UCI men’s soccer coach George Kuntz has led the Anteaters to a top-20 national ranking, but his influence on the sport extends far beyond Anteater Stadium.
Kuntz has helped the sport grow at all levels, not just collegiate, making him a respected soccer guru among the game’s administrators, coaches, parents and players. Youth soccer in California and Hawaii bears his undeniable stamp — he’s helped develop licensing standards for coaches and has participated in hundreds of clinics for coaches and players.
“George does a great job as coach at UCI and as an instructor for youth soccer,” says John Ouellette, American Youth Soccer Organization national director of coaching. “He knows the game and teaches it well, regardless of the level, and keeps the sport and the players in proper perspective. The word ‘brilliant’ is often overused, but it describes George.”
Soccer has never been more popular in the U.S. — or better taught and better played — and diligent coaches like Kuntz are a major reason.
In his 16 years as the Anteaters’ head coach, he’s built one of the top men’s programs in the West; the 2009 team won the Big West Tournament and reached the second round of the NCAA championship. In a preseason poll, Big West Conference head coaches picked UCI to finish second this year. His team begins the season Sept. 1 against Gonzaga at Anteater Stadium, followed by the UC Irvine College Classic Labor Day weekend, which will feature teams from Wisconsin, Loyola-Chicago and Santa Clara.
Before the season kicks off, Kuntz works with coaches and players at numerous campuses and clinics countywide as well as his own annual elite boys soccer camps at UCI. Every August, he also participates in high-profile events such as Soccer for Hope, a Mission Viejo soccer camp for children with cancer, and the AYSO Super Camp for coaches.
“Whenever we need anything, we can call George, and he and his team will always be there,” says Audrey Castreje, regional commissioner for AYSO Region 1398 in Yorba Linda. “He’s the epitome of everything good in youth soccer.”
On a sunny August morning in a Yorba Linda park, Kuntz and his assistant coaches Chris Volk, Mike Ditta and Bryan Wallace held court at the Super Camp, using the UCI team to show 200 youth coaches the most effective ways to train and coach their players.
As the Anteaters weaved their way through various dribbling and passing drills, Kuntz darted back and forth before the collective coaches, his voice booming over the distant traffic. His lessons were fundamental – he says what he does with his highly skilled team also works with young players just learning the game.
“Our team is one of the best in the nation, and we’ve worked hard to maintain a strong presence here in Orange County through service and interacting at the grassroots levels,” Kuntz says. “Our role is to provide coaching education in the community and stay engaged in the development of our sport.”
The youth coaches paid close attention to Kuntz, so they could pass on his lessons to their players.
“George has that rare ability to be a coach who is able to coach other coaches,” says Castreje, a 1993 UCI graduate who played soccer one year with the Anteaters. “He looks to pass the torch.”
For his part, Kuntz learned a lot about coaching and community service from his parents. His father, Dan, played professionally for the Mexican first division team Atlante and was a top-level coach and administrator in Arizona, serving as the first director of coaching for the Arizona Youth Soccer Association, which elected him to its hall of fame.
“My mother and father have been instrumental to my efforts to spread the sport,” he says. “Both my parents often volunteered, as many parents do, to coach and support me in every way in the sport of soccer and our education. Both have always reminded me of doing community service.”