Coach comes full circle

Former player leaves pros, now coaches soccer

Sydney King and Matias Palacios

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






April 14, 2007

On the windy Saturday night, the Marauders were down 2-1 in the state soccer championship. Marcus had never made it this far in the playoffs. With only 10 players instead of the usual 11 on the field, and one minute to go, the Marauders scored a goal to tie the game 2-2.

“We had something about us that was difficult to beat. We were very committed and determined,” Head Coach John Gall said.

For overtime, each team sent up five players to attempt to score, and Sam Garza was selected as the last player to shoot for his team. After four shots, the game was still tied. Gall normally put Garza third in the lineup, but now the pressure was on him to close the game.

“[He’s] incredibly talented,” Gall said. “He came in as a freshman, and I put him right on the varsity based on his talent and ability.”

Garza was one-on-one with the goalie, with only five seconds to shoot. If he made the goal, they would win the state championship.

The atmosphere buzzed with a mix of excitement and nervousness as fans anxiously awaited a goal.

All he had to do was make this shot.

He took a deep breath and kicked, and he watched the ball roll into the net.

The crowd erupted in cheers and his teammates swarmed him. The fans stormed the field. Everyone was screaming, and the seniors were crying.

Sam’s kick had just made them state champions.

“It was just a surreal feeling,” Garza said. “We all wore our medals to school and we were buzzing and super happy. We were just on cloud nine.”

• • •

Maya Hernandez
Coach Sam Garza has played with the San Jose Earthquakes, Arizona United and Seattle Sounders in the Major Soccer League. He is now bringing his professional experience to coaching the Marauders.

Since the age of five, Sam Garza has been used to cold games and early practices. As a freshman, he was good enough to be on the varsity team. In his junior and senior years, he was part of back-to-back state championship teams, and as a senior he won numerous awards- MVP of the 2008 state championship, Gatorade state player of the year, All-American and UIL All-Century team member.

Colleges were noticing. He had offers from multiple Division I schools nationwide, from colleges like The University of Tulsa, Cornell, Midwestern State, Southern Methodist University, Wake Forest, Brown, St. John’s, Maryland and Duke.

But it was never about the offers. He just loved the game and wanted to play, no matter where or how.

“It was cool, but I never let it affect me,” Garza said. “I was just more focused on soccer, and then everything else was like ‘It’ll take care of itself.’”

Eventually Garza signed with the University of Denver. However, in the fall of his sophomore year, he tore his ACL and was benched for eight months. After coming back home to complete his rehab and college courses, he decided to move to the University of California at Santa Barbara the next fall. Garza felt like it gave him the platform he needed to advance his soccer career, and he played there for two years. Then a possibility of playing for the pros came, and he was given a chance at his dream.

• • •

January 12, 2012

The Kansas City convention center was packed with many of the top soccer players in the country and their families. Dozens of top coaches and professional scouts sat ready to announce their picks.

Garza sat in one of the front rows, waiting to hear his name. Shaking with excitement and nerves, he squeezed his mom’s and dad’s legs in anticipation. He was bent over with his face in his hands, listening as each player was drafted. He didn’t have to wait long; his name came in the first round.

“Selected from the University of California at Santa Barbara… Sam Garza,” an announcer said.

Relief flooded him as he’d realized he’d made it. Congratulated with applause and hugs from his family, he made his way up to the stage in front of all of the Major Soccer League coaches to accept his position on the team.

A blue San Jose Earthquakes scarf was placed around his neck as he approached the podium to thank his coaches, parents and agents.

First round, sixth pick, Garza had been drafted to play for the San Jose Earthquakes at the age of 22. After all of his hard work and dedication, he had made it to the big leagues.

“I was ready for it, but it was another thing when you’ve got to execute up there in front of everybody. Lights are on you, so it was cool,” Garza said.

• • •

 Garza played with the San Jose Earthquakes, Arizona United and the Seattle Sounders for a duration of five seasons in the pro leagues. But soon his passion for the sport began declining.

“It got to a point where I just started getting burned out,” Garza said. “I looked at it more as an obligation, and I just started getting burned out.”

After many physical and emotional trials, he left the Major Soccer League in 2016.

Looking for a change, Garza returned to Flower Mound in 2016 and was a substitute teacher for LISD. Right after he returned, Head Soccer Coach John Gall resigned and the soccer team had a head coaching position available.

Garza thought this might be the change he needed. He was made the interim head coach for the 2016-2017 season, but because he hadn’t finished his college degree, the school hired Chad Rakestraw as the new head coach

But Garza felt called to coaching, so for two years he assisted Rakestraw without pay. Since he now knew he wanted to coach full time, he moved back home with his parents and went back to college.

“Coaching the guys just kind of made me realize what I wanted to do. It was a big eye opener. It kind of changed my life a little bit,” Garza said.

Garza finished his degree last summer and could have looked for another head coaching job, but he wanted to stay at the school. So he was hired to teach freshman algebra, and during his conference period Garza continued to volunteer as a coach. His chance at the head coaching job came along just a few months later. In November, Rakestraw left and Garza was offered the position.

“Being able to take over was my overall goal. I just wanted to be a head coach,” Garza said. “I’m fortunate enough it happened at my alma mater. It’s kind of crazy to think about.”

After learning that Garza had taken his old position, John Gall, who coached the 2007 and 2008 state winning teams, said he couldn’t think of anyone better.

“Sam grew a lot dealing with a lot of difficult situations and adversities from his injuries to dealing with different types of coaches,” Gall said. “I think it’s put him in a great position to be a successful coach.”

Submitted by Sam Garza
Sam Garza passes the ball to his teammate in his signature gold cleats. He became recognized for the bright shoes that he wore on the field throughout high school.

Gall remembers Garza as not only a good player, but as someone committed and determined to be successful. He notes that Garza had always been a positive example on the team, listening to advice and executing it, a role model for the team.

“He’s an incredible advocate for high school sports and young people,” Gall said. “This news of him getting the head coach full time— I’m ecstatic. The perfect person for it. He knows exactly what it means to be a Marcus Marauder.”

Coming back to coach meant that he was bringing the coaching that had shaped him back to his alma mater. Garza remembers the trust he had in Gall as a coach and wanted to be the coach players could feel confident in.

Junior captain Porter Pomycal feels like Garza has been able to gain the respect of a head coach while still having fun.

“There are times to mess around and laugh and he gives good advice,” Pomycal said. “He has implemented more of a family culture and his style of play.”

As an experienced soccer player, Garza understands the importance of the game, but he also realizes that soccer isn’t everything. He wanted to set an example, and he aims to create a platform for his athletes to succeed on by fostering a love for the sport.

“A lot of coaches I’ve had, even at the professional level I just didn’t respect. I guess I just didn’t really buy into what they were doing,” Garza said. “I wanted to be better and I feel like that’s kind of what has fueled me to be a coach.”

Garza said he is grateful he has been able to come full circle — from playing for the school, going professional and coming back to strengthen the program that shaped him.

“I’ve been here, I’m from here, I played here,” Garza said. “I know the program, I know what it’s about. I know the standards, how it needs to be ran…You know, it all just fits.”