When I first moved to California I was just about to turn ten years old. We were moving from Kansas City and embarking on a new adventure. My dad had taken a new job in Los Angeles and so the family was heading west. At the time I was playing for a youth soccer team in Kansas City called Club America (that jersey partially inspired this shirt). I was nine years old and was pretty cool with where we were at. Life was good. I had my best friend Josh. I was pretty much the kickball champion on the playground. I think I had my first girlfriend. Life was pretty cool for me.
But with my dad’s new job, new adventures were ahead of us, and a move to Los Angeles was on the horizon. A few months before we moved, we came out for a family vacation to see what it was all about. I didn’t really know what to expect. I think the only thing I knew about Los Angeles was CHiPs. We ended up staying in Huntington Beach and I was pretty hooked. That same weekend we were there was the US Open of Surfing and the place was packed with people. Kansas City was home, but there were no beaches!
Cut to a few months later and we make the move. I remember leaving Kansas City the week between Christmas and New Years. My parents rented a truck and we packed as much as we could in that truck. Then we attached my mom’s car to the back of the truck and struck out on a journey that would prove full of adventures and and end up being life changing.
We left Kansas City on a cold, grey December day. I don’t remember if there was snow on the ground, but there might have been. What I do remember though was the bleakness of that day. Just grey. And cold. A few days later we arrive in Los Angeles. It”s New Years Day. January 1st. And it’s probably like 70 degrees outside. We pull up to the house that my parents had rented and start unpacking. One of the kids from the neighborhood cruises up to our new, yet temporary home. He’s on his skateboard and welcomes me to the block. He then asks if I want to go skateboarding. In addition to soccer, I was heavy into skateboarding then, and I hadn’t skated in a minute due to inclement winter weather back in KC. I get the OK from my folks, hop on my board and have a new friend in an entirely new environment. I quickly realized I was going to like this place.
Shortly thereafter, it’s time for my sister to find a dance studio (that’s always been her passion) and for me to find a soccer team. I end up on a team that I think was called the Diamond Bar Renegades (I might be wrong on the name, but that sounds about right). I don’t remember exactly because that team was short lived. The team was rebranded (or at least the name was changed) and we were reborn as the Diamond Bar Warriors. Even though the name changed, the results didn’t. We just weren’t very good.
Our coach was a dude called Al. I’m pretty sure Al hated each and every one of us. Al was a big fella. I remember he was trying to lose weight, so he would wear one of those plastic suits people wear under their clothes when trying to shed unwanted lbs. He sweated profusely. And he drank caffeine free Diet Coke incessantly. Like all the time.
My boy Bobby reminded me the other day that Al used to play Pat Benetar ”I Am The Warrior” on a stereo when we would run out for games.
I am the Warrior
That was about the extent of his enthusiasm he had for us.
I’m not sure how Al got the job of a youth soccer coach, or why he even wanted it. He didn’t seem to like or know anything about the sport. Didn’t really seem to like any of us either. And he was pretty terrible at it.
One game, Al walks out on us. Flat out quits in the middle of our game. Which is a pretty shitty thing to do to a team of 10 year olds. Immediately Abby steps in. Abby was Cameron’s dad. So Abby steps up and steps in. He coaches the rest of that game and becomes our temporary coach.
I didn’t know this next part of the story until literally a couple of months ago. Apparently Abby was at this junior college called Mt. Sac for one reason or another. Maybe because we practiced there? I don’t remember. Anyway, one day Abby meets a guy who had just moved to the States from Italy. His name is Gennaro. Gennaro was at Mt. Sac taking ESL classes. Gennaro’s English was, let’s just say, real limited. But Abby finds out that Gennaro had played in Serie B and Serie C in Italy and knew soccer. Somehow he and Abby come to an agreement that Gennaro would become the coach of the hapless Diamond Bar Warriors.
So all of a sudden, this rag tag group of kids has a recently retired ex Italian pro as our coach. We couldn’t really understand him. He couldn’t really understand us. His wife would play the role of translator from time to time. But that didn’t really matter. We all seemed to just get each other. Things clicked.
At the time Gennaro takes over as coach, we were languishing somewhere near the bottom of the silver division.
All of a sudden things started to be very different for us. We spent training sessions doing almost nothing other than working on our technique. Session after session was just technique. And our new found technical prowess began to pay off. We began winning games. We began to really enjoy ourselves. We kept getting better. And the results kept improving.
