municipality by residents on November 30th, 1978. A small town sandwiched between the blue mountain ridge and La Loma Hills, the population of Grand Terrance is around 12,000 people. Like the city of Loma Linda, the reputation of the Blue Mountain City is known for its relatively low crime rate and a high median income for residents in the Inland Empire, around $61,000 a year, making it a desirable place to live.
Although the honor of safety and prosperity is good and well, on the soccer side of things, Grand Terrace has yet to catch the wave of being a prominent hub for the game in the Inland Empire. Luckily, one member of the community, who was raised in the city, grew up playing locally and became a teacher of the game, and able to go back to continue the same pattern of civic mentorship of the game for the next generation.
One example is coach Matt Fisher. From afar, passionate sports fans or savvy media outlets from any sport sees the coach as a leader on the field and in practice within the game. However, from the perspective of a coach, the principal difference from an average fan or media member’s mindset is that leadership is to be applied outside of the field as well, not just during game day or practice. Coach Fisher brings this aspect to life after I got the opportunity to connect with him and learn more about his contribution to youth sports in Grand Terrace.
Tell us your soccer story? What got you into the sport, was it one event or something that’s been a part of your life?
Soccer has been a significant part of my life since early childhood. I began playing at the age of four, playing recreational soccer then transitioning to the club level. Now, I spend most of my time coaching the Boys Varsity Soccer team at Grand Terrace High School, volunteering with coaching and player development at Grand Terrace Community Soccer Club and coach the Boys Tennis team in the Spring as well. Coaching is a major part of my life and something I enjoy doing.
What level did you play growing up and as an adult?
I began playing at the age of four for Grand Terrace Community Soccer Club until middle school, where I made the switch to club soccer. I then joined Corinthians Soccer Club, where I finished off my playing career. I still do play adult league soccer in Riverside, when I am not busy with coaching.
Why soccer? Did you play other sports?
Growing up as a child in Grand Terrace, I was always involved in soccer and baseball. It wasn’t until middle school where I fully began to focus on soccer solely. When I got to high school, I was introduced to tennis, which I totally fell in love with.
How was your journey becoming a coach? How did you end up as GTHS coach?
I began coaching in 2012 at the youth level at Grand Terrace Community Soccer Club, my childhood league. I’ve been away from the game capacity for about two years and sought to get back into it through coaching. After getting about a year of coaching experience, I was given my first high school coaching position, Head Girls Junior Varsity Coach at John W. North. After coaching there for a season, in 2014, the coaching position at Grand Terrace High School opened up (when I was in my 2nd year as an AVID tutor on campus) and applied for the Varsity position. I did not get the varsity position but instead was given the JV position, where we would go on to set a program record of 11 wins. The next season, I was appointed the Head Varsity Coach, where I still hold that position today.
With everything going on with the pandemic and its effect on schools, what is your thought process with your team?
Due to all of the uncertainty associated with the pandemic, we have had to learn to adapt and take it day by day. Usually, every summer, we put on a summer training camp to keep our players in shape. Also, inviting new players to get a feel for our program before the school year starts. But due to the pandemic, we were forced to cancel our “traditional” summer training. Instead, we came up with an 8-week summer training program (consisting of endurance, strength, and technical training) for players to be able to do at home. As school starts up again, we will look to create another training program to keep them working out as they wait for the clearance to return to the club.
Based on your experience in playing/coaching or just watching, what do you think is the level of players from the Inland Empire compared to other players from other places?
The Inland Empire is rich with soccer talent. Some of the best US soccer players (Donovan, Bocanegra, etc.) have come out of this area, so we are stacked with soccer talent. It seems like every year there are a few teams from both girls and boys soccer high school teams in our area making deep runs in the CIF playoffs.
Have you coached or worked with any players that achieved success? If so, what makes them stand out?
I have had the pleasure of coaching several extremely talented soccer players during my tenure at Grand Terrace High School. A number have had the talent to play at the next level, but chose to pursue other endeavors and have been successful. I have had two players that have had the opportunity to play at the next level, Nick Hartzell (Mt. Sac) and Alex Magana (La Sierra University). Both were 4-year captains during their time in the program, being co-captain for three seasons. Both possessed excellent leadership skills on and off the field and made their teammates better.
What’s one positive and negative trait that IE players have in a general sense?
I think one great trait that IE players possess is that they are extremely hard workers. Most come from working-class families, so a number of them have to work hard for what they want. I would say that they possess a great work ethic. As far as any negative traits go, from my experience, I can’t think of any.
Last question, when your career and involvement in soccer is over, what kind of legacy would you like to leave to the IE soccer community?
My goal as a high school and youth coach in Grand Terrace is to prepare young soccer players for their life outside of soccer. I hope to develop socially responsible young adults that can positively impact the Grand Terrace community and society as a whole. I hope that people remember me for being a coach who loved his athletes and had their best interests at heart.