Just for kicks: Senior soccer player leads team by example

Savannah Arenas

The seconds on the game clock countdown signaling the end of the last period of play. There’s only one chance for the opposing team to make a goal. A herd of cleats tear at the field in an attempt to steal the game, but in the blink of an eye the ball is stolen by senior varsity player, Antonio Flores, who seals the game.

Antonio has established himself as a successful varsity soccer player and an influential leader.

“I feel like my experience benefits the team and allows me to be a leader,” Antonio said. “I have to observe every player and pay attention to everything that is going on.”

Antonio has been playing soccer since freshman year and has returned as a starter this year. He’s played a wide range of positions including left back, left mid, and forward.

“It can be a little nerve-wracking because I’m the only returner,” Antonio said, “but it’s also fine by me because I get to help everyone else out on the field.”

With four years of participation under his belt, head soccer coach Paul Ruiz recognizes the confidence and encouragement Antonio brings to the team.

“Antonio brings an even keel and calmness to the team,” Ruiz said. “He is a leader through his actions and demeanor, and it shows through his experience.”

Antonio’s attitude is also recognized by his teammates.

“Antonio comes to the team with a positive attitude,” senior teammate Ramiro Vasquez said. “He makes sure everyone feels comfortable and does their best.”

Even with the leadership position among the team Antonio carries on the team, he credits the soccer team with teaching even more.

“Soccer has taught me to be patient,” Antonio said. “It’s also taught me not to rush anything and not to force anything. Just be patient.”

Teaching lifelong skills isn’t by accident; the soccer program aims to provide their players with more than athletic ability. Ruiz recognizes that most athletic programs measure their success by wins and losses, but he’s set out to make a more fulfilling program for everyone involved.

“The team promotes being of good character for ourselves, family, and the community,” Ruiz said. “I feel I can truly measure the success of the soccer program when I see them 5-10 years down the road as good citizens, good husbands/fathers, and working hard in anything they are doing.”

Ruiz’s technique fills players with determination that proves helpful on and off the field.

“Soccer has taught me to never give up,” Ramiro said, “When you start something you finish it.”

In addition to his positive perspective and leadership quality, Antonio holds key positions among the team dealing with the opposing team’s best players and covering the whole field.

“His focus is to help stop the opposition from advancing, and you have to have great feet and an elevated amount of aggressiveness on the field to do what he does.” Ruiz said. “But he is not limited to that role. When we have possession, Antonio has a role where he can be an offensive player as well.”

Antonio has made a lasting impression not only on his team, but on Bryan High that won’t fade after he graduates.

“He’s definitely a leader on the field because he is verbal, helps direct others, and he’s a leader off the field because he helps teach some of the younger kids about their position.” Ruiz said. “He helps organize things in practice and is the kind of model student we look for at BHS.”

Additionally, being a part of Bryan High soccer has made an impact on Antonio’s character and his admiration for being in the program.

“I’m going to miss being around the whole team, and I’m proud of all of them,” Antonio said. “Through the years, we have learned to work together as a team and be there for each other. I encourage the younger players to enjoy the game while it lasts because it will be over fast.”