Meet Adrian Juarez. He’s a seasoned soccer player, a Soccer for Success coach-mentor, a site coordinator for five Soccer for Success sites in the southwest region of Houston, and just 18 years old.
As a child, Adrian had always dreamt of playing competitive soccer, a vehicle which he hoped would propel him to college soccer, but injury – six knee surgeries before the age of 18 – left him on the sidelines.
After so many injuries, Adrian began his transition from player to coach at age 17 by helping to coach his younger brother’s club soccer team, but he was soon approached about taking a coaching role at a local Soccer for Success site. After he learned more about the program, it seemed like a great fit. “What better way to start off [coaching] than with a free recreational program for kids?” he says. “I could teach them to have fun and teach them the [fundamentals].”
At his first Soccer for Success practice, Adrian recalls being a combination of anxious, nervous, and excited. But he explains that, “slowly, maybe after the second week, I wasn’t shy anymore – I was just having fun with the kids. And as the weeks went by, I started noticing the kids really open up to me; they talked to me. I built a relationship with the kids there.”
After his first season as a Soccer for Success coach-mentor, Adrian felt confident in his role as a coach-mentor and about his impact within the local community. “You build really close relationships with these kids and then they love you and you love them back,” he says. “You want the best for them, so you teach them things that are beneficial to them, like how to eat healthy, what is good for you, how much should you eat, how much water should you drink a day. They always look to me.”
But little did he know that, in his second season as a coach-mentor, he would be given much more responsibility. Due to a last-minute dropout, Adrian was asked to fill the site coordinator role for the entire southwest region of Houston.
“Our site coordinator bailed a couple of days before our season started, so we asked [Adrian] if he could step up into that role and help find some coaches for that area,” explains Michelle Rich, the Soccer for Success program manager for Houston Parks and Recreation. Without hesitation, Adrian stepped right into the role, taking on a managing role for five different sites in addition to coaching at his own site.
As a site coordinator, Adrian was tasked with checking on each site, collecting timesheets, touching base with coach-mentors, and answering any questions they had. He was also in charge of making sure gamedays ran smoothly and coordinating the distribution of equipment at these sites. This is no simple feat, even for an individual twice his age. But for Adrian, his commitment was all the more impressive given the fact that he, at the time, was a high school senior taking all honors classes.
“My mom and dad say I’m always so busy, that I’m working myself a little bit too hard,” Adrian says of when he took on the site coordinator role. “But for me it’s not really like working. I’m having fun while I’m with the kids…It’s never really been a job; it’s always been fun.”
“He manages it all,” says Michelle. “I’ve never heard any complaints about trying to manage his schoolwork. The only time he had to miss something this season was for graduation. He’s just that person who is always going to step up to the plate.”
Michelle reports that, since Adrian stepped into the site coordinator role, communication and dependability has improved significantly across the region that he manages.
Angie, mother to two of Adrian’s Soccer for Success participants, asserts that Adrian is “one of the best coaches that my kids ever had.”
Due to his proven commitment to the program, his innate talent, and his positive impact on the Houston community, Adrian was selected by his colleagues at the Houston Parks and Recreation Department to attend the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s annual Soccer for Success National Training.
He is eager to learn more as he travels to Washington, D.C. this month, where he will become certified to train Soccer for Success coach-mentors back in his community. “One of the things I’m looking forward to is meeting a bunch of people that are passionate about the same thing I’m passionate about,” he says.
Adrian is also looking forward to learning how he can help other coaches make an impact the way that he has, especially as it relates to helping coaches connect with their players.
“I know that he’s excited for the trip and to learn more and have an even bigger role within our program,” Michelle says. “We see the leadership qualities in him that we’re looking for.”
Most of all, Adrian is keen to learn what it takes to teach the Soccer for Success curriculum because he wants everyone to have the same experience he has had as a coach-mentor. “I hope I can learn to teach that to someone else,” he says.
Adrian is one of many coach-mentors who believes in the power of Soccer for Success to transform lives. Learn more about the program’s positive impact here.