Being a female in the soccer world is already hard enough, being a Latina and a mom can make it even harder, being told your not good enough for a team is the hardest thing anyone can tell you, even just being a grown woman getting told by men that only men are allowed to play soccer can belittle you to think, “ Am I good enough for this sport.”
being told your not good enough for a team is the hardest thing anyone can tell you
And with some of these hardships Johanna Sanchez, 32 year old, from Houston, Texas shared some of her own obstacles she had to face as a young girl, in a phone call interview. Her dream was to play professionally, but that didn’t happen, because of a college coach, who cut her for who knows what reasons. She played with adults, trained daily on her own and played recreational soccer, before she got some courage to play at a higher level.
“There’s many, occasions where a coach or even players tell you, you’re not good enough, because you’re not their taste or they see you as a threat but they just have to see.” Said Sanchez. There are many athletes out there who have gone through these scenarios, but don't come to light and speak on it.
For a little while before she discovered she was meant to coach and not play.
She remembered the words the college coach told her, she tried out for the school's team just like many of us who want to play at a higher level, she was among other girls and in particular a Brazilian girl who attended the same tryout. This player asked her around campus, “ Why are you not at the practices anymore, I thought you were good.” sadly Johanna responded, “ I was cut and didn’t make it. “ the Brazilian girl responded shocked, “ You are a good player, you were better than others.” That made Johanna happy, and at-least she didn’t feel completely defeated and continued to be. “ It’s good to find uplifting women in the sport, not women with egos, who only help themselves and put others down, to reach the top.” Added Sanchez.
Who knows if it was bound to happen like this but soon after, someone else approached her and asked her, “have you ever thought about coaching, and make some money on the side. “ And her being a college student she said, “yes”, in a heart beat and the rest became —history.
“ Sometimes words can break you or they can make you.” Said Johanna Sanchez, former MLS Houston Dynamo Youth Pro Coach., Sanchez had her dad, who inspired her to play the sport. And along the way, like many we never think were going to meet a schmuck coach like the one she did. She dusted herself off from the rejection and became better than her college coach and not to rub it in his or her face, but for herself and her dreams.
She not only broke her own barriers, she inspired others, along the way and in particular her Cameroon, West Africa, now husband, while she was overseas, training and traveling, she was asked by him, “ you like soccer, you play soccer? Are you gay? Only lesbians play soccer here.“ Many times women get asked this, in Cameroon, West Africa, Peru, Iran, and even in the United States just to name a few places
Women dress in shorts and t-shirts and automatically get titled as lazy women and lesbian, for liking soccer. Soccer isn’t just a man sport, and it's been a long journey up until today for many to believe. Many girls in sports in general stop playing by the age of 14, because they go through some of the things Coach Sanchez went through as an 18, 19 year old freshmen in college or they see no final reward playing because of the many different dynamics, a sport can have —And right now it's the equal pay issue the USA women’s soccer and basketball professional team are going through as grown women, so imagine being a little girl and getting told that dreams to hard to reach.
Many coaches don't think before they speak, Ex Mexican national team Coach, Leonardo Cuellar, I remember vividly, telling me, “ You are too short to play, you won’t be able to defend Abby Wambacach,” knowing quite well I wasn’t a defender. But even if that was the case, look at defender Crystal Dunn, 5’2 playing for the USA women’s National first team, starting every match and winning titles right and left and making a difference for the short women in soccer today. The Mexican women’s soccer league now has over 18 teams, and let me just tell you, there’s a lot of short players and even on Cuellars team today, Club America Femenil. -Via www.Ligafemenil.mx
Coaching for Sanchez, was a gateway to continue her passion for soccer, maybe she wasn’t playing but she was motivating and encouraging young players, with her kind words and tribulations you see.
But before you say, “You can't be kind to players” let me stop you. The words that her college coach and the Mexican national team coach who told me, could have broken us, I would have never played professionally and she would have stopped all soccer completely, but because there’s different styles of soccer someone is always bound to find you.
She surpassed the judgment and made herself strong, as she carried herself up and went on to coach at a professional level, despite her height. After working for both Huston Dynamo and FC Dallas, and a few school’s, she started her own business where she has also been successful, she continues to inspire the youth, even in the pandemic, hosting the Women in Sports Leadership Summit, she was nickname the jewel of soccer, by her fellow colleagues for her work and dedication on the field.
Sometimes many players don’t know where to start; they don’t always have the right resources for club or college, and some don’t even go to college because they don't know how the system works. Oscar Reyes, Former USA Beach Soccer National team player said himself, in a prior interview before his campaign as politician for the school board, “ the system has screwed over many great players who have attended community College, I wasn't the best player in my high school but because I got lucky and had an older brother who tested the waters first, I was able to play at UCLA straight out of high school.” Have in mind he came from a city where minorities never did succeed, Santa Ana, California.
Being kind to any athlete is better than scaring words, coaches like Johanna are a jewel to the sport, because not everybody needs that strict Coach, instead they need words of wisdom and a little push to believe.