Zeller promotes passion for soccer and students
Men's soccer coach leads with a harsh but caring tone
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 22:02
His demeanor is one that some may consider unpleasant, but for the men’s soccer coach, his passion for the game and the players who perform for him are what people closest to him recognize the most.
Now in his 15th year at Contra Costa College, Rudy Zeller’s ample experience and dedication to his craft are attributes he tries to instill in his athletes.
“Some may say he’s always mad, but that’s his way of coaching,” former CCC soccer player Hilberth Ibarra, who transferred to Cal State-Maritime Academy in Vallejo, said. “He yells most of the time, but if you pay attention to his words, you will realize that he is giving you direction on how to correctly (perform) on the field.
“He motivates me. I always have looked up to him and I always will.”
Ibarra was a part of the CCC soccer program from 2009-11. In 2009, he was a redshirt freshman. From 2010-2011 he played on the soccer team. Zeller made Ibarra a team captain in 2011.
“He’s (dedicated) to soccer and he instills that in his (players),” Ibarra said.
Born in Quito, Ecuador, Zeller began playing soccer at 6 years old and moved to Michigan at age 11. He coached at the high school level for more than 10 years including stints at Piedmont and Foothill high schools as well as Branson School in Ross, Calif.
He also served as an assistant coach at the University of San Francisco under coach and former national champion Erik Visser.
“He showed the ability to develop players,” Visser said. “He is passionate about the game and the development of players. (To him) it didn’t matter the (talent) level of the player as long as the kid was willing to improve. I always appreciated the fact that he was eager to coach — I appreciated him.”
Visser played on the 1978 and 1980 USF national championship soccer teams under National Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame coach Steve Negoesco, who coached USF to four national championships and 544 victories.
Visser took over for the legendary coach in 2001.
Zeller’s passion for soccer and his players stems beyond the field of play. His efforts and passionate instruction are aimed at developing the youth as athletes and as people.
“Like any endeavor, (athletics) provides (people) with opportunities to develop personal skill sets, whether they may be physical or emotional, but also social skills,” Zeller said.
“(As an athlete) you also taste the bitter with the sweet — you have to learn how to lose and learn from those lessons, understand them and get better from them. You will always run into something that is beyond your capacity to handle in a particular moment. You want to be able to develop the passion, desire and the will to overcome obstacles that stand in your way.
“(Athletics) helps you to develop confidence in yourself as a person that you can accomplish things that you set out to do. I think (that confidence) can transfer to who you are as a person beyond the field of play,” Zeller said.
At CCC, Zeller also instructs tennis and badminton courses. He briefly headed a golf class, however, the course was discontinued due to budget cuts.
His coaching experience also includes four non-consecutive years as coach of the Northern California Olympic Development Team.
Zeller’s tenure and professionalism have not only earned him the respect of his players, but also his colleagues.
“The one thing he helped me understand was that things are a lot different at the community college level,” women’s soccer coach Nikki Ferguson said. “He told me that some of the things I may have wanted to institute here do not work. (Those instructions) made me take a step back and evaluate how I want to run a program here.”
Prior to taking over as women’s soccer coach four years ago, Ferguson assisted women’s soccer teams at UC Berkeley, Southern University and A & M College in Louisiana.
Being a coach encompasses more than just directing a team on a field.
Zeller said to be a successful coach one must learn the playing styles and personalities of individual athletes in order to get the best of them and help them improve on and off the field.
“(A coach) is not just a coach,” he said. “(As a coach) you become a mentor and a teacher — I think, fundamentally, those elements are part of (coaching). You have to be the hard guy and be able to push people to try to bring out their maximum. At the same time, you want to develop a friendship (with players) and get to know individuals for who they are as people.”
“The way you motivate people varies. Some people you can push hard and others you have to coax in different ways to get the best out of them,” Zeller said.