Submitted by Mike Herman
President, Compton United Soccer Club
I was standing in my garage amazed. Just three hours ago this place had been a disorganized mess – bins teeming over with used cleats, boxes of t-shirts and donated uniforms cluttering the floor, dust and soccer balls wedged in between it all. But now, after just a few hours of steady work, the place had been transformed into a tidy, organized, workable space. And Luis’ beaming smile testified that he had done it all himself.
I was smiling too, and not just because of my newly tidied garage. In the few years I had come to know Luis, I was seeing changes in him. His life was slowly being “reorganized” and put into place. We were seeing him become the kind of “space” where God could work as well.
When I first met Luis, he was struggling – at school, with his family, and with himself. He was a talented soccer player, often leading his Compton United team in scoring. But CU is as much about excelling OFF the field as on – and Luis was not doing that.
Like many teens, Luis’ most obvious problem was his attitude. He was a likeable kid, as long as things were going well. But when his teammates played below his expectations, he yelled. When the refs made calls he didn’t like, he argued. When teachers made decisions he didn’t agree with, he rebelled.
When Luis joined the club, he had the opportunity to spend time with men who were willing to invest in his character as well as his playing ability. His coaches and I put in a lot of time with Luis – hanging out, talking about life an soccer, digging into topics like anger and attitude – and yes, even cleaning out garages. Changes were slow but Luis was growing. It was clear that he was full of leadership potential.
In 2009, Luis was chosen as one of 4 guys to be a part of our most intense leadership development program – the Crash Elite. These 4 students, chosen because of their outstanding leadership potential, were placed in mentoring relationships with the pro players that volunteer with Compton United. (One of my main objectives for my chaplain work with the professional LA teams, Chivas USA and the Galaxy, was the recruit Christian players to work alongside our guys. The Crash Elite is the program that we created as a result!) Throughout the MLS season, the Crash Elite players meet weekly with the players (currently Justin Braun and Micheal Lahoud) for a private soccer training sessions. After those sessions end, the players take the boys out for dinner, where the mentoring really happens. Over a sandwich they discuss life, faith, school, relationships, future plans, college, girls, soccer, and anything else that comes up!
It has been during this period of time we have seen the most growth in Luis. His grades have shot up, his attitude at home has changed. He builds up his teammates and controls himself from yelling at the refs. He has become a very positive role model.
Several years ago, college was never on Luis’ radar. Now he actively participates in our College Advisory Group and is making plans to apply for college after he graduates high school.
As Luis wrote about his time in Crash Elite, “As each day passes and I am learning new stuff from Michael and Justin, I see them not just like professionals or friends – I see them like family. I know that if I ever need good advice about school, house problems, or family problems, Michael is the perfect guy. Now if I need advice about girls, soccer, or forward skills, Justin is the perfect guy. Being with them has changed my life. They taught me how to respect women, everything takes time, don’t hurry thru things, and always listen to my parents and take care of my family.”
It is evident to all of us that a new Luis is emerging. His grades have shot up, his attitude at home has changed (as noted by his parents!), and he’s active in our College Advisory Group as he makes plans for his future. He has become a leader among his teammates, building them up on the field and controlling himself with the refs. He has become a very positive role model for all of Compton United.
*Please support Compton United Soccer Club and Mike Herman's tireless efforts to improve the soccer and life experiences of youth in his community!