Coach pens ‘Desperate Soccer Moms’
Local soccer coach Jeff Illingworth has been involved in San Diego soccer for nearly 30 years. With all his time spent roaming the pitch, he’s gathered up enough stories to write at least one book, which he did with his recently self-published “Desperate Soccer Moms.”
For the last 12 years Illingworth has been a fixture in the Carmel Valley soccer scene. Prior to that he coached in La Jolla and Mission Bay.
He helped develop the Del Mar/Carmel Valley Sharks competitive league and founded the Carmel Valley Manchester Soccer League in 2001, bringing former Premier League-player Billy Garton from England to be his head coach.
“He’s such a fun person to be around - I can’t wait to read (the book),” former La Jolla resident Chris Fox said. Fox’s son Trevor played for Illingworth in La Jolla from age 10 to 12.
Fox said Illingworth was a great coach and one of the reasons her son went on to play on the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Trevor Fox, now 19, plays soccer at Sonoma State University.
Illingworth started playing soccer at age five in Manchester, England. There was no organized league - he played in the streets and at the local park.
In his late teens, he spent some time playing in a semi-professional league before being sidelined by knee problems. After that, he coached soccer, taught high school PE and history, and spent nights working as a stand-up comedian. His future partner, Garton, was one of his students.
Illingworth came to the United States in 1981, which is where his book begins.
The parental involvement in the U.S. was something that shocked Illingworth - he had coached in a poor area of town where the children’s parents almost never made it to games. Now he had parents attending practices as well as games, some demanding playing time, others decrying his tough coaching style.
“Parents pay your wages and they watch you work,” Illingworth said. “Ultimately, if you run afoul with the parents, you’re probably going to struggle to survive no matter who you are.”
The book details both successful and turbulent times during the genesis of the Mission Bay Soccer Club and La Jolla Nomads. He recounts the angry parents, fights with referees and off-field drama between league coaches and soccer moms.
The next chapter
The book ends in 1996, just before Illingworth came to the Sharks. His second book, which he says he hopes to write next year, will detail his work in Carmel Valley.
His landing in Carmel Valley wasn’t any less shaky than his time in La Jolla. Illingworth lost his job with the Sharks at age 50 and took the chance to start all over again, founding the Manchester League in one of the most congested soccer club areas in the country - the area is home to the San Diego Surf Soccer Club, the Sharks, and clubs in Rancho Santa Fe, La Jolla and Rancho Bernardo.
He had to fight for field space at the Carmel Valley Parks and Recreation Board.
“It’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made because it worked,” Illingworth said. “The odds of it not working were enormous.”
He started out with five teams in 2001; now the league has grown to include 25 teams, three of which made it to the exclusive Surf Cup tournament last August. The league also has a booming indoor soccer program and its under-13 girls team is ranked among the top five in nation.
Illingworth currently coaches four teams. While he’s worked for 25 years in real estate, he said he has never tired of being a youth coach.
“That’s exciting to me, to teach kids the game and see their gradual progression,” he said.
The book will be available at the Del Mar Highlands Barnes & Noble, Pacific Athletic Club and on the book’s Web site at