Miami-Dade High School boys’ soccer

Westland Hialeah boys’ soccer improves while enduring garage practices

 

The Westland Hialeah boys’ soccer team has made steady improvement despite holding some of its practices in a school parking garage.

Special to The Miami Herald

In his native El Salvador, Tito Herrera played soccer on rocky fields that had few — if any — patches of grass.

Life in the United States is better for Herrera, but it’s not without its challenges. The Westland Hialeah junior and his soccer teammates have had a number of practices inside the school’s parking garage.

It happens early in the season, when the boys have to share Westland’s one field with football, girls’ soccer and even band practice.

The gym is not an option because the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams practice there. And there is no baseball field at Westland.

“I don’t think too many schools have to deal with this inconvenience,” Westland coach Gregory Solano said. “Most schools have an open space, but we have a four-story building with just the one field.”

The soccer team’s “garage practices” are held in the late afternoon, when the faculty members have gone home and there are no cars in the way.

Solano puts his kids through three-on-three or five-on-five drills — there’s no room for anything more than that, he said.

“It’s a challenge, but I am willing to overcome it because soccer is my life,” said Herrera, a defender/midfielder. “It doesn’t matter where we play, I want to improve.”

Safety first

Herrera said the Westland players use tennis shoes instead of soccer cleats inside the garage, and they are careful about not slipping and getting hurt on the concrete surface.

He said some kids complained a couple of years ago, when the team began using the garage after failing to find a local park that would let them borrow a field for practice.

“I was very surprised we had to practice [in the garage],” Herrera said. “But I told my teammates that this is all we’ve got, and we have to take advantage of every opportunity to play soccer.”

Solano, who has been Westland’s only soccer coach since the school opened in 2007, has worked to improve the program year by year.

Making strides

After winning no more than three games in its first four years, Westland broke through in 2011 with a 9-7-2 record, its first winning season.

This year, Westland is off to a 2-3-6 start, including a 2-2 tie against its Class 4A rival American, which made it to the state semifinals last year.

Westland had a 2-0 lead on American before the Patriots rallied to tie.

“We’re earning respect, little by little,” said Enrique Diaz, a Westland defender and one of the team’s eight seniors. “We’ve had some bad seasons before last year, but I’m glad I’ve been a part of the program pretty much since the start.”

As for practicing in the garage, the disadvantages are tactical, where the Westland players can’t use a regulation-sized field to mimic the demands of the game.

But there are advantages to training on hard surfaces.

“Brazilian kids sometimes practice in garages,” said legendary local soccer coach Jay Flipse, who is now at Sunset. “It teaches you better control on your first touch. And the most important thing in soccer is your first touch — the second most important is your last touch.”

Read more Miami-Dade High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category