Player Insider: In Pursuit of My Dream

Written by: Alex, U-19 Barça Academy player

My life began just how many other lives do, but somewhere along the years, it took a sort of unexpected turn that proved to be one of the biggest blessings not only for me but for my family as well.

I was born in the wonderful city of Toluca, Mexico. I am the son of two amazing and caring parents; Juan and Herlinda. I also have my older sister, Arantza, whom I love very dearly.

 My early childhood was one filled with much joy and excitement, to the best of my knowledge. My family and I lived in Toluca up until about my 5th birthday. We had a great lifestyle down in Mexico, with little to complain about. My parents had good jobs; my dad was a veterinarian, while my mom worked as an accountant. We had a good home, so there wasn’t much else we could ask for.

Life was truly great, but my parents both knew that they wanted more, not necessarily for them, but for my sister and I, and our futures. It was because of this, that my parents decided that we would come to the U.S. for a couple of years. They had been planning this for a while, and when they finally saved enough money and got permission from their jobs, we made the trip. The original plan was to come to the US for two years so that my sister and I could learn to speak English. My sister was 7 at the time, while I had just turned 5.

We quickly settled down in a small town in Northern Nevada called Incline Village. We didn’t know anyone at all, and although things weren’t easy, our family quickly adapted and made the best out of this challenging but exciting opportunity. Time flew, and before we knew, our first year in the US had gone by. We really started to like living in Incline Village, loving the peace in which we lived, it was definitely a change from the busy city life that my parents were accustomed to. Furthermore, to add to the irony of it all, my parents began to see via the news how things back home in Mexico were slowly starting to take a turn for the worst.

At that time, Mexico was suffering from a lot of security issues due to drugs, gun trafficking, and the infamous “wave of terror”. It got to the point where my parents didn’t feel safe going back home anymore. They thought about how safe we all were living in the US and how we would be exposed back in Mexico, so after a long and hard discussion, they decided to completely leave their lives in Mexico behind them and start fresh here in the US. My dad got a job painting houses while my mom got a job as a babysitter and cleaning houses. These are the same jobs they still have today.

Life was definitely different from that point on for all of us. My sister and I started going to school and we learned to speak the language very quickly. My parents though, not so much, and it made it that much harder for them to get ahead. They pushed forward through, and through their hard work, they were able to make a good life for my sister and I.

Life went on and I began playing soccer shortly after moving. I played in various club teams around the area and got to travel a lot due to soccer. Mostly around California and Las Vegas, but my experience with soccer has always been a positive one, even with the not so positive experiences here and then. Around the age of 13, during a local tournament, a man approached me claiming to be a scout for a soccer academy for a professional team down in Mexico. He said he liked how I played; I was playing striker at the time, and he wanted to speak to my dad about me going down there to try out for their academy. Surely enough, a couple months later, I was on my way to try out or a professional soccer academy for the first time. Things went very well, and they really liked how I played. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the final cut, and I was left out of the final group, being just one step away. It was quite disheartening, but later that same day, my dad and I heard news that another scout from another team had been watching me through the tryouts and he wanted me to go try out for their team.

We came back home, gave it some thought, and decided to go back a couple of weeks later to try our luck once more. This time, things went amazingly well. I played with them for a week and after that, they told me that they liked me and offered me a spot on the team, but with the exception that I would play the centerback position due to my height and technique. My dad and I were both very excited. We accepted blindly. I spent about a month and a half with my new team during the summer; training and preparing for the new season. As the new school year was coming up, my dad talked to the academy’s director about enrolling me into school. I was 14 at the time going into high school, and the director told him that I would be taking classes online. Now, although online classes is not a bad option, things in Mexico run a little differently than they do here in the States. Taking online classes down there would mean that I would be taking them on my own time with very little teacher assistance if any. With that being said, schooling in Mexico isn’t a priority for someone playing soccer. My dad didn’t like the idea at all, and after a tough decision, he decided to bring me back to the US so I could continue to study and finish high school. I was a little disappointed at the decision but I didn’t question it because I always knew that my dad only wanted the best for me. I came back to the U.S. and continued to play and study.

I was always a good student. Not top of my class, but I averaged mostly A’s and B’s with a few exceptions. I played high school soccer my freshman and sophomore year. I played varsity both years, and as a freshman I played the forward position, scoring 23 goals in 16 games; only coming one short of tying our top goal scorer who was a junior and had 24 goals. That year, I received the first team All-Season award. My sophomore year, I moved to the left back position, one that I had been playing for a while with my club team. I really liked it, and I felt comfortable playing it. I racked up quite a bit of assists. After my sophomore season ended, I continued to play club and continued to look for opportunities to play at a higher level.

