Coach Maria

PA030624A distinctive aspect of RYAA is the young age of its coaches and referees. Youth and young adults are given a unique opportunity to engage with kids through soccer.

This year, Maria, an eighth-grade student, was one of our youngest coaches. Maria remembers how, as a preschooler, she asked an older friend what game he was playing. He told her it was called soccer and then took her under his wing and taught her what he knew about the game. As a fifth-grader, Maria heard about RYAA from friends and was longing to play, but unfortunately missed the deadline. Next year, since she had kept her grades up, her Mom agreed to enroll her and Maria played on a real team for the first time. Since then, soccer has been a major part of Maria’s life, and she has dreams of playing in college, either at UC Davis or somewhere in Florida.

This year, Maria decided to try her hand and coaching. Although she could have played soccer without working, Maria was excited about the opportunity. She remembers some initial nervousness at the prospect of coaching, but she related to us mid-season how much it was teaching her.

When asked what she has learned from coaching thus far, without hesitation, Maria answered, “coaching isn’t easy. Kids don’t always pay attention and respect you.” She has been learning to find a balance, being respectful of her players while simultaneously teaching them to respect her authority. She is furthermore learning that “little kids are small but have LOTS of energy!” Even so, she had to constantly figure out how to work them hard without overdoing it.

Coaching soccer has not only taught valuable leadership skills, but has also been a tool through which Maria was able to become more involved in her community. She sees members from her team at school every day, and is now able to greet them by name and ask how they are doing. Not only that, but throughout the season, Maria invited peers to help her coach. Those who helped out at practices and games could receive up to six hours of the community service hours needed to graduate. Many of her friends agreed to help, and a few became consistently involved.

Though she may only be in eighth grade, Maria has been an example of 1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Coaching at RYAA is not about knowing all about the game or the art of coaching; it’s not about your record or experience. It is about taking an interest in a group of kids and creating a fun environment for them to play ball. Thank you for your time and energy, Maria!

Fredy Torres: Learning to Lead

What we believe and advocate here at RYAA is the transformational power of faith-based mentoring, leadership and development of character through positive opportunities—primarily through our sport programs. Stories of successful character development are incredibly encouraging because they testify not to our own efforts but to God’s power and goodness. One of the most crucial elements to the realization of this success however, is the willingness of individuals to take responsibility for their lives and to be open to change. Fredy Torres is one young man who not only went through RYAA’s soccer program but has also put much time, energy and hard work into making constructive and affirmative life choices. Fredy shared his story with us, and he has agreed to let us share it with you.

In 8th grade Fredy was not on a good path. There was one friend that was a negative influence and Fredy recalls he was making some poor decisions, “I was starting to get into some bad habits.” A moment of change came when a different friend, Adrian began to persistently invite him to play soccer with RYAA. Fredy wasn’t interested, partly because he didn’t play soccer and partly because he couldn’t afford it. His friend was very persistent though and when Shannon offered him to work off the application fee, Fredy decided that he would join.

“At first I was like, ‘Ahh work!’—I didn’t like it.” Fredy comments on the arrangement, but he quickly added that he noticed Shannon made him do things that weren’t too hard— gardening, picking up trash etc.—and Fredy appreciated the chance Shannon was giving him. Eventually spending so much time with RYAA meant that he didn’t have time to hang out with the friend who was negatively influencing him. Fredy credits RYAA with getting him off the streets and changing his life forever.

“Soccer is now such a big part of my life.” Yet it wasn’t always that way and Freddy remembers that when he was still learning to play, he would hog the ball and he wasn’t much of a team player. As he played more he began to change and he learned to trust others around him, to trust his teammates and share responsibility. He realized that the team had to work together in order to win and that this instilled in him leadership values. On the inner changes Fredy explains, “I was no longer a lone wolf but a part of the pack.” He continues with a hint of amusement in his voice, “Our soccer team was called ‘Wolf Pack’.”

Fredy’s experience with RYAA’s soccer program and the positive impact it was having on his life opened him up to new things. Through a class at Carlmont High School he was able to talk to venture capitalist and learn entrepreneurial skills and business which all contributing him to winning money in youth business programs. Having to do things like give a presentation at the Stanford Stadium before a full audience and five judges from places like Google and Yahoo taught him a lot about himself and about entrepreneurial skills and business. He and a team of other students won first place in a Business Plan competition through BUILD (www.build.org). A mentor provided through BUILD has stuck by him up until where he is now, acting as a fatherly figure and assisting with school. All of this hard work has culminated with him having a deep appreciation and passion for business that has landed him at Notre Dame de Namur University studying for his degree in business administration. Fredy is now a leader in his family, being the first one to go to university.

Fredy Torres is second from the left: Fredy and his team win a BUILD competition

Much of this might not have been happened if RYAA or Shannon hadn’t been there to give Fredy the chance he needed to develop his life. Fredy described how Shannon was “always there for him and always had time him.” This had an enormously constructive impacted Fredy’s life and he also described how Shannon’s belief in God influenced not just him but every person Shannon came into contact with. Even now, Fredy will attend bible studies with Shannon on Saturdays and this has been a source of hope and positive force for him. Fredy’s past and present experience with RYAA has showed him—as he says in his own words—“What separates the boys from the men.” It is exactly this type of development of character that heartens RYAA and helps to push it forward. We praise God for Fredy and thank Him for the work that has taken place in Fredy’s life.