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Coaching by Example

When Esperanza signed her son up for Soccer for Success at Park Place Elementary School she was asked if she wanted to be a volunteer coach and help with the team.

“I thought I would just bring water and snacks occasionally, so I signed up,” recalled Esperanza. “But when I went to drop my son off for the first practice, the team coach, Francisco, handed me a clipboard and asked if I was ready to go. I was so surprised.”

Unsure what to expect, Esperanza took on the role and began to assist Francisco however she could for each practice and gameday. “I’m always the first to arrive to the field and the last to leave,” emphasized Esperanza. “I always stay until every player has gone home and the lights are turned off. It gives me the opportunity to create a special bond with many of the kids and let them know I can be additional support for them if they need anything.”

At the end-of-season tournament, Esperanza’s enthusiasm and passion for the team caught the attention of Hector Avila, Youth Sports Programming Manager with Houston Parks and Recreation.

“During one of the games, Hector came up to me and told me that he liked my spirit and that he wanted me to attend a training so I could fully join the coach-mentor team,” explained Esperanza. “When I attended the training in January, I thought it was going to be all soccer techniques, but I learned that the curriculum was more about integrating nutrition and teaching healthy lifestyles through soccer.”

When the spring season began, Esperanza joined Francisco at Park Place Elementary School as a Soccer for Success coach-mentor. For her, having the opportunity to be a mentor and create impactful relationships with her team has been one of her favorite accomplishments with Soccer for Success.

“Being a coach-mentor is so much more than just a job for me,” said Esperanza. “I get to know my players and their families outside of school. Parents tell me that their kids are motivated to stay on top of their school work and are excited to go to school because they get to participate in Soccer for Success after. I do everything I can to help and motivate them on and off the soccer field.”

After her first season as a coach-mentor, Esperanza was selected to attend the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success National Training in Washington, D.C., where coach-mentors from across the country come together and learn the new curriculum for the upcoming season.

“Esperanza’s energetic personality and willingness to take on any task has always stood out to us,” said Michelle Rich, Youth Sports Program Administrator for Houston Parks and Recreation. “So, when it came to choosing coach-mentors to attend National Training, it was an easy choice. She is always on top of the job on and off the field.”

“National Training was a one-of-a-kind experience,” recalled Esperanza. “I got to meet other coach-mentors from across the country and learn about their experiences with Soccer for Success. I was so emotional the entire weekend and inspired to get back to Houston and start the next season.”

One of the lessons Esperanza has taken away from National Training is that even as she teaches the curriculum to her team, she is also learning and growing alongside them.

“At practice I always participate in the warm-ups and scrimmages,” said Esperanza. “And, when I started as a volunteer coach, I realized that I couldn’t keep up with the energy of any of my players, mainly because the food I was eating before practice would not settle.”

For her, the timing was right to make a change.

“I realized if I was going to teach my players to eat healthy, it was hard to not do it myself. I wanted to lead by example,” said Esperanza. “So, I started mixing up my diet to incorporate the nutrition from the Soccer for Success curriculum and the difference it made was so noticeable.”

By the end of her second season coaching, Esperanza had lost weight and had more energy and enthusiasm for coaching than ever before.

“Now, when I run with my team, I can almost out run some of the players,” said Esperanza. “It’s encouraging for me to see my progress and motivates my team to try their hardest each day because they don’t want their coach to out run them.”

As the next season approaches, Esperanza is excited to continue to lead her team by example, and show them that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.