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Soccer coach's passion 'infectious'

BY BEN WOLFSON | SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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Ivan Sanchez has been involved with soccer all his life. His father played professionally in Mexico and introduced his son to the game when Ivan was around 2 or 3.

Growing up, Sanchez split his time between swimming and soccer. But after suffering extensive injuries while playing the latter — five fractures and two surgeries on his wrist — he decided to focus on swimming.

"Soccer has always been something I love; it's one of my passions," he said. "Swimming became rehab to go back and play soccer again. Coaches said I had the skill [to swim], and I was good at it, so I pursued swimming instead of soccer."

As a student-athlete at Southern Illinois, Sanchez was an elite swimmer. He was a four-year letter-winner, and the Missouri Valley champion in the 200 and 500 freestyle in 2002 and 2004. He was also an Olympic Trial qualifier for Mexico in 2000, 2004, and 2008.

His move to Iowa City happened somewhat by chance.

Sanchez's wife, Brianna Sanchez, started studying for her Ph.D. at the university in Second Language Acquisition, and Sanchez decided to call soccer head coach Ron Rainey.

"Ivan got in touch with us, and he said he was going to be here in town and had an interest," Rainey said. "It kind of just went from there, and he's done a great job. A lot of what he does is out on the field and with another set of eyes, he gives us some good thoughts."

Now in his third year with the team, Sanchez has helped the squad by competing against the players in practice and challenging their abilities.

"He's been kind of injured this year, but he's a very good soccer player," senior defender Morgan Showalter said. "He really challenges us to work on our one-versus-one moves with him, and he brings a different dynamic that a girl doesn't bring to the field."

Sanchez said he has also seen the benefit from his practicing with the team, and that his participation has helped create more complete players and perhaps translated to the team's success on the field and more complete players.

"I try to get them to play faster and play smart," Sanchez said. "Having a guy on the field isn't the same, because guys are a lot faster and stronger. It gives [the team] an opportunity to attack against a guy."

Showalter said she Sanchez's biggest contributions have been his speed and power, especially in his shot; his skill on the attack has helped mold the new-look defense and develop senior goalkeeper Emily Moran.

"He has an amazing shot," Showalter said. "For him to be able to bend the ball like he does really tests our keepers; they have to be ready for any type of shot that may come in a game."

Besides his position with the Iowa soccer team, Sanchez also serves as an assistant coach for the boys' swimming team at City High and head coach for the girls' team.

His experience with being a student-athlete and the time management it requires has its positives on the team, he said.

If a player wants to come to practice early and work on some things, Sanchez is there to work through drills. He also has designed some swimming drills that he has used with his Hawkeyes.

"It's great [having Sanchez as a coach] from a standpoint that he's passionate about soccer," Rainey said. "That's something that's infectious when he's around the team. He's a very good person and connects with the kids not just about soccer but being a student-athlete. It's something that he's done very well over the past three years."


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