Soccer gives us so much. This beautiful game teaches us about ourselves, working with others and the world around us.. as we find our place in it.
Sonny Guadarrama has played at the highest level. He is not only a Lonestar alum, beginning back in the early days of recreational, but also a current coach and former financial aid recipient. Sonny continues to give back to the kids of our community and offers a great example for them to follow, both in soccer and in life.
He looks back on his personal journey and reflects on what helped him to achieve his dreams - his dad.
I am writing to the father who instilled in me to dream big and never stop working.
Well, I’m happy to tell you it all paid off Dad. The countless hours driving me to practice, the late nights we shared.. it was just you and me, the rest of the world was sleeping while we were training.
I’m a product of the 90s. An era where technology was barely on the rise and distraction was at a minimum. We had one television in the house, and it weighed about what felt like a hundred pounds in the living room. It was the first time I can remember seeing a professional soccer game. They would show one soccer game per week on the one Spanish channel we had, and they would always have Santos Laguna playing.
You would always make time to sit there and make sure we were paying attention to the likes of Pony Ruiz and Jared Borgetti. You would study the games and see what the top players where doing, and then we would train it the next day.
My dad was getting me ready for my big day.
Soccer wasn’t the most popular game in America. I don’t think I knew that and I didn’t care; I just wanted to be the best.
I remember you telling me, "Son we are going to drive to Dallas today to go watch the World Cup." We drove to Dallas not having tickets and it was just you and me (my brother's were in Mexico with my grandma). We got to the stadium seven hours before the game and found the first guy selling tickets and then watched as fans starting filling the grounds of the Cotton Bowl as the game was about to begin. Bulgaria ended up defeating Argentina, I remember seeing Hristo Stoichkov and saying what a good soccer player, I want to be like him.
You would do anything for me, Dad. Especially to be around the Beautiful Game.. you were getting me ready for my big day.
I grew up playing rec soccer in the Leander Youth Soccer Association. My team was called the Falcons. We had maroon uniforms, which wasn’t the greatest color. My cleats were hand-me-downs from my brother Willy. My shin guards where literally shin guards; from the top of my ankle all the way to my knee. My socks were just really long black socks that looked like my grandma had knitted them. Soccer wasn’t a fashion statement; it was just about getting on the field and trying to help my team win.
I didn’t know at the moment why I was the youngest player on my team by three years, but my dad was getting me ready for my big day.
My dad has been doing construction for over forty years. He is a product of the American Dream generation coming from Mexico. I don’t know a harder workingman. I don’t know where he would get the energy from, coming home after working outside all day and coming straight outside where we were waiting for him to practice. This was the normal routine from Monday through Friday. Each day we would focus on a specific skill till he felt like we had mastered it, and then move on to the next.
My dad’s dreams where just as big as ours, so he built us a room out of concrete with a covered roof were we could kick the ball as many times as we wanted, rain or shine, night or day. I guess my mom was tired of us breaking the windows and she’d had enough. Behind this room, he built us a couple of full size goals. The reason I say couple was that we didn’t have enough money to go buy an actual goal, so the first one was built out of PVC pipe, and the following three were built out of wood, each one being sturdier than the previous. I was in charge of cutting the grass at the house so I made sure our field was cut diagonally like I saw on TV of the pro stadiums and took spray paint to mark out the box to make it official. These were my stomping grounds that made me who I am today, and where my dad was getting me ready for my big day.
I will fast forward through my entire youth career but I was blessed to obtain pretty much all the awards a young player could get. All-American in HS, Youth National Team, won state with my club team, captain of the regional team, full scholarship to a Division I college (Campbell University) where I was also All-American.
The day had come to leave school behind after my first year in college. I was, and still am, very impatient. I told myself if I can’t play my first pro game before I’m twenty years old I will leave soccer behind and get a 'job'.
I signed with Santos Laguna in the summer of 2006. I packed all my stuff from my house, two duffle bags worth of clothes and soccer cleats. My parents drove me to Torreon, Coahuila, at the age of eighteen and said, “Son keep working and you’ll make it.”
My dad had gotten me to the final step for my big day.
On the first day I arrived to training, all that I had dreamed up in my head of what professional soccer looked like was actually not at all the reality before me. I signed a contract to the third team at Santos Laguna. The training field for our team was a dirt field lined in chalk. I wasn’t going to let a little dirt stop me, although there were no locker rooms either, I didn’t have a car, we only were given one practice uniform, and we had to wash our clothes by hand. But, I’m the kid who dreams big and never stops working.
I had played six games for the third team scoring 8 goals and got called up to the Mexico U-20 National Team, which one year earlier had won the first World Cup for Mexico. When I got back to Santos I got moved up to the second team, where I trained for three weeks before getting called up to my first game where I came in as a sub the last ten minutes. It was a Tuesday after that game that we were training next to the first team; a player had gone down with an injury, so to make the session even they needed one player.
My coach told me, "Sonny go help the first team finish training."
I didn’t think much about it, I went over and stepped on the field like I belonged there. We finished training that day with a shooting game, which I won. After practice my coach, Daniel Guzman, told me he wanted me to come back and train with them the rest of the week. At the end of the week the coach told me “I’m tempted to take you to the game but I’m still not sure.“
The following week at training he called me over and said, “Sonny, I’m going to debut you in this week’s game.” I called my parents right away and told them to come because I was going to get to play with the first team that weekend. Before I could finish the call my dad was already waiting for my mom in the car ready to drive to Torreon.
My dad was ready for the big day!
There were two more matches left in the season; this weekend we were going to play against Club Pachuca, who at the time was one of the most successful teams. I had been at the club four months, and I had climbed two teams to debut in my first season at the club, all the hours and hours of training were leading up to the day.
I remember walking out onto the field with the team I’d seen on TV back home in Cedar Park, and now I was wearing the same uniform.. playing with players I’d grown up watching! The first thing I did was spot where my parents were sitting and I waved to them. Even though I couldn’t hear my dad, I could see his hand signals saying just take it easy and play your game.
It was the sixty-fifth minute, we were down 1-0. My coach calls my name and says, “Sonny I want you to go in and just do what you know how to do.”
We ended up coming back to tie the game 1-1 and I was fortunate to start the play that ended in our goal. As the whistle blew I immediately headed toward my parents and my dad came down the stairs to meet me and give me a hug. My dad had witnessed the big day!
I am still currently playing professional soccer and just signed for Austin Bold FC. I can always find my parents sitting at all of our home games, now a little closer to home.
I know I wouldn’t have become the person I am today if it weren’t for my mom and dad. The sacrifice from both on-and-off the field was the underlying factor for much of the success I’ve had in my career.
I’m not a father yet, but I know I will dedicate time for my kids. I don’t know if they will become professional soccer players but they will remember the time we share together.
There is no better gift parents can give to their children than their time and knowledge. I challenge all parents across the world to never forget about their children no matter the circumstances. All we need is your time and knowledge and everything will be great!!
Thank you Dad, for everything.