If Bruce Mattos could encourage Sacramentans to do one thing, it would be to join a sports team.
“If we got more people involved in sports, we’d have a better sense of community,” says Mattos, longtime manager and now referee assignor of the Land Park Soccer Club. “Sports bring fellowship and comradery. Children are too connected to their devices—they need to build relationships.”
Mattos has made quite a career—both as a professional and as a volunteer—of building relationships through sports. The son of the late, beloved Sac State football player and coach Bob Mattos, Bruce Mattos grew up playing sports, including soccer and football at Mira Loma High School and was a volunteer student assistant at Sac State volunteering in community youth programs as an undergrad, he discovered a love of teaching that led him to get involved in coaching youth sports after serving in the Army . Bruce continues to volunteer with career coaching for seniors and recent graduates at Sacramento State.
When Mattos’ daughters—all three of whom played competitive soccer, one at the college club level—started participating in the Land Park Soccer Club, it didn’t take long for the group to recognize Mattos ’ skills as a leader on and off the field. He was asked to coach in 2000, to join the board in 2002 and by 2003 to be club manager—a volunteer position he held until January of this year.
“When I started to get involved in coaching, my wife—who was already coaching one of our daughters—told me, ‘It’s not for you as a coach to win, it’s to teach and develop the kids—and for fun,’” Mattos reports. “It’s been very rewarding, but you don’t get involved just for the kids. You get involved to help your community.”
“Our goal as an organization is to make soccer accessible to all,” says Mattos, who also serves on several boards, including the Northern California High School Referee Association, Union Sacramento FC, California Youth Soccer Association and Metro Kids Soccer League. “People look at Land Park and think it’s a super wealthy area, but we have a wide draw and we do outreach to keep it diverse—it’s a team sport, after all.”
The club has also been instrumental in the redevelopment of local school fields at California Middle, Crocker/Riverside Elementary, Leonardo da Vinci K-8 and others through fundraising and smart money management. After the scholarships are accounted for, the club reinvests its money into seeding and fertilizing the fields since schools often don’t have the resources to do it themselves.
The Land Park Soccer Club offers free camps and clinics (often with players from Sac State and Sacramento Republic) to teach kids about fitness, health and collaborative skills. Mattos has also been instrumental in developing a code of conduct for the proper training and development of children at the recreational level, which includes a zero-tolerance referee-abuse policy. (He reports hearing mostly positive encouragement from the sidelines now.)
In addition, Mattos has helped create a referee-development program to train the next generation of officials (the only paid job throughout Sacramento’s recreational soccer leagues, which are run almost solely by volunteers). As a point of pride, Mattos notes that Sacramento is already home to two FIFA-level referees—one of whom officiated in the World Cup—and three Major League Soccer referees.
“Sacramento is becoming a hotbed for referee development,” the 51-year-old says proudly. “On almost any given week, you can see a Sacramento ref on an MLS game.”
Whether he’s coaching, refereeing or advocating for the future of recreational soccer in Sacramento, Mattos has his eyes on the ultimate prize.
“Creating a quality soccer experience is our mission,” Mattos says. “We want kids to be able to create memories and friendships and learn good habits. Above all else, we’re a learning organization.”