For ten years, Raul Rodriguez has fostered a strong passion for soccer. His teammates and coaches have emphasized that he plays with a positive attitude and unreserved effort, while also encouraging his teammates to keep their heads up as well.
Beginning in 2007, he played recreational soccer for one year. Rodriguez then played for two club teams, Novato United and Northbay Timbers, until 2016. He made the varsity team at San Marin his freshman year, when varsity head coach Ben Philpot took notice of Rodriguez.
“He’s little, but he plays like he’s eight feet tall; he just has that much heart and that much effort,” Philpot said.
However, Rodriguez soon began to experience hip pain, so his doctor referred him to a specialist.
“This is when I received the worst news of my life,” Rodriguez said. “The specialist had told me I didn’t have enough muscle mass in my hip plates and that I couldn’t play for one to two years. Hearing that made my heart ache. Soccer had been a passion for so long.”
Despite not being able to play in games, he would still make the effort to remain a part of the varsity team and help in every way that he could. Rodriguez took on the role of a team manager, by coming to every game and handling statistics.
After two years and four months, he went to physical therapy for a third time and discovered that his muscle mass had reached the target and he would be able to play once again.
Upon this discovery, Rodriguez was eager to return to the team, and he began to go on consistent runs, ranging from three to five miles long. When he reached a point at which he had his strength back, Rodriguez began to play at open field practices.
“When I was ready to come back and play soccer again, I knew it was going to be tough because my touch, conditioning and feel of the game would not be there,” Rodriguez said. “But after a few weeks of being back, I felt like I could play at my very best again, and this time with no pain.”
Philpot was not surprised by his fervency to play again, and was extremely grateful that he had overcome the injury and could be an inspiration for his teammates.
“As a teammate, if you have a guy like [Raul] who’s just busting his butt to get back and doing everything he can, it’s contagious; you want to do the same thing,” Philpot said.“It’s not comfortable to stand and be lazy when someone else is working that hard.”
Senior Andrew Rice has played with Rodriguez since their freshman year and feels that he has gained a more positive outlook as a result.
“Having Raul on the team has without a doubt has made me a more positive person on the field,” Rice said. “He never had a bad thing to say to someone, and I hope eventually I can say that about myself as well.”
All throughout his injury, Rodriguez was experiencing a loss of motivation in school. AVID teacher Nick Williams had noticed that he was not as engaged in class as he generally was, and connected this with Rodriguez’s inability to play soccer. Williams then ensured that Rodriguez felt supported throughout his journey to rediscover his motivation.
“When you’re used to contributing to a team and you can’t do that, you’ve got to find a way to contribute to a different, bigger thing,” Williams said. “We were able to figure out different ways to continue to use all of his talent and leadership, and not just on the field.”
Not only has Williams helped Rodriguez find his personal drive, but he has also taught him for all four years of high school, over which they have grown closer.
“Raul’s a student who I know cares about me as a person and that creates a really positive and lasting impact. We share a mutual respect and a mutual caring for one another,” Williams said.
With soccer and school taking up a majority of his free time, it is a challenge for Rodriguez to find time to partake in much more, however he has a job at Tommy’s Salsa on Sundays, and occasionally Saturdays after soccer games.