Garcia continuing soccer education
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera Coyotes soccer player Elmer Garcia is surrounded by his family after he formally signed to attend FC Odessia’s academy in Spain to play soccer. Garcia will play for the academy team with hopes to eventually earn a spot on the professional team.
Contrary to popular belief, when Madera’s Elmer Garcia announced he was signing with a professional soccer team in Spain, it wasn’t necessarily true.
It is true that he is going to play for FC Odessia in Span. However, he will play for the team’s academy and hopes to play well enough to play with the professional team.
“I will be playing with the academy team and, hopefully, play on the senior level team,” Garcia said. “I’m not getting paid. If I do get called up to the senior squad, that will be a whole different story.”
While Garcia is not going to a college to play soccer right out of Madera High School, there is still a chance he could do that, but he would rather not.
“I can still come back and play at the college level,” he said. “I’m going to keep in contact with a lot of colleges here. If anything, playing in Spain will help my resume. That’s going to look good for myself and open a lot of doors. If I do decide to come back, it will be better.”
He had been in talks with Holy Names University, but is putting off school for the time being.
“I’m going to play on the Under-23 squad for the academy,” he said. “It’s just strictly soccer so I won’t have to deal with school. I have a scholarship, which was a half-ride. I will head out Aug. 28.
“In another case would be why would I do this job if I don’t like it. I just used it in life. Why be somewhere where I don’t feel like I belong or am uncomfortable? I would rather give it 100 percent. This academy is a privilege. Not every one has a chance to do this. I don’t want to be learning under a professor six or seven hours a day and then go home and study without touching a ball. I want to play soccer and enjoy that. I would rather commit everything to that. The professionals are just playing soccer. They aren’t going to school. Now, I’m getting ready for my future job, which is to become pro, some day.”
In the mean time, Garcia will also try to start a career on the side.
“It’s going to be hectic, but I will find a rhythm,” he said.
Garcia, who carried a 3.0 GPA throughout his MHS career, can point to where his dream of becoming a professional soccer player got a big boost.
“I had a tournament at the Dallas Cup,” he said. “One of my teammates and their parents took me in. My parents contributed to my trip. I just tagged along with my teammates’ family — the Franklin family. It was a blessing. Odessia saw me at the Dallas Cup and wanted me from there. If the Franklins wouldn’t have taken me in, I wouldn’t have gone to the tournament with COVID going on. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity. I hadn’t traveled out of state for soccer. This was my first trip out of California. Everything worked out better than what I thought.”
Garcia, who said playing for the academy team is like playing Triple-A for a baseball player, has always wanted to become a profession soccer player.
“I have thought about being a pro soccer player,” he said. “My goal is to become a pro soccer player. Getting paid to do what I love is my ultimate goal. I’m not going to settle for less. I’m not happy where I am now. I see a lot of young players around the world playing at a higher level. Why can’t I be out there. There’s no shame where I’m at. It’s more of an inspiration to want more. I want to reach my full potential to play at the highest level I can. Everything is possible.”
Garcia is feeling a little sad about leaving Madera, but is also excited about the opportunity.
“The way I am feeling, I’m a little nervous. I’m more excited,” he said. “It’s more of a bittersweet moment because I’m graduating and leaving my little sister behind. I’m a little sad. I know what I’m getting myself into. I knew if I was going to leave, I was going to have to start a new life. I already prepared myself for this. I’m blessed. Leaving your friends and family is easy. You know, it may hit harder later.”
Although he is going halfway around the world, Garcia’s parents are happy for the opportunity and Garcia has told them not to move anything out of his room just yet.
“My parents are excited for me,” he said. “At the same time, they are sad that I am leaving. I can see it in their eyes. They are treating me more special. When I notice that, it hits me. I know they are excited for me. Don’t move my stuff out of my room. As long as they don’t take my posters down, I don’t care what they do to the room.”
Garcia, who was a first team All-County/Metro Athletic Conference selection and a two-time All-Madera Tribune selection, is happy with his four-year career at Madera.
“I remember my senior year, a coach told me he was glad I’m graduating,” he said. “I do think that I accomplished a lot. Not every player can say they are a two-time CMAC, especially back-to-back. With COVID, it’s harder to explain your high school career. COVID was half of my years. The first two years were different. I was the little kid and the underdog. Becoming a champ could have made it a little better. What I was able to accomplish, I am satisfied with what I’ve done.”
In the end, Garcia is ready for the new opportunity that will come his way. Garcia may be the first Madera soccer player to play pro or semi-pro overseas and is happy for the chance.
“I’m blessed to have this opportunity,” he said. “Not every kid can say they are leaving the U.S. to Spain for school. It’s about following your dream to become somebody you’ve always wanted to be. I don’t want to be famous. I want to reach my goal. My dream was to be a pro soccer player. If you would have told me a year ago this would happen, I would have thought you were crazy. You don’t see any of that here. It’s a blessing from God and my family. I’m thankful for everything. Now, it’s go-time and there’s no excuses. You’re all in.”