When it comes to longevity in coaching soccer, Eufracio “Chico” Aleman has even Sir Alex Ferguson beat.
Sherman’s boys coach has been at it for three full decades and a good part of a fourth, longer even than the legendary Manchester United manager, who started and ended his tenure at Old Trafford well within Aleman’s timeline at Sherman High School.
“Sometimes I feel like I just started,” Aleman said. “Being married and having children has changed the perspective. You get to know that there are other important things. I’m not as demanding as I used to be.”
Aleman is in his 35th year overall at SHS, and in his 33rd as head coach, racking up more than 200 career wins. He’s been coaching for so long, he admits he’s lost track of the exact number.
“I’ve never been about records,” he said. “I tried to keep up with it, but I just lost interest. It’s something I don’t pay attention to. After so many years, it doesn’t make any difference to me.”
Aleman’s involvement with Bearcat soccer predates the University Interscholastic League’s sanctioning of the sport in 1983. He was a freshman when SHS began fielding a program in 1976, and he has been a part of it ever since.
Only three other people have coached the Bearcat boys: program founder Charles Templeton, for whom Aleman played as a student; Don Longo, who coached the Bearcat eleven from 1980-84; and Clay Cox, who filled in for one season while Aleman took a sabbatical to complete his second master’s degree in 1999.
Aleman’s biography is an all-American success story. He was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico and immigrated to Sherman when he was 12. After graduating from SHS in 1979, Aleman studied at Grayson College and Austin College.
He student-taught at SHS in 1982-83, and after earning his bachelor’s degree, he went right to work at his alma mater, teaching Spanish and physical education as well as coaching soccer while working to earn his master’s at Austin College.
In 1984-85, after one season as Longo’s assistant, Aleman became head coach of the Bearcats, and has compiled an impressive career at a school that’s off the beaten path as far as Metroplex soccer powerhouses are concerned.
Aleman’s Bearcats have made the playoffs 15 times, starting with the team’s first postseason appearance in 1988. In 2000, the Bearcats went as far as the region quarterfinals with Aleman as coach.
The 1999 Bearcats also went three rounds deep. But that season is the only break in Aleman’s tenure as he took a year off to finish his master’s studies — which turned out to be a bigger chore than he at first imagined.
“When I went for my first (master’s degree), I went through the program at Austin College and it’s recognized in the United States, but the educational agency in Mexico would not recognize it,” Aleman said. “So in order for me to get into my dissertation, I had to have my master’s degree through Mexico.”
So Aleman earned his second master’s through the University of Guadalajara, and last year he finally finished his doctoral work in holistic education at the same university. All he’s waiting on is his U.S. accreditation paperwork to be complete and he will officially be Dr. Aleman.
“It’s a self-inspirational thing, not anything I’m bragging on,” he said.
The biggest change Aleman has seen in his three-plus decades of coaching is the explosion in popularity of soccer, which has elevated the sport to a level never seen before in the United States. The skill level has increased exponentially, and smaller schools have added the sport and are doing well.
“It has gotten more competitive,” Aleman said. “In a way, it’s leveling out (because) there’s a lot of talent out there. It’s not just in the Dallas area anymore; it’s all over. We faced teams in the Georgetown tournament from San Antonio and the (Rio Grande) Valley, and they’re all competitive.”
Recent UIL alignments have placed the Bearcats with schools who enjoy the benefits of nearby club teams. This has made it harder for outlying schools like Sherman. The Bearcats’ most recent winning season was in 2012, when the team finished 10-9-4 but missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
Aleman encourages his players to participate in club soccer, either in Collin County or closer to home.
“I tell the kids we have to prepare the best that we can,” he said. “We have a couple of guys who play club soccer and that helps a little bit. But pushing the rest of them, it’s something we’re still looking forward to.
“Most of the time we’ve been able to compete; we don’t necessarily get blown away unless something drastic happens. As far as stepping on that field and competing, we can do that.”
Aleman has put down deep roots in Sherman. His wife, Malina, is a former Lady Cat volleyball coach who now teaches physical education at Dillingham Intermediate School. Their children Mia, 10, and Trey, 8, attend Sherman schools.
“I already coach my young son,” he said. “I don’t push them; I let them play whatever they want. My daughter plays softball and volleyball and soccer. My son only plays soccer, but I don’t tell them to play a sport or not to play a sport. They keep mama pretty busy.”