My name is Gabriel Gustavo Rocha. I am a 28 year old high school soccer coach and club director. I have been coaching since I was 17 years old and really discovered the passion for it around 6 years ago. Coaching alongside my dad, seeing the impact he had on kids in south Tucson, the greatness they achieved on and off the field, inspired me to begin wanting to make that same impact.
As a volunteer coach for 9 years in AYSO Region 224, I coached in an underserved community, working hard to give that community the best possible soccer experience as well as preparing these kids for life outside of soccer. Setting up college workshops for players and parents, retreats, and community service, all we wanted to do is empower them to be the change in their own community.
As I dove deeper into coaching, I continued to push myself to be a better, more educated, and capable coach. Taking certification courses and licenses in coaching education and being more active in the coaching community.
My goal was to be the best coach possible, to allow kids who did not have the means to afford the best coaches, an opportunity to play the game they love, and play it at the highest levels possible. I worked to merit a Director of Coaching position at FC Sonora Soccer Club, whose club mission is to provide soccer to anyone, regardless of background. We would find a way to get kids playing. I also became the Head Coach at Catalina High School which was one of the most impactful moments of my young life.
Catalina High School is an incredibly diverse student population, with over 30+ different countries represented on campus. My soccer team reflected that, with players from Africa, Europe, Latin and South America, Middle East, and more all playing the game we all loved. I fell in love the international culture, and I knew I was in the right spot. Through hard work and dedication, we have brought Catalina Soccer, a program that was widely disregarded, back into local prominence. A contender in just 3 years and done so through a supportive community. This year we plan on placing 2 Seniors into Collegiate athletics, with as many as 5 more next year, a feat that has not happened in our program in many, many years.
I was also named a United Soccer Coaches Award Winner 30 Under 30 program. A program that selects the top 15 men and 15 women, aspiring young coaches under the age of 30 into a mentorship program to help develop them further. It was a huge honor to be considered and ultimately be selected, an honor which has helped the community I serve.
I love Soccer and want to use it as the vehicle to drive change within our communities. Working with programs, mentors, teachers, coaches, to support the entire student-athlete. A holistic approach to athletics. To remove financial barriers from the game and end discriminatory practices that plague it. I want to continue be the best I can be, so I too can be a voice for communities that are often voiceless and be a champion for change.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your family.
I am the oldest of 5 of my parents Mellisa and Gustavo Rocha. My younger brothers, Andre 26, Aiden 17 and Isaiah 9. I also have one tough as nails, princess of a sister Isabela, 16.
Q: Please tell us about your current, past, or future career. What do you love most about what you do?
I love being a soccer coach. Currently I work a lot in the refugee community and working with those young men and women has been such a great experience. I hope to continue to coach as much as I can in the future. My dream is to coach the United States Men’s National Team, so making progress to do that is what I want to do.
Q: What are a couple of your favorite restaurants in our community?
Bamboo Terrace is 100% my go to local restaurant. They are basically family at this point the rate that my family and I go. Also, Tacos Apson for some great street tacos.
Q: How long have you lived or worked in our community?
I have worked and served in the Tucson community all my life basically. From 17-24, I mainly worked on the southside, serving Hispanic youth. From then on, I started at Catalina and FC Sonora, working more central and with our local refugee and asylum-seeking youth.
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in our community?
I’ve met so many incredible selfless people I couldn’t name them all, but people who have helped me along the way and encouraged me deserve some special recognition. Dr.Scott Hines, my Pima professor is a big personal mentor and always encouraged my dream. Vicky Bradley, a lady who is just incredibly selfless and giving to the refugee community which inspired my desire to help in that area.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
If I could travel anywhere in the world right now, definitely Europe or Japan. Europe to really experience soccer culture in a way that does not exist here. Japan because it is just somewhere that is so interesting from the food, society, culture and customs, that I would feel i would never want to come back.
Q: What is one of your favorite movies? TV shows?
My favorite movie is Gladiator. Favorite TV show, definitely too many. Been in a big Anime kick lately so Attack on Titan, Full Metal Alchemist, Naruto to name a few.
Q: What advice would you give to people?
Chase your dreams. If your dream is important, protect it at all cost.
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
Watch Liverpool win a title, to stand in Kop End and sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” With my brothers and Dad
Q: What is your go to band when you can’t decide what to listen to?
Iron Maiden or Kendrick Lamar for sure.
Q: What current or former local business makes you the most nostalgic about our community?
Zachary’s Pizza, my family and I would tailgate before UA football home games and share burgers with the staff in exchange for pizza. Their pizza I’ve ever had and the memories there will truly one of a kind.
Q: If you could choose anyone that is alive today and not a relative; with whom would you love to have lunch? Why? And where locally would y’all meet for this lunch?
I’d ask Jurgen Klopp, my soccer coach inspiration, to lunch at El Gorrion Restaurant. I’d ask Jurgen not just because he is one of the greatest soccer managers currently, but because he develops such strong bonds with his players, that they love him so fiercely. Being able to talk about the coaching of people, and yes to glean tactical insight of course!
Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about our community?
There is a lot of love in Tucson. There are so many people that want to help, and want to be a part of kindness all we have to do I ask.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
I hope to be coaching collegiately or professionally in that time span, whether here in the US or abroad somewhere.
Q: (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
People may not know, that I am a huge nerd! Lords of the Rings, Warhammer, Star Wars. I love it all.
Q: What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
The most beautiful place I have ever been to is New York City. No place has ever left me in awe like that.
Q: Favorite month? favorite holiday? and best single day on the calendar?
Definitely October. Weather is nice and cool. Halloween is the best holiday. And the best single day? January 20th, if you know, you know.
Q: What would you rate a 10 out of 10?
4 Tacos de Asada and Coke de Botella on a summer afternoon.
Q: Who inspires you to be better?
My family. Their sacrifices push me to be best I can be. I honor those sacrifices by the work that I do, by using the gifts, talents, and knowledge I have.
Q: What is one or two of your favorite smells?
Creosote Bush during the Monsoon season, and the fresh air on a brisk morning at the park.
Q: Finally, what 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
Love. Support. Inspiration.
For All That You Do,
Thank you Gabriel Rocha from The Faces of Tucson.
We Appreciate You