St. Anne’s-Belfield’s boys soccer program has never played for a VISAA Division I state championship.
Iñaki Gonzalo San Millán hopes to change that.
Gonzalo San Millán was recently named head coach of the Saints’ program after serving as an assistant coach at St. Christopher’s the past two years.
“I want this program to embody the beauty of this game, the most popular game in the world,” Gonzalo San Millán said. “That is, I want this program to embody diversity, to enjoy complexity, to channel passion and personal expression and to redefine personal limits. With all of this, I hope STAB soccer is a meaningful program for everyone who decides to be involved in it.”
A native of Spain, Gonzalo San Millán’s father played professional soccer in La Liga with CA Osasuna and later formed the Athletic Club Academy in his native country.
“I have played soccer since I can remember and I played other sports competitively, such as cycling, for a couple of seasons,” he said. “My dad always told me to choose freely what to do and that I should do what I enjoy.”
Gonzalo San Millán continued to play and coach club soccer in college while he pursued his degree. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish philology from Deustuko Unibertsitatea in Spain before coming to the United States for additional learning. He earned a master’s degree in Spanish Literature form Washington University in St. Louis and another master’s degree in Spanish from the University of Oregon.
“My dad always recommended that I focus on coaching, him and many others,” he said. “But I wanted to have a more well-rounded experience in life outside of soccer and this is why I prioritized education always. I did not want soccer to be the only focus in my life, as I knew other people had done back in Spain.”
In addition to his studies, soccer was still a part of Gonzalo San Millán’s life. He has coached premier club soccer in Spain, Oregon and Virginia, including the Santutxu FC in Spain and the Eugene Timbers FC in Oregon. He also passed along his knowledge of the game as a color commentator with Lane United FC.
“Since it is a passion, I never got away from it completely,” Gonzalo San Millán said. “About five years ago, while I was starting my Ph.D. at the University of Oregon, I decided to go back to coaching soccer more seriously. I coached the highest level of club soccer there for three to four seasons as well as high school for another three seasons. I have also been a member of Spanish U-19 teams as a scout. Last year, while at St. Christopher’s I was also part of their soccer and Futsal programs. I enjoyed especially the Futsal program, which I hope we can also consider for STAB In the coming years.”
STAB athletic director Dewayne Robinson, along with a panel of student-athletes, were involved in the selection process and believed that Gonzalo San Millán was an ideal candidate the take over the program.
“Iñaki’s experience, both in soccer and in independent schools, made him an intriguing candidate for this position,” Robinson said. “He displayed the ideal qualities, in addition to short- and long-term programmatic goals, that we felt put our program in the best position to achieve excellence and grow, on and off the field.”
In addition to his coaching duties, Gonzalo San Millan will teach Spanish in STAB’s Upper School
“My wife and I had a wonderful interview process. We enjoyed the interaction with the faculty and students and we felt Charlottesville, as a town, would be a perfect fit for us,” Gonzalo San Millán said. “We prefer living in a town closer to the mountains than in a city like Richmond. Soccer has been an integral part of my life and is now a passion I want to continue at all levels — club, amateur, professional and of course high school. STAB’s soccer program fits me perfectly because both of us want to continue growing.”
As a coach, Gonzalo San Millán prides himself on being a person that is detail oriented, has a passion for the sport and can adjust to anything on the fly.
“On a soccer field, passion can be transferred into intensity, resilience and an attacking mindset,” he said. “Soccer positions are empty vessels. What is more important is the role and the function players must complete on the field. Our boys will play as a team, regardless of their initial or stating position, on both ends of the pitch.”
The new STAB coach has already spoken with some players and shared his coaching philosophy with them. In addition, he’s watched game film from several games last season to help him with the evaluation process heading into fall practice.
“Progressing on the field, during practice first and then in the game, is an experiential proof of your capability of improving yourself as an athlete and a person,” Gonzalo San Millán said. “Soccer as a team sport has a particular complex and magical aspect since many different personalities, abilities, conditions and factors come into play all at the same time. Individually and as a team, all the participants need to adjust on the fly to make the best of the given circumstance, which is always far from perfect. I put this very powerful lesson into practice day in and day out, thanks to this game of soccer.”
Gonzalo San Millán is excited about the future of STAB soccer.
“The main goal is to start building in the right direction in all aspects,” he said. “I want them to finish this season with good memories, enthusiasm for the following season and appreciation for the journey. For the families, I want them to feel a part of this process, along with their boys. I want the team to represent the families and the school and make them proud. For the whole community of STAB and Charlottesville, I hope when they come to one of our games, they have fun, feel a part of it and want to come back.”