|Carin in 2007|
I’ve written about the baseball tradition in my extended family. The reaction was swift…not from any of my cousins who I mentioned, but from my daughters. They were soccer players, after all, and wanted to know why I didn’t write about the Gallegos tradition they were starting on the soccer field. They had a point, and I am taking care of that today.
|Carin in Fall 2011 with teammate/friend Radjavi|
Eleven-year-old Carin first started soccer when she was about 7 years old, I think. She played a couple of seasons after taking ballet lessons. She left soccer for a few years and tried gymnastics, but returned to soccer again this past year. Carin is small, quick and athletic. I knew she would have no trouble getting back into the swing of things, even though she is so much smaller than her peers. And sure enough, she did really well. Her team, the Evil Jellos, lost just two games, I believe, out of 16. I was surprised to see her playing at a more competitive level. But she thoroughly enjoyed it. I already signed her up to play again next fall, and I can hardly wait to see her play again. Before then, she plans to try a dance class this summer, if she ever puts down her Hunger Games books.
|Isabella in Fall 2011|
Isabella is just 8 years old, and I was anxious to see her in a team sport. She is athletic like her big sister. But she is just as likely to do a cartwheel during a game as she is to attack the soccer ball. Whichever she chose to focus on, you could see the joy in her face – which is what counts, right? Isabella was very proud to earn her first trophy this past weekend after the final game. But as I write, we are back in the gym where she is squealing with the other girls as they march from the balance beam to the high bar.
|Isabella and Teammates Celebrate End of Season Spring 2012|
What Carin and Bella didn’t realize a year ago was that they weren’t the first members of the Gallegos family to play soccer. Their father and their Tio gave it a try some 35 years ago at the fledgling Alameda Soccer league in Albuquerque’s North Valley. Our league was the red-headed step-sister to the more established AYSO league where most kids played. I remember eating plenty of dirt as we played games at a sand pit on the West Side – very near the site where Cottonwood Mall now sits. Now, Albuquerque has huge soccer complexes, including an indoor complex that was just built in our neighborhood.
|Gil Gallegos Jr. 1979|
I probably shouldn’t assume we were the first of the Gallegos family to play soccer. I just assumed that to be the case because my Dad volunteered to coach, and he didn’t know the difference between a corner kick and red card. He does now. Regardless of our humble beginnings, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Some of my same buddies from little league – Marty Chavez, Craig Sparks and Charles Palacios – also played on the same soccer team with me. And I guess you can’t take the baseball out of a bunch of kids from the North Valley – I wore number 14 on my soccer uniform, which was he number that Pete Rose wore. One new friend we made on that soccer team was Juan, a Spanish-speaking kid from Central of South America. I believe he was added to our team because my Dad and his assistant coach, Manny Palacios, could speak Spanish. I still remember Juan’s remarkable skill with the soccer ball. My Dad gave my friend Marty the nickname, The Bird, because of his speed – he seemed to fly like a bird on the soccer field. I still remember Juan yelling, “Pajaro, Pajaro!” as she called for the Bird to pass him the ball.
I’m happy to see my daughters having fun with soccer. I love watching them in dance, gymnastics and swimming. We even tried running last fall, taking after their mother who ran cross-country in high school. I think I can guarantee one thing: I’ll never be one of those parents who forces them to do anything they don’t want to do. I’m confident that I couldn’t force them, nor could I stop them from trying. I learned integrity, sportsmanship and a work ethic from my parents, who learned it from their parents. Whatever the future holds, I’m confident that my girls will learn the same things from their parents.