Editor’s note: Rhode Island Reds left back Kevin A. Gil will be keeping a diary for NESoccertoday.com this season. You can check out his first entry here.
In his second entry, Kevin talks about the Reds’ season opener, his hectic schedule as a student-athlete, and what it means to be a role model.
Our first game of the season against the Brooklyn Italians was a game of realization. We lost to a perennial NPSL powerhouse, and a powerhouse that currently stands in 1st place in the conference with an undefeated season so far. But we took away a lot from the game that can be beneficial to our club moving forward.
We realized that we could keep up with the best team in our division. We held them scoreless only up until minutes before halftime when they punished us on a defensive mistake. We also realized that we could even be better than the best team in our division. We outplayed them in the opening 20 minutes of the match, threatening their goalkeeper with dangerous opportunities. But most importantly, we realized that we have a lot to work on as a team. We need to build up our team chemistry by getting to know each other as players, we need to move the ball faster both individually and collectively as a unit, and we need to work harder for each other if we expect to become one of the best clubs in our league. Ultimately, we lost the game 2-1, but we couldn’t have been given a better result for us to measure where we are as a team.
With only just a week of training to prepare for another elite team, the New York Red Bulls U-23 side, we had a lot to work on before we could be ready to take on the disciplined and skilled club from New York. Being my first year in the league, I have never played against this Red Bull team and, unfortunately, my debut against them will have to wait, as I will not be able to attend the match on Saturday night at Cranston Stadium.
As a student-athlete from a liberal arts college like Wheaton it is often times difficult to manage what seems to be unmanageable. The right balance between soccer, academics, extracurricular activities, and even sometimes a social life can be exhausting and both physically and mentally draining. At Wheaton, I’m a full-time Resident Advisor, a part-time Caterer through dining services, a part time Sports Editor of the Wheaton newspaper, and a full-time student among other clubs and departments I am a part of.
Sometimes it’s just good to have a break from it all. I never really got a chance to just take a day or two to myself since the second I got back home from school I went straight to Reds training and hopped right into my full- time summer job painting. My weekend has lead me to New York City, where I currently sit writing this entry today reflecting on how hectic of a semester it was for me at school as well as how challenging it has been to deal with my ankle injury since February. What I like to consider a well-deserved weekend away will fuel me up with energy to help me be able to give it my all playing for the Reds this summer as I continue to work full-time and continue to write.
This week I received a ton of inspiration from several people and events that occurred throughout the week. The first pertains to Assistant Coach of the Reds Sheldon Townsend concluding one of our training sessions with his typical analogy involving music. Coach Sheldon asks us almost every practice if any of us play any instruments. The few of us that do play always respond accordingly.
However, the response he awaits is that “we all play an instrument”, which is what he says as he holds up a soccer ball. Coach Sheldon believes that when we each do our part on the ball, and when we move the ball productively as a unit, the ball makes music. The sound of the ball that it makes when it is passed, when it is shot on goal, and when it hits the back of the net creates music to his ears.
The Reds coaching staff promote hard work, commitment to a common cause, organization, discipline and respect to each other and to others as we play the game. When our Reds team is able to get all of this down, we will be a great team but getting there won’t be a task that comes without patience and persistence. These qualities are not foreign to me and can be found back in my childhood days as a young boy in Central Falls just trying to play soccer.
My father Luis, who was my very first soccer coach, and will forever remain in the position as a life coach to me always, reminds me of a story we recall from back when I used to play in the Central Falls recreational league. Sadly, there was a bit of corruption instilled in the organization at the time when some coaches would grab all of the best players for their own teams just to strengthen their chances of winning. Coaches like my father who were driven on providing kids with the opportunity to learn were left with the underdeveloped players.
This was never an excuse for my father to not form a competitive team. That year we reached the semi-finals on a rainy Saturday morning and our team was left on the worst of the two fields to play on, a field with a giant pit of wet mud in the center circle and by the goal areas. After a dirty battle in the semi-final match, our team stood victorious and ready to play in the final game to crown the league champion.
When the other coaches instructed us to head over to the better field with more grass than mud, my father refused. He ordered them to come play on the muddy field that we had just played on exactly how they told us to play on it before. Rattled and confused, the other coaches had no choice but to play the final on the tougher surface in order to avoid looking hypocritical.
I think if justice was served, it can be quite obvious who won that game. We stood there after the game with first place trophies and with huge smiles on our faces. A coach like my father gave little kids simply trying to play soccer a chance. Coaches only invested in forming a winning team discouraged these kids but my father was there to help create memories that hopefully many will cherish for a long time. Although many of us weren’t very skilled, my father taught us to work hard, play as a team, remain patient, have discipline, and to respect each other and the game.
It seems as if this is the key to success. It was pivotal back when I was a boy in Central Falls. It has been critical as a college student, and it will remain important in my career as a soccer player from this day forward. After Saturday’s game against the Brooklyn Italian’s there were a bunch of little kids from RI soccer teams who ran up to us and asked for autographs.
It was an experience that was a bit odd to me but was very inspiring as well. I had never signed autographs before and I’m hoping it won’t be my last time. I also heard from a lot of people congratulating me on my first game and my first diary post. I am very grateful and I thank all of you who have taken the time to follow my story so far. It has truly meant the world to me.
This past week, I even received a message from an old friend who has followed my footsteps being a part of a program called Project Goal that helped him attend The Wheeler School just as it helped me. The message read as follows:
I just finished reading your diary on the blog and also found out about your new journey for the Reds. You continue to be a role model for not just me but many others. Accomplishing one good thing doesn’t seem to be enough for you and that’s the biggest pro that is going to take you far. I’m a proud little brother. I love you like blood.
Messages like these inspire me and motivate me to chase my dream of playing professionally even more. However, if I for any reason don’t achieve my goals I can still be successful. If I can be an inspiration to at least one person who can go on to achieve bigger and greater things, then I will consider myself successful.
I hope you all enjoy reading, and good luck to the Reds and all the other soccer teams playing this weekend around the world. And of course, good luck to Real Madrid CF in the Champions League Final, a club I have supported since I was a little boy. HALA MADRID!