Determination can knock down barriers

By DAVID TEPERA | Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2016

In 1995, I was the boys head soccer coach at La Marque High School. At that time, there had never been any girls teams.

Well, there was this one pesky little freshman girl named Mandi Tapia who kept bugging me to be in my boys soccer class. She even refused to go to her assigned P.E. class and argued with the counselors.

Eventually I sat Mandi down and explained that she could be in my class and join in all the training, but she would not be able to play this year. Instead she could be a manager and a ball chaser.

At first I tried to modify the workouts to be easier for a female. Mandi rejected the modifications and worked at the same pace as the boys. To my surprise, she applied more effort and determination with impressive skills than some of the other guys.

The following season, Mandi recruited two other young ladies named Kelly O’Dell and Selene Valdez to join the soccer class.

I was also a football coach during the 1990s state championship run under Alan Weddell. My soccer offseason program mimicked the same intensity we put those football players through.

If these young ladies want to compete against young men, they would need to prove their physical and mental toughness. Yet again, they stood the test with Mandi becoming one of the leaders.

Well, that season all three girls made the boys JV team and were the only females to play boys soccer in the entire district. Sometimes it was quite humorous to see opponents’ boys getting frustrated with girls scoring and slide tackling them.

These ladies taught me and their male counterparts that when you hit the field, there’s no boys and girls, just a bunch of determined athletes.

Because of their efforts and through Mandi’s leadership, these girls and I petitioned the school and added the first-ever La Marque girls soccer team in 1997.

Recently Mandi and I had an opportunity to talk and reflect back on those special years. Mandi told me her experience in my soccer program was influential in her becoming the successful woman she is.

But what I want Mandi Tapia to know is that once pesky little freshman girl influenced the way I’m raising my daughter.

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