Friday, November 13, 2009

The importance of having (and scoring) goals

Some people can make your day better with just a short conversation. Miguel is one of them.

Published Oct. 29, 2004, in the Keizertimes

Miguel Camarena, head coach on the McNary High School boys soccer team, is a firm believer in having goals - both on and off the field.

And few could argue with the results he's produced on the field for the McNary boys varsity soccer team.

Three seasons after taking the head coach job, Camarena has taken the team from unranked underdogs to the greatest heights its seen since the school opened nearly 40 years ago.

"One thing is to win games," said Camarena. "Another is to win games and play beautifully. Those are a difficult combination to come by and I am proud to say our team has accomplished both."

In his first two seasons, the Celts made the playoffs both years.

"He has broadened my knowledge of the game and that has allowed me to excel," said senior Eric Branch.

A coaches' poll earlier this season gave the team the highest number for any team in the poll's history, and the Celts are currently ranked fourth in the state.

But success has come with a price.

Camarena benched seniors in favor of the up-and-comers who lead the team today. That decision raised the ire of some parents and fans, but Camarena had a vision and the experience to bring it to fruition.

"He treats everyone on the team as a equal the way a coach should and he' s not afraid to let the younger, talented players take the field," said junior Joel Duenas.

The Celtic varsity team boasts several star players this season, but Camarena isn't one to lose sight of his goals. As games begin to tip in favor of McNary, Camarena has increasingly called upon the team's younger athletes to take the field.

"We need to always focus on building teams for the future," said Camarena.

On the sidelines, Camarena uses the experience of 12 years as a professional soccer player and the wisdom gained by nearly three decades of playing the game to guide his decisions.

"I began my soccer career at 6 years old in Guadalajara, Mexico, and I realized early on that it was something I wanted to pursue," said Camarena.

Growing up, Camarena would play soccer in his family's back yard with his brothers and friends nearly every afternoon.

"It was the perfect place for me to grow up," he said. "We had a huge yard, but one of the reasons my parents registered us for the soccer club, besides skills, was that we broke so many windows."

Both Camarena's brothers, Paulo and Ricky, also went on to play professionally.

Camarena didn't miss a practice until he was 17 and broke his wrist on the field. The next day he was back on the field practicing with the team.

"It's hard to say whether my coaches saw talent in me. There is so much competition in Mexico to play soccer, but I worked hard," he said.

Soccer greats Michel Platini, Dirego Maradona, Hugo Sanchez and Pele were some of Camarena's greatest influences within the sport.

Every 15 days he would go to Jalisco Stadium with his parents and brothers to watch the Chivas of Guadalajara play.

"I've always had a supportive family. My parents are still some of the first to call after we have a game to find out the score," he said.

Camarena would one day play with the Chivas, a professional reserve team, and become the youngest coach in the club's history at the age of 16.

During 12 years as a pro, Camarena was a four-time leading scorer, was on championship teams in three different leagues, and scored 44 goals in a 19-game season. To put the accomplishment in perspective, the world record holder, William Ralph Dean, scored 60 goals in a 39-game season in 1927-1928.

At age 31, he was hired as head coach of the Premier Development League's Cascade Surge and led the team to a seventh-place finish in the nation.

He resigned from the Surge after three years to take a head coaching position at Silverton High School, but nine of his former players have turned pro.

Camarena currently holds the title of community outreach coordinator for bilingual education at McNary, where he works with bilingual students in the classroom.

He said he was drawn to education because of its commonalities with coaching.

"I love to help students reach their goals and help them become more aware of their possibilities for the future," he said.

Now 34, Camarena has settled in Keizer with his wife and biggest fan, Charla, and their "handsome future soccer star" 11-month-old Milanno D'Andre.

Despite all his successes thus far, Camarena still has goals and they still involve soccer.

"The coaching job I most look forward to is when I can take my boy out on the field and teach him a few tricks," he said.

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