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Finding the Drive

Ten years ago, Luz’s daughter – the oldest sibling in the family – started playing soccer with the Illinois Youth Soccer Association (IYSA). Luz’s two sons followed suit soon after. This was an opportunity to play the game they all loved, but what Luz and her family could not have foreseen was the greater impact that the sport would have on the family, and more importantly, on Luz herself.

When her children began participating in Soccer for Success, Luz would sit at a table nearby to watch them. “I did not talk much with the parents or the coaches,” she remembers. “I just sat and watched. I was quiet, serious, and did not talk much.” But little by little, she became involved. While she was self-admittedly shy, she found ways to contribute – picking up trash, helping to collect soccer balls at the end of practices, and distributing uniforms.

Ale Jurado, program director at IYSA, describes Luz as dependable. When asked to take on a leadership role with another mom so that girls, including her daughter, could participate in their soccer program, Luz’s commitment was immediately evident. “We basically had to have two or three moms help us out and gather up a group of girls and present that curriculum,” recounts Ale. “So, she ended up taking that leadership role.”

This leadership role opened new doors and opportunities for Luz. At the start of the program, the boys and girls practiced at separate facilities – each required a drive out to the suburbs. Though Luz did not know how to drive, she always made sure her children got to practice – which often involved long bus rides – because she saw firsthand the impact that Soccer for Success had on them.

The Soccer for Success program also empowered Luz to do things she’d never done – namely, learn how to drive. “I bought a car,” Luz remembers. “And with that car, I learned to drive with Ale’s help…It made me independent.”

One could say her children learned by example from acts like this. “My mom, she taught me to be disciplined and never quit,” her youngest son, Bryan, says. “When something’s hard for me, she always encourages me to keep going. When we were younger, it was always hard for us to get to practice but she would always take us no matter what.”

Lessons of resilience like these taught Luz’s children to persevere to achieve a goal, which translated to the pitch. Her two sons made varsity as freshmen and Bryan, who has been in the program since he was four, recently traveled to Barcelona with the Illinois Olympic Development Program (ODP) team.

Nearly a decade later, Luz has cemented herself as an integral member of the IYSA community. “Luz could probably take over the program any time she wanted,” Ale jokes. “She takes a lot of initiative now,” Ale continues, “and helps me out a lot.”

“Now, I speak with other parents, with other students,” Luz says. “I go to schools and help Ale do their BMI testing. I go to schools when they need equipment like balls or goals.”

Soon, Luz’s youngest child will graduate high school, but that doesn’t negate the positive impact the program has had – and will continue to have – on her kids. “Everything they know about soccer, they learned from the program,” she maintains.

Bryan agrees. “Everything I know about soccer, all the people I know, everything is through [IYSA],” Bryan says. “They always help me grow as a player, as a friend, as an individual – and they’ve done that with my family…They always helped me throughout the years.”

Even when her kids are no longer part of the youth soccer program, Luz will continue to provide support, not only because of what it has done for her children, but because of what it has done for her.

“She’s a big advocate of our program – very, very big advocate,” says Ale. “The youngest has been here since he was four; he’s now 16, so that gives you a lot of credit. Bryan is a good player – he’s done ODP, he’s done travel, and he’s part of Soccer for Success – so that gives you a lot of credibility in the sense of that our program is helping the parents and the player.”

“Soccer has brought many great things to my family,” Luz says. “I learned and have grown so much as a person and a parent in the program. I am now a true advocate of the program as it has taught me so much.”

Follow this link to learn more about how Soccer for Success has impacted community members – like Luz and her children – across the country.