By Matt Schwab
Special to Mustang Soccer
Mikey Descombaz was one heck of a soccer player in his day, excelling at Castro Valley High, Cal State Hayward and with the Stanislaus County Cruisers in the USL.
So, it’s not surprising that the popular eighth grade physical education teacher at Diablo Vista Middle School in Danville, known as “Mr. D” by the kids, would become a successful coach. He’s been coaching at Mustang Soccer for 17 years and the club is much the better for it.
What makes Mustang special?
“It’s the culture of the club,” Descombaz says. “All the kids that come love the game and they’re committed to the game.”
Descombaz’s commitment to soccer as a player, along with his talent, helped separate him from the pack. After playing baseball and soccer in high school, Descombaz starred for four years at Division II Cal State Hayward (now East Bay), where he was a soccer All-American, All-Western Region and a two-time first-team all-conference selection. He still ranks fourth all time for the Pioneers with 28 career goals and seventh in total points with 63.
He played with the Cruisers for five years, finally hanging up the boots at about the age of 26. Around that time, he was teaching in Union City and still trying to play soccer, when reality set in. “I had to look myself in the mirror and say, ‘I’m done trying. I’m going back to work full time. This isn’t going to work.’”
Mikey and his wife, Tallie, a Danville native and former Mustang coach for 20 years, are raising two athletic kids in Tatum, 11 (who celebrated her birthday on Oct. 9), and Fletcher, 8. Tatum plays year-round basketball and some soccer too at Mustang, and Fletcher plays on the Mustang U9 first team, also playing basketball, flag football, baseball, and just about everything else.
“He’s into it,” Descombaz says with a chuckle of Fletcher’s sports enthusiasm. “He’d rather play sports all day than go to school.”
After starting out coaching boys with Mustang along with Jason Annicchero, Descombaz switched over to coaching girls when a team that had won State Cup needed a new coach. He’s been coaching girls ever since. He currently coaches two outstanding Elite Clubs National League girls’ teams -- Mustang SC 09 and Mustang SC 06 -- and is age group director with the U12s, U13s and U14s.
His players are highly dedicated to the sport, a fact that is reflected in their play. Plus, the local community gives the teams great support.
“We train three days a week and the kids practice on their own and they are soccer players. They come for the soccer and then it becomes their family, especially on the girls’ side,” Descombaz says. “These kids, we have strict rules when they’re young on out-of-town boundaries, so we can only take so many kids from out of Danville and Alamo. So, when these kids are young, they’re all Danville kids. They go to school together, a lot of them. … The team I have now is eighth graders. I have 18 girls on the team and only three girls are from outside Alamo.
“It’s pretty amazing the culture, the competitiveness, kind of the family aspect of it. These kids are lifelong friends playing here.”
His plans changed about two decades ago thanks to a nudge from current Mustang director Pat Uriz, Mikey’s former teammate and longtime friend.
“I was playing with Pat and actually renting a room with him in Alamo,” recalled Descombaz, a 1993 Castro Valley High graduate who has played a variety of soccer positions at different levels. “I was coaching at San Ramon at the time and then I quit playing, and Pat said, ‘What are doing at San Ramon? Why don’t you coach at Mustang?’”
So, Descombaz made the switch. Back in the day Uriz and Descombaz were part of a group of strong players who were trying to make their mark on the pitch. Many of them are now successful Mustang coaches. Chad Harper, who played at Stanislaus and the U23 Regional team with Descombaz, was also in that group.
Uriz appreciates all that Descombaz has done for Mustang.
“I have known Mike for about 20 years. He is a great guy who brings tremendous value to our club. Mike shares a wealth of knowledge to our club and his teaching practices from his middle school job carry over into his coaching philosophy,” Uriz said. “During his time here at Mustang he has coached many different age groups and has had success in making our club what it is today. I can't say enough about him as we are truly blessed to have someone with his experience and character.”
Descombaz even coached John Doyle’s daughter Kate from the age of 13 until she went to college at Cal Poly. John, Mustang Director of Coaching, and his wife Kaarin attended Mikey’s wedding.
Today, “Mr. D,” represents a Mustang success story. He’s gone from top player to admired teacher, soccer dad, and accomplished coach – a dream marriage in Danville, indeed.