Moving on up (to Truckee)
Sierra Sun sports editor
The small town atmosphere of Truckee combined with a rich tradition of athleticism in the sport of soccer was enough for Hernan Valdivia and his wife Amy to star in their own real-life version of “Escape From L.A.”
“We felt like we had to escape L.A. and the traffic,” Hernan said. “It’s just a world of difference. We were driving an hour to work, and now we live in Glenshire, so it takes us five minutes to get to (work). Not as much congestion ” a lot more laid back.”
The Valdivias now call Truckee home after taking two vacant soccer jobs at Truckee High School. Amy is the new varsity girls head coach, and Hernan has been hired as the junior varsity boys coach. They also work at the high school during the day.
Both Amy and Hernan were former varsity coaches at Hueneme High School in Southern California. They loved their jobs, but Amy said it was time for a life change.
“We needed to get out of there,” she said after a recent soccer practice. “In L.A., you don’t see change of seasons. My work was eight to 12 miles away, and it took me an hour (to get there). We were making good money, and everything was set, except you come home every day and you’re miserable.”
Not only is Truckee more scenic, the Valdivias have also found it to be more friendly.
“We lived in a condo (in L.A.), and we didn’t know anyone, and we lived there for almost three years,” Amy said. “And we move up here, and there’s barbecues ” we know people. The small town is cool here. Everyone said, ‘It’s too small; you’re not going to like it.'”
To the naysayers, the Valdivias are doing just fine, thank you.
Oh, and then there’s the thriving soccer talent in Truckee from the youth programs all the way up to the varsity high school level, where the goal to win a state championship has become as common and expected as showing up to practice each day.
In fact, transitioning to a new coach was no problem at all for the girls varsity players.
“It helps to have an authority figure around to help us out, but I think we did a really good job as a team this summer working together,” said junior captain Whitney Hardy, who played on varsity as a sophomore. “It’s definitely nice to have a coach and be on our way in our season.”
Just weeks before the season was slated to begin, former coach Kyle Adams announced his resignation. The girls were forced to cancel a preseason tournament in Galena. For a short time, varsity boys coach Rob Curtis acted as the interim coach.
Luckily for Amy, she was able to make up for lost time because she enjoyed the luxury of not having to focus on rudimentary fundamentals. The skills were already there.
“When I come in, it makes my job easy because now we can just go over concepts rather than start from scratch,” she said. “Skill’s the easy thing to teach. These girls have the other things ” they are motivated players, they have the desire, the work ethic (and) the attitude. They have the whole package.”
Hernan also saw the same heightened skill level on his team, even among a younger group of JV players. He is confident it will remain that way for years to come.
“Considering we’re playing with 14 freshmen and four sophomores, it’s really impressive the level of skill that they have right now,” he said. “Looking at the kids who are 13, 12 and 11 years old right now, there’s no reason why we should ever drop in talent.”
Hernan was a JV coach at Hueneme before he was a varsity coach, so it has also been a smooth transition for him. The only surprise was that he saw equivalent soccer skills in Truckee.
“Down there you can play soccer the whole year-round because of the weather, so you tend to find greater talent,” he said. “But that really hasn’t been the case. I would say our skill level is really comparable.”
Amy gives a similar synopsis of her varsity team.
“This is the most skilled team I’ve had to work with,” she said. “In L.A., there’s some strong teams down there, and this definitely has the potential to be the best team that I have worked with.”
Amy called her team “awesome,” and Hardy used the same word to describe Amy. Hardy and the team have bonded quickly with their new coach.
“That’s what she excels at is getting us to bond together and do cool things together besides soccer,” Hardy said. “She’s just a mentor. We all look up to her, and we all respect her.”
You can be happy at your job, but you have to be happy with your life first ” at least in the case of Hernan and Amy. The couple is another example of the magnetic pull that Tahoe can have on people.
For the Valdivias, Truckee has been a nice, fresh breath of mountain air.
“How can you not get hooked?” Amy said.
[Hernan Valdivia is 2-0-1 as the junior varsity head coach, the most recent win coming at Yerington, 2-1, on Sept. 22. Amy’s varsity girls squad rebounded nicely from a 1-0 loss to North Tahoe by beating Whittell, 8-0, on Sept. 21. The varsity soccer teams take on Incline today, Sept. 24, at 3 and 5 p.m.]