Mustang SC 10B Elite boys coach Johnny Kinnear comes from a great soccer family with Scottish roots, and so not surprisingly he has an infectious enthusiasm for the sport.

The former Sonoma State and Kennedy High soccer star is a role model for his young players.

“He’s been terrific in the younger age groups. He’s really good to the kids, a good teacher,” Mustang Director of Coaching John Doyle says. “Johnny Kinnear is a really kind young man. It’s been neat to see him grow up and be a husband and father with three kids coaching club and managing it all and doing a great job. We’re lucky to have him.”

Moreover, Kinnear’s emphasis on individual skill, a coaching technique first instilled in him by his father Hugh Sr., has helped his current young team soar. Mustang 10B Elite recently won the Boys Gold East championship with a 7-0-1 record after finishing No. 2 in the state in November.

“We’re one of the top teams in the state and so all of that ball work has really helped us,” Kinnear says. “It wasn’t the finishing so much or the tactics, it’s just that our players were more skilled than a lot of other teams and that’s what helped us be successful.”

The squad has a number of quality players such as Preston Swickard, who loves futsal and has traveled to Manchester City to a camp and was invited to a Barcelona futsal camp. Mason Fong was also invited to the futsal camp. Solid defense all season by Colton Sullivan and Jason Craw.

The forwards are Connor Vannini and Chase Taylor, but the Mini-Maestro is Nicolas Madewell.

"He is like a metronome and just keeps the rhythm on the pitch," Kinnear says of Madewell. "Switching the ball back and forth in beat."

An English teacher at Walters Junior High in Fremont, Kinnear is fluent in the language of soccer. He has coached with Mustang for 19 years and taught for 20 years in the Fremont Unified School District. Johnny and his wife, Rene, are active Pleasanton residents with three children who play for Mustang: Devlyn, 13, Siena, 12, and Ewan, 9.

Talk about a kick in the grass: The extended Kinnear family has lived and breathed soccer in the East Bay for a half century.

Johnny’s older brother, Dominic, a longtime friend of Doyle’s, is an assistant coach with the L.A. Galaxy and former head coach of the Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo. Dominic was a gifted midfielder with 54 caps on the U.S. national team. He played for the San Jose Clash, Scottish side St. Johnstone and Mexican club Necaxa, among other teams.

A soccer icon and Scotland native who passed away in 2005, Hugh Sr. coached the Fremont Celtic boys’ squad to five State Cup championships, two regional titles and the 1980 Maguire Cup national crown. His teams were known for their classy comportment and tremendous drive.

So Johnny, who was coached by his brothers Dominic and Mark in high school, had an impressive family brain-trust. His brothers David and Hugh Jr. and sister Liz played soccer too.

The Kinnear family wanted to help soccer kids stand out among their peers.

“They would talk about how the only way to win a little kid’s heart over baseball or American football or basketball or lacrosse was to make them feel special,” Johnny recalled. “The main way to make them feel special in soccer was to teach them these great individual skills like juggling or 1 v. 1 moves.”

Hugh Sr. loved the fact that soccer was a sport for everyone, not just towering athletes, great leapers or speed burners. Current Argentine superstar Lionel Messi is 5-foot-7. Brazilian forward Neymar is 5-foot-9.

“One thing my dad always talked about was how everybody or anybody could be great at soccer,” Johnny recalls. “It was a sport for tall or short, fast or slow. There was always a spot for somebody and that wasn’t always true with basketball or football, where you had to almost be superhuman. He would always say, ‘Look at that guy. He’s 5-foot-3 and he’s one of the best soccer players around.”

Johnny added that if you can get a person to love soccer “they can be great and have a great time.”

The Mustang Elite 10B team is living proof of that.


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