As soccer fans turn their attention to the Women’s World Cup in France, Mustang Elite coach Mary Hoffert is focused on a group of young female go-getters in the sport. These mini Mustang maestros have dazzling moves and remarkable dedication.
It makes Hoffert smile to see U-9 players thrive very early in their soccer development.
“I do coach the really young girls and I love it,” says Hoffert, head coach of the Mustang 2012 Elite and 2011 Red teams. “I coached the older ones too, but I really enjoy the young ones, for sure. It’s fun to see them grow up and eventually become top-level players. I get to start them at the very get-go and teach them all the technical components and everything.”
Hoffert, also a second-grade teacher at San Ramon Valley Christian Academy in Danville, and her husband, Michael, have an energetic 1-year-old daughter, Mae. Michael is also a youth soccer coach. Mary is considered an inspirational presence at Mustang.
“She’s the top coach at the younger age group with the club. She does well,” says ECNL director Mike Kelley of his friend.
Kelley first got to know Hoffert when he began coaching the Northgate High girls’ varsity team. He was impressed with his new assistant coach's enthusiasm and eagerness to improve.
Mustang coach Mike Descombaz is another Hoffert admirer.
"Coach Mary is an amazing coach," he says. "She has a gift to motivate young players and creates a positive environment giving her players the opportunity to reach their full potential."
Hoffert grew up playing in the Diablo Valley Soccer Club (now Diablo FC) and competed for Berean Christian High in Walnut Creek and The Master’s University in Santa Clarita. Heck, the Hoffert family even has a soccer field in her own backyard.
She says it’s “incredible” what her Mustang players can do on the field at such a young age.
“It’s crazy. These girls can do a Sir Stanley Matthews move. I didn’t learn that until I was in college and they’re good at it,” Hoffert says. “It’s a pretty difficult move to do because it takes a ton of coordination to do it, but it’s super effective and my girls can do it. And then their favorite move always to learn is the ‘Maradona.”
To foster improved ball skills, she has a skill card with a bunch of moves listed on it that players can use. If they execute the move and beat a player in a game, they get a sticker on their card.
But it's not just about kicking goals. Hoffert tries to establish a base for Mustang players “so they can hopefully succeed in the world not just in soccer,” she says. She instills morals in players such as how to practice good sportsmanship; how to appreciate their parents; how to appreciate the supporters and the referees.
“That’s my passion in making sure that they really have a love for the game,” she says.
Do they have a love for the game?
“Oh yeah, that’s the easiest, especially at our club,” Hoffert says. “It’s so cool at our club. All the kids are pretty much from Danville and so it’s also community based. It’s fun. They go to school together, they have play dates, they live close together, and because of that there’s a good community of people where everyone’s there supporting not just their own kids but the other kids. That allows these kids to feel like ‘OK, I can do it.’”
There’s also a strong unity among the Mustang coaching staff.
“We’re like family and so if we ever need anything, we can always go to one another,” Hoffert says of coaching staff. “When we see each other on the field, we say ‘hi’ and really try to connect. Our players see that and know that you’re not just on my team, but you’re on ‘Mustang.’ My teams don’t have team names. Your team name is ‘Mustang’ so that they understand it’s about our club. … It's about representing our club well. We hold that to that highest regard.”
She added that players shouldn’t show up for training with a bad attitude or not put in the right effort.
“We have certain standards for them and so that’s part of it,” she says. “I think also, too, the directors that I work with are fantastic in meeting that and making sure that, as coaches, we’re in this together.”
Hoffert’s former college coach, Curtis Lewis, also took the time to mentor players so they could be “successful in life, and that’s where I kind of get that aspect from,” she says. Her husband also played a key role in her development as a coach.
It all adds up to a richly fulfilling experience for Hoffert at Mustang, one of the country's very best clubs. It's all about the kids, and the coach loves seeing them grow.