I remember Gennaro demonstrating the technique drills and how he wanted us to do them. His game was legit. He was such a good player and I think all of us wanted to emulate that.
Anyway, so now we are winning games. We start winning tournaments. We’re attracting new players.We get promoted to the gold division.
The Warriors are making moves.
And as any great story like this would go, within a couple of years, we won State Cup.
I don’t know when it happened, but Gennaro left the Warriors for new coaching opportunities. But we end up getting another great coach in the form of a dude named Gerrado. Not only did their names sound strikingly similar, but Gerrado was also a former pro. But he was from Paraguay. And he had a cannon of a shot. I mean this dude could hit the piss put of the ball. Also, like Gennaro, Gerrado didn’t speak English either. So his son Jerry would be at every training session. Translating. Helping us out. He was the assistant coach to his pops and someone we all looked up to. And let me tell you this. Jerry could ball! He had one of the nicest left feet I have ever seen.
But this story is not really about all of the things mentioned above. It is about how the Diamond Bar Warriors changed my life and continue to influence it today. And it has done this in a couple of key ways.
First, the Diamond Bar Warriors was the time in my life when soccer truly became the sport I most loved. Up until that time I enjoyed soccer. I was pretty good at the sport. But I wouldn’t say that I was soccer obsessed. Gennaro showed us the game in a different light than we were used to. His passion for the sport was palpable. It was hard not to get inspired by his love for the game. He certainly passed on a love for the game that has stuck with me to this day. It is part of the reason that Bumpy Pitch and The Original Winger exist.
The Warriors have also given me friends that I still have to this day. The Warriors provided an ever weaving web of friendships that I still have.
Dunny played on the Warriors. Albeit at a different time. But the Warriors connection is there. And how many people can say that they are business partners with someone from the same youth soccer team? That to me is amazing.
My dude Zoli played on the Warriors with me since day one. He’s still my boy to this day. Up until his recent move up north, we were playing pickup games a couple of days a week. And our boy Kyle was playing in these weekly pickup games as well. It was through Zoli, many years ago, that I met Kyle. And through Kyle, I met ISPS.
Cam, Zoli and Dunny all went to high school together. At the same school as ISPS and Kyle.
My boy Jeremy Brown ended up playing on the Warriors. He has an older brother named Demian, who I looked up to. Demian was a senior when I was a freshmen and the dude could ball. He ended up going to Cal State Fullerton and was part of the reason I ended up at Fullerton. Dunny ended up at Fullerton that same year. We’ve been boys ever since. And eventually business partners.
My boy Bobby Melendez was on that team and he and I were best friends for years. I saw Bobby this past weekend. He was playing on a men’s team with a couple of our other Warriors teammates and friends – Arvin and David. All these years later and these cats are still playing on a soccer team together. That Warriors bond is still there.
And through Arvin I met Mia.
Without the Warriors, my soccer life, and life in general would most likely have turned out much differently.
A few weeks ago I started having a conversation with one of our designers, Diego, about some new graphics we are working on. He asks me if there are any design elements that we can incorporate that have some special meaning or that we have a special connection to. At first nothing really struck me. And then I thought of the Warriors. Given the fact that Dunny and I both played for this youth soccer team, it seemed like a great story to connect to. And I thought it would be rad to use some sort of Diamond Bar Warriors reference in these designs. I call Dunny about this and he is stoked on the idea as well. But I didn’t remember what the logo looked like. I thought maybe I had one of our pins somewhere, but I couldn’t find anything. The Diamond Bar Warriors inclusion in a design seemed like it might not happen.
Shortly after that I end up linking up with Arvin. We’re talking about old times and the Warriors and he mentions that when he was moving, he found a box full of old Warriors gear. A jacket. Some pins. Maybe a jersey. The next day he sends over some images of what he had found.
Next thing you know a wave of memories comes flooding back and I realize all these years later how much this team and the people involved with it have had played a pretty significant role in my life. How my life has partly been shaped because of a soccer team that I first played on when I was a ten year old kid and had just moved to California.
Thinking back on all of this, it amazes me how this youth soccer team, the people that played on it and a couple of our former coaches still have such a positive impact on my life. And now, all these years later ,to get to figure out how to include some aspect of the Warriors into a Bumpy Pitch design, is a pretty cool thing.
I imagine that most of us that played soccer growing up, or any sport for that matter, have a team and a time period that really stand out. That influence us long after our days on that team are behind us. If you have a team like this and a story to share, email it to us at contact [at] bumpy pitch [dot] com. We’ll share them on here.