By Christian May-Suzuki
Edward Dono needed no introduction to the Culver City Middle School campus where he was hired as a teacher in 2016. He and his two elder siblings had all graduated from CCMS, and Dono himself has lived in the same house in Culver City’s Art District for his entire life. While Dono’s home has been stable, the rest of his journey has been anything but.
Dono’s father is from El Salvador, his mother from Guatemala. Seeking out a better life, the couple and Dono’s sister moved to the United States and eventually settled in Culver City in the 1980s.
Dono, who just celebrated his 26th birthday, was born June 29, 1992, and his love for soccer quickly began to take roots thanks to some help from his family.
“Since I can remember, it’s always been soccer, soccer, soccer in my house,” Dono recalled. “I started playing at three years old, and my older siblings and cousins also played growing up.”
Dono has fond memories of his father and his involvement in the soccer lives of Dono and his siblings.
“He would always take us out to the park and train us when we didn’t have practice for one of the teams we played on,” Dono said.
Sometimes they didn’t have the proper equipment to train with. That wasn’t about to stop Dono’s father.
“He would use whatever he could find at the park: branches, trash cans, benches,” Dono remembered. “Anything worked for him.”
When he and his brother got old enough, Dono’s father coached them through AYSO and continued to coach these AYSO teams even after his sons had grown out of the age group. Dono helped his father at practices., and Dono credits this early exposure as part of his inspiration to coach today
“Just being around the game for so long and loving the feeling you get by creating a bond and seeing your work on a field is a great feeling,” Dono expressed.
While his father stayed in the same age group as Dono grew older, his next team was a little different.
“We stayed with that generation of kids up until U-14 where my dad, brother, and I eventually got to coach the All-Star team, where we had great success,” Dono explained. “From there, the parents from that team decided they wanted to stay together and join a club team.”
The club they joined would later go on to be known as Culver City FC. Dono credits this team experience and coaching alongside his father and brother that lead him to his position as the CCMS boys’ soccer coach today.
“The focus, intensity, and passion they took to every practice and game definitely rubbed off on me,” he noted.
Dono attended Loyola Marymount University for a business degree but realized his passion would lie elsewhere.
“I never thought I would become a teacher,” Dono admitted. “When I was in college, I started tutoring and working as an instructional aide at Kentwood Elementary. Once I graduated, I knew education was the route for me, so I went back to school at UCLA to get my masters in their teacher education program.”
Soon after, he found himself back at CCMS where he attended years before. At that time, he was too occupied with his degree to coach but knew he wanted to get involved. This past year, an opportunity appeared.
“(CCMS coach Michael Castillo) informed that they needed a coach for the program, and he had spoken to (Culver City High School Athletic Director) Tom Salter about me, so I spoke to Tom and thankfully was able to join the program.”
Originally, Dono and Castillo were supposed to only coach the 6th grade and JV teams, but the varsity team suddenly needed a coach to start the season. Instead of splitting the three teams between the two, Dono and Castillo decided to collaborate to coach all of them. It was natural for the pair, as this wasn’t the first time they worked together.
“Mike and I have known each other since 6th grade, played on an all-star team together, went to play at CCHS together, and both attended LMU at the same time,” Dono told me.
The first year certainly went smoothly, with only one loss between the three teams and a league championship for the varsity team. Dono called it a “big welcome back to coaching” for him.
“The growth each team had was fantastic. Each team had their own style, strengths, and weaknesses, and we had to adapt to each team to bring out the best in them.”
He has already experienced an exciting league final with CCMS when the 6th-grade team won on a last-minute goal.
“I was running down the sideline celebrating the goal; the kids all ran in and we all hugged and celebrated,” Dono remembered. “Those moments are the ones you don’t forget, and honestly there might be no better feeling as a coach.”
Dono has no plans to leave Culver City any time soon and hopes to eventually move up to high school varsity and win multiple CIF titles.
“Ideally, we would be able to grow the program from middle school all the way up to the high school,” Dono explained. “Having that continuity with the players would be great and would hopefully leave a lasting impact on the students on and off the field.”
Just as he did as a kid growing up, Dono hopes to build meaningful relationships with players and grow together with them, both in soccer and as people.