Coach Gilberto Sandoval passes, leaves behind positive impact

By: Juan Calvillo

Gilberto Sandoval, assistant soccer coach at East Los Angeles College, died Sept. 7 leaving behind family, ELAC friends and players. He was 52 years old. The ELAC Athletic Department website said Sandoval died of complications due to COVID-19.

Gloria Sandoval, his wife, said his coaching career started about 25 years ago. He started coaching at ELAC first with the women’s soccer team. He then became assistant coach on the ELAC men’s soccer team.

Sandoval said her husband was a good human being, and adults who had met him when they were young have shown an outpouring of stories. Sandoval said her husband once helped a young person with tuition in Guadalajara, Mexico. That same person, now a doctor, found Sandoval and tried to repay him. Sandoval said her husband only said one thing to the doctor.

“Are you kidding me? You offend me. Take that money and use it for anything you want,” Sandoval said.

Eddie Flores, head coach for ELAC men’s soccer, had a sports relationship with Sandoval that ran for close to two decades. Flores said that he and Sandoval always agreed on instilling forward thinking in their players. 

He said they worked together best at teaching their players to focus on the next phases of life, not just soccer.  Sandoval’s and Flores’ style emphasized student advocacy, and making sure students got their degrees and were able to move on scholastically.

Sandoval was always focused on the most important thing, players’ futures. Flores said Sandoval would tell players, don’t be foolish in Spanish. This slight reprimand was to help students focus on the priorities of school.

Flores said he had seen Sandoval around in different capacities before Sandoval came to ELAC. Sandoval had a great amount of support and respect from the soccer communities in Cudahy, South Gate and Sandoval’s home town of Bell Gardens. Despite being a bit challenging when it came to tactics on the field, he worked well with the coaching staff. His fit at ELAC was great.

“He had a brilliant soccer mind,” Flores said.

Tessa Troglia, former head Coach for ELAC women’s soccer and current interim head coach at Cerritos College, worked with Sandoval when he first started at ELAC. During his time as assistant coach on the women’s team Sandoval’s daughter also played on the team.

When it came to soccer, Sandoval had a different approach than Troglias. She said growing up her coaches were more militaristic and the differences between her and Sandoval were good for the players. Differing styles brought balance to the team.

“One was not better than the other. It (Sandoval’s coaching style) just gave the girls more perspective. I think it helped a lot,” Troglia said.

Troglia said he had a father-like presence for the young women under his charge. Sandoval had positive messages not only for the players, he also maintained that positive outlook with Troglia. She said she posted an update to her life on social media and Sandoval took the time to write her a positive message. He also congratulated her when she became the interim head coach of Cerritos College.

Troglia said soccer, as a sport, has become very business-like among those participating. In contrast Sandoval was always genuine with the way he connected with others and the kindness he showed on and off the soccer field.

“I really value and appreciate him. I just think that he is just a great father, and husband and family, he really valued that. And you saw it in every aspect of his life. You can tell that he prioritized that,” Troglia said.

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