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Tahuichi Soccer Club propels kids through sports

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Katherine Monroy started playing soccer when she was 8 years old. As center defense she has kept Santa Rosa’s Tahuichi Soccer Club goal safe since its foundation in 2009. Now at 17, she continues to achieve academic goals, with the possibility of attending her college of preference at San Diego State University next year.

Soccer has also given Monroy the chance to travel to Japan with the women’s team of California, win two women’s championships with Tahuichi, and above all, keep a close group of friends without neglecting their studies — currently she has received 10 offer letters from colleges in the United States.

“Playing with my teammates and having that bond with them and the competitive level is very interesting for me because I’m very competitive,” Monroy said one afternoon as she took a break from training at Elsie Allen High School’s fields, where the 227 Tahuichi players practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

‘Tahuichi’ is the name that Quechua people from Bolivia call a soccer player “for his jump and his header,” said Club Director, José Espinoza. A word that in the original language means “bird that flies high,” Espinoza said, who has Bolivian origins.

Espinoza said he never planned to form a club, “I wanted to create a team for my two children to play in. We started to create a group of children that we kept busy. Then in less than a year, in the summer of 2010, about 60 children appeared with parents who wanted them to be trained. So we decided to do this the right way,” Espinoza said.

With the support from other parents who volunteered their time and talent as coaches, Espinoza filled out the necessary paperwork to become a club and thus access major soccer leagues in Northern California, such as Norcal Premier and Cal North.

Tahuichi is one of the three competitive clubs in Sonoma County, along with Atlético and United. “Our teams are at the same level,” said Espinoza. “They are in the same leagues, our coaches and players attend the same programs. The difference is that with us players do not spend as much money.”

While Tahuichi players invest $725 a year for their games and training, in the other clubs they can pay up to $3,000 or $4,000, said the club’s president, Barbara Jiménez.

The main difference is that everyone in the club is a volunteer, she added. “We are here because we want to. We don’t receive funds to help kids. It’s difficult because everything now seems to be about money but those kids need this and the coaches are genuine,” Jiménez said, who has had one of her daughters playing for the club for the past six years. “The only way that I can give something back is with my time,” she added.

“When we first started, this whole soccer process was very expensive for many families and we wanted a club that would cover the basic expenses without the big training costs, but with the same quality,” Espinoza said.

This year the club brought in a person who is responsible for linking Tahuichi players — ranging from 4 to 19 years old — to college programs, so that at an early age they keep an academic perspective of their future.

“Espinoza doesn’t only focus on the club members’ athletic development and their soccer skills, he also wants to make sure they have an educational base for life and that they pursue a higher education,” Victoria Pérez said, from Tahuichi’s College Guidance program.

This year, Pérez said they have linked with Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University to connect players with local educational institutions.

“We make sure that players provide academic reports as a way to be able to help those who are having difficulties with their grades and develop a plan for them. We want to make sure that they not only do well on the field, but also academically,” Pérez said.

“One of our goals is to place our players in the major leagues of soccer in the United States; we’re making the necessary connections, “said Espinoza.

Although summer is an opportunity for players to relax from studies and sports competitions, Espinoza said they are open to registering new members to participate in upcoming tournaments. Interested individuals can call 707-695-3323, with the possibility of training a week before registering.