A true teammate: South’s Robert Rodriguez always puts team before self

For the past four years, Harlingen South’s Robert Rodriguez has seen the Hawks boys soccer team take on an unimaginable transformation. The senior has seen the team at its lowest and is now helping the team reach its highest potential.

This season, Rodriguez has scored 20 goals across all competitions and 13 in district action.

However, as boys head soccer coach Julian Robles explains, there’s more to Rodriguez than one sees on the field.

“He’s been on the varsity team for the past four years, but more impressively he’s in the top three in his class of 417 students,” said Robles. “He’s really bright and he’s really smart, and he leads by example. But one of his best qualities is that he’s just as determined in the classroom as he is on the field.

“He has a never-quit attitude and that is an infectious attribute that he passes on to the team.”

Currently, the Hawks are in fourth place in an incredibly tough District 32-6A.

The Valley Morning Star had a chance to talk with Rodriguez and ask him about the secret to his success.

Q: How did you become interested in soccer?

A: I started playing soccer at the age of 6. I vividly remember getting a flyer from my elementary school to register for the Harlingen Arroyo Youth Soccer Club and bringing it home to ask my mom if I could play, and the rest is history. I have been playing ever since and little did I know that it would become the one thing my life is revolved around. To me soccer is more than just a sport or hobby, it’s a lifestyle. The love and passion I have for the game transcends far beyond anything words can express. It is simply unexplainable to describe.

Q: This is your senior year. What has been the biggest change you have seen from the team from your freshman year until now?

A: These past four years have quickly gone by and the biggest, and most influential change I have encountered is the brotherhood we have created. I remember my freshman and sophomore years where teammates were always fighting and arguing with each other. However, over time the one thing that has brought this team together is communication and love we have for each other, not only as teammates but as family. Ever since coach Julian Robles entered the program here at Harlingen South, he has pushed us to motivate and influence each other each, and every day to have that desire to win every time we step on the pitch. Each and every player on the team has grown to become part of my family and I believe that’s what has contributed most to our success in recent years. I wouldn’t trade these guys for anything and knowing I get to play along side them for my senior year brings nothing but more love for the game of soccer.

Q:What are some of the goals the team set at the start of the season?

A: We came into this season with one goal and one goal only. Since the day after the final game of last season, we have had the mentality and motivation to make it to playoffs, grow as a team and build our communication on and off the field. We have all been working hard every single day and we still have the drive to make it far into the playoffs. Even though many people may not believe in us, we believe in each other and that’s all that matters to us. We, as a team, have learned to become the change we want to see soccer being viewed in Harlingen. We have grown over the years and this is our opportunity to show just what Harlingen South soccer is made out of.

Q: How do you prepare for a match?

A: Every time before a match, the one thing that prepares me to succeed is prayer. We as a team pray before every single game and I pray individually on the bus and on the field. This helps me get my mind on the game and motivates me to play to the best of my ability. We pump each other up by listening to music on the bus and it really helps me relax and get my mind focused on the game.

Q: What sports icon has influenced you the most?

A: As many individuals have their role model, I also have mine. Cristiano Ronaldo has always been the sports icon I have looked up to. From learning about his childhood and background, to seeing him play on Manchester United on early Saturday mornings, and to now watching him play on one of the most prestigious football clubs in the world, Real Madrid. Seeing him grow as an individual and perform with such poise, while still managing to dominate the goal sheet is incredible. I have always pushed myself to become the best player I can be, not only for myself but also for my team.

Q: What are you going to miss most after you graduate?

A: My family, friends and most of all playing along side the brothers I have grown up playing soccer with. The memories of getting suited up to play on any day of the week and having the ability to play with the guys I have grown close to is really going to impact me. I am going to miss my parents and my family as they are always my No. 1 supporters. From getting up early to watch me play or traveling across the state of Texas just to take me to play the game I love shows just how much they have made an impact on my life. My parents and my family have been the people who have brought that love and happiness I will miss the most when I go off to Baylor University for college.

Q: You have over 20 goals so far this season. What do you credit your success to?

A: I grew up with the mentality that you may finish the goal, but you have to think about how it developed in order for you to score the goal itself. Even though I have scored 20 goals this season as an individual, I credit my goals to my teammates, who are always the people that give me so many opportunities to find the back of the net. If it wasn’t for the brothers out on the field with me, scoring 20 goals is nothing if you don’t have that true bond as family. All the way from the goalie, to the back of the defense, the midfielders, forwards, coaches, fans, and the reserves. Without them I wouldn’t be able to score the goals.

Q: As an athlete, what was the best advice you’ve been given?

A: Growing up as an athlete has caused a lot pain, long days and many injuries, but it has also been the best decision of my life to play the game of soccer. The best advice I have been given by playing sports over the years is that you should always play for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the name on the back, and to play for the one who gives you life and that is God. Without these two mentalities the mere existence of the sport becomes an individual one and the idea of a team is the one thing that has always pushed me to never give up, no matter what the circumstance.

Q: What advice do you have for the younger athletes that want to get into soccer?

A: To never let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough and you aren’t “athletic” enough. I grew up not being the best at soccer, but if you apply yourself, work hard and give the glory to God, you can do anything you set your mind to. Take risks, love the sport and play with all your heart every time you step out onto the field. One day it will end and that is the one thing you will miss the most. Soccer has made such a positive impact on my life and I definitely encourage any of the younger generation to find something you are passionate about and never stop doing it, even if you sometimes fail.

Q: Do you have a saying or motto that you live by?

A: Wayne Gretzky once said, ‘You miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take.’ I can relate to that because if you don’t take risks, dream big and act with courage, you will not be able to seek your fullest potential in life. I live by this motto because if you don’t open up yourself to new things and enjoy the game of soccer without taking risks you can’t succeed. I would rather miss some shots I take and actually try instead of living with the mentality of ‘what if I did this’ and ‘maybe if I did this different.’ I have learned to always take the opportunity that is given to me because you never know if that shot is the game-winning decision in your life.