One afternoon, my dad got a call from a friend to invite me to a local soccer camp in the neighboring city of Reno. Although a little hesitant, we decided to go. The camp lasted three days. After the third day, the person who was running the camp, Oscar, told us that he was sort of a scout, and that he had good relations with the Real Salt Lake Developmental Academy. He invited me and two other friends to go try out in Casa Grande, Arizona. We decided to accept and a couple weeks later, I arrived in CG for the tryouts. The tryouts went great. I felt good, and sure enough, at the end of the three days, the coaching staff offered me a spot on their Elite team. A couple months later, I was back at the Grande ready to grind.

Everything there was great even the training; it was unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I spent about 5 months with the Elite team before getting called up to the Academy program. I ended up playing more games than I had expected which helped my development greatly. Once the season was over, they offered me a spot back for the next season. I had a good summer and returned in time for the pre-season. The year kicked off, and I was playing great. Week after week, I continued to perform and continue to maintain my starting spot. I had the record for most games started for my team, and for a while, I was number 1 in that category for the whole Academy system.

We had a great run and we made it to playoffs. Unfortunately, I suffered an injury a couple of weeks before playoffs that didn’t allow me to play for the rest of the season.

At the end of the season, I decided to start looking for other options. Options that would allow me to excel and take my development to the next level. The first and obvious choice was the newly named “FC Barcelona Academy” in Casa Grande. I got in touch with Miha, the Barça Academy Director of Recruiting, whom I had a good relationship within the previous years, and told him that I was interested in trying out for their team, luckily, they were interested as well. I came to the tryout, and earned myself a spot on the u19 academy. I came back after a couple weeks of summer break and I instantly felt at home. This had been my home and I was glad to be back for another year.

I have a set of short and long-term goals and I believe that being here will surely help me achieve those goals. Some of my goals include; taking advantage of my year off at school to further develop as a player and as an athlete. Being at this facility will help me achieve this goal because there are no real distractions here. We are somewhat isolated, but where other kids may see this as a downside, I see it as an opportunity to work on yourself and give you a true and uninterrupted opportunity to grow. The PC becomes sort of like a second home and will help you if you take advantage of it.

The other part of my goals are academic and include, taking college level courses so that I can get ahead. I think being here will help me tremendously because as I mentioned before, there is really no room for distractions here, but not only that, the staff works very hard so that the needs of every student-athlete are met. The organization and discipline of the staff members is nothing short of excellent and I think that is why they have been so successful in the past.

Another one of my goals was to develop a good and solid character, as well as learn to become more of a leader. Being here for the past three years has without a doubt helped me achieve this. I think the reason why is because being away from home really challenges you to mature past what would be expected of you. Your parents aren’t with you 24/7 to help guide you, so you kind of have to start figuring things out yourself, and you really start shaping your character type based on the decisions you make. This not only helps you mature, but it also brings out certain qualities in yourself, qualities that you always had but never really thought about because you were never challenged to bring them out.

Throughout my whole life, my parents have always searched for and tried to pick the best choices for my sister and me so that we could grow to be well rounded and successful individuals. They’ve tried to give us the best life that they could, and though it hasn’t always been easy, life has always found a way to give us hints here and there that we were doing things right. We’ve been blessed with not only opportunities to learn and gain wisdom but also with opportunities to grow. For me, my biggest opportunity has been this Academy. Three and a half years ago, I was just a young boy sitting at home back in Carson City, NV, not thinking that at some point, I would end up in a place like this. Having the opportunity to go and try to live out my dream, my dream of playing professional soccer. I know that nothing is guaranteed in soccer, and in life in general; but for the sake of my dreams and the goals that I have set for myself, there is no better place to be than here. In my opinion, the environment in which we live in here serves to push kids to their limits and it shows kids how to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to them. A place like this will either make or break you, and fortunately for me, I have seen both. I don’t quite know what the future has in store for me, but what I do know is that, three years later, I’m still here. I am one amongst others that are still here, but that in itself is an achievement for me and them. I also know that if I continue to work hard, there will inevitably be opportunities for me to achieve my goals and ultimately achieve my dream of playing professionally. I’m just getting started, and I didn’t come this far just to stop here. Whatever the future holds, I know it’ll be good, I’m excited and will continue to work for whatever comes next.

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