By Stacey Bomser
Gabriel Renteria has dedicated his life to teaching young people. The former high school teacher is now a full-time soccer coach for the AYSO Region 644 Weston – Select Elite Training Program for its U8, U9 and U11 groups. It’s a job he takes seriously – teaching players soccer skills as well as important life lessons.
Last year Coach Gabe introduced Make Your Own Ball Day to Weston. Players and parents had to create a makeshift soccer ball using duct tape and recycled materials, which the players then used to play a barefoot 3vs3 tournament. Through this program, the Weston players learned that it many parts of the world children play with makeshift balls and no cleats.
“For one night, we use and see soccer as a window into all social economic levels, all races, and raise our level of empathy to one of giving and understanding,” explains Coach Gabe. “One of the most important talks and literally eye-opening conversations we have right before we play is the examples of now professional players who grew up in those conditions and how their willpower and work ethic allowed them to reach total success. We discuss that regardless of resources, everyone should be judged based on their values, actions, morals, and positive impact they have had on this earth and how they make us feel.”
With a greater understanding of how fortunate they are, the players are asked to donate lightly used or new soccer equipment. AYSO works with the Game Time Foundation to deliver the donations to children in Colombia.
Coach Gabe says by participating in Make Your Own Ball Day, he hopes his players gain a deeper respect for all people regardless of how different their life might be. “By the time our players graduate, some will have done the project five times, which we by that time hope the lessons have become a part of them and something they think about in their everyday life. To live in love with life and to help others not only close by but also worldwide.”
Make Your Own Ball Day is just one of many programs Coach Gabe has planned this year as Director of Cultural Affairs for the AYSO Region 644 Weston – Select Elite Training Program. Other projects include letters of gratitude, player journal, Player of the Month awards, Friday interleague competition, juggling badges, headband Fridays, and Yoga Daze at Weston Select.
Coach Gabe’s efforts are being recognized outside of the Weston community. He was named a Miami FC “Coach of the Match”. In addition to game tickets and recognition before the match, Coach Gabe received a $500 donation to support AYSO Region 644 Weston – Select Elite Training Program’s cultural efforts.
He says it was an honor to receive this award. “Coach of the Match is awarded to coaches who inspire athletes, treat each player as an individual, and help them be the best they can be. The coach is a role model of fair play and sportsmanship for their players to follow.”