Student Activity Series: West Soccer Players Earn College Team Spots

YES Prep’s student athletes meet the high academic standards of YES Prep while practicing and competing after school and on the weekends. In our Student Activity Series, we’ll spotlight students who dedicate themselves to academic and extracurricular success. In this spotlight, we’ll meet YES Prep West soccer players, Bryan Alvarez, Brian Marcia, Caleb Acebedo, and Kenneth Jimenez. All four boys earned scholarships to play collegiate soccer through their commitment to the sport and the tireless work of their coach, Dane Smith.

West soccer players
Bryan Alvarez, Brian Marcia, Caleb Acebedo, and Kenneth Jimenez

What is it like to be a student-athlete at a rigorous school like YES Prep?

Bryan Alvarez: Being a student athlete is fun. We get to travel, play, and bond with our team. Coach Smith makes sure we’re doing well in class, so that we can play. He emphasizes that it’s about the academics too.

Brian Marcia: It can be difficult and stressful to have homework and studying after a game or practice. Coach Smith has a discipline system that helps us get it all done. He makes sure it’s not just about meeting the criteria, but rising above it. He doesn’t want us to just settle for what’s expected of us. Soccer is also a great opportunity for you to meet new people. My team is another family to me. I know they will be there for me when I need them.

Kenneth Jimenez: Being a student-athlete has helped me manage my time better. I have to balance practice, games, and chores at home like babysitting and running errands. Also the team has helped me to create a strong bond with new people. It can really brighten up my day to see a teammate in the hall and talk to them.

Caleb Acebedo: It’s about being a more responsible person. Coach Smith has showed me how to be more responsible. I wasn’t that person before joining the team. It also showed me not to be selfish as a person and as a player. Being on a team is like being part of a family.

What was the recruiting process like?

Coach Dane Smith: We went to college recruiting events in North Carolina and Miami where we played against actual college teams. There were multiple coaches there and we had offers come in from almost all of them. The boys are still deciding and trying to get the most money possible.

Brian: We’ve played soccer for so many years, but this was the first time that we’d played in front of a college coach or even on a college campus. It was nerve-wracking.

Kenneth: Usually, after the game, we took a team picture with the college students. The coach would praise us on our work and what we did well. And then they’d share some areas of improvement. We’re just in high school, so there’s definitely room for improvement.

Brian: They also pointed out that some of the biggest high schools in Texas don’t get the opportunity to be seen by coaches and recruiters like we did for those two trips. We should be grateful we had that opportunity– especially because YES Prep is not the biggest school. The experience really boosted our morale and motivation to try harder in school and do whatever it takes to be able to play in college one day.

Did you raise money for these trips?

Bryan: I went around church asking my mentors to see if they could donate so I could play for the trip. We also sold chocolate and had fundraising events at school to go on the recruiting trips.

Brian: Coach Smith came up with a gofundme account to fund our team. I made flyers and gave it to the teachers.

Kenneth: We shared it on social media too. When we had events for fundraising, we’d post about it.

How do you feel about the schools that made offers?

Bryan: I really like Montreat’s campus. It’s in Asheville, so there are mountains and it’s cold. I also like that it’s small. There won’t be as many distractions or things pushing me out.

Brian: I agree. Montreat has a great system that pushes you. You not only go there for your first four years. If you want to continue your soccer career, you can also pursue a Master’s there. I also like that the coach said they meet up outside of practice a lot. They don’t have cliques. They get together and bond– not just as a soccer player but as a person.

Bryan: He [Montreat’s coach] wanted us to remember that soccer is there for us but it’s not going to last forever. Your education will.

Kenneth: I was invited to Oklahoma Wesleyan for a try-out. After the try-out, the student athletes gave me a tour. Seeing them interact, I could tell that they’ve closely-bonded and that the school is a good fit. It’s a small Christian school, so it will help me develop in my education, abilities, and Christian faith.

Any final thoughts?

Caleb: I’m thankful to Coach Smith. He showed me the person he is and how supportive he is. He wants us to have more education while playing soccer and doing what you love.

Bryan: Smith wants us to get as much experience as possible. He wanted us to get a glimpse at what college soccer looks like. At first, we had a lot of doubts that these trips would happen, but he made sure we went. Coach Smith even drove us, which was a long drive. He took us there without complaint. He was proud of us and congratulated us and was happy to be there with us.

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