With just one returning starter this year, the Harlingen South boys soccer squad might be a little short on experience. However, with a talented central defender like Jairo Diaz on the team, head coach Julian Robles has a little less stress on his plate.
The senior defender has been with the program for the past four years and is ready to step into a leadership role.
“He’s on the team for the past four years, he’s a great leader, and the first one there and the last one out,” said Robles of Diaz. “He motivates both the younger kids, who look up to him, and the older players, who look to him for leadership. He plays max minutes and anybody on the opposing team that is a threat we put Jairo on him.
“He’s grown by leaps and bounds, not only as an athlete but as a student. He’s seen a lot of leaders come through this team and now it’s his turn to lead.”
The Valley Morning Star got a chance to catch up with Jairo and get to know him a little bit better as soccer season kicks into full steam.
Q: This is your senior year. What are you going to miss most after you graduate?
JAIRO: After graduation, I’m going to miss everything about high school soccer. My best friends are my teammates and it’s going to be tough knowing we aren’t coming back to continue growing together. The coaching staff made us who we are today and I’m grateful for all that they’ve done. I’m going to miss the privileges of being young and free of adult-like responsibilities.
Q: You’ve been on the program for the past four years. How have you seen it change?
JAIRO: The past 4 years I’ve seen the program grow positively in number of players, individual talent, love for each other and soccer.
Q: How do you prepare for a match?
JAIRO: I prepare by mentally focusing on my responsibilities and making sure all my teammates are hyped and ready for anything.
Q: Last year the team had a great season. How do you think the team will follow it up this season with almost an entirely new team?
JAIRO: I believe the team this year will reach the expectations that last year’s team set for us by reaching the playoffs, battling for every win and every point in district. Yes, most of the team is new but we’ve worked hard every single day and our coaching staff knows how to use our strongest assets to help the team win.
Q: The District opener is just a week away against Harlingen High. How’s the team feeling heading in?
JAIRO: Going into this first district game we feel confident because we know how hard we’ve worked to accomplish what we want as a team and also anxious to see what the season holds for us.
Q: What sports icon has influenced you the most?
JAIRO: The sports icon that has influenced me the most is Ronaldinho. He’s the reason why I fell in love soccer at such a young age. The fact he was always smiling and was so humble impacted me by helping me realize how lucky I am to play such a beautiful sport that I never wanted to stop playing, but also to never think I was above any other person or player.
Q: Do you have a saying or motto that you live by?
JAIRO: The saying that I’d like to say I live by is, “success ain’t no accident.” I love that quote because to me it means that working hard will always pay off, and to get where I want to be in life I have to work hard and struggle.
Q: As an athlete, what was the best advice you’ve been given?
JAIRO: The best advice I’ve been given as an athlete throughout my whole life is to play with my head and never let my emotions take over. Yes, it’s good to be passionate about whatever sport you love but it’s more important to keep your cool and do what’s best for your team.
Q: What advice do you have for the younger generation of athletes that want to get involved in soccer?
JAIRO: My advice to all young athletes, not only soccer but every sport, is to love the game and love every second of it because one truly never knows when the last time you’re going to play is.