Dedication has taken Juan Gamboa from his playing days at Pace to State Farm Arena, home to the Rio Grande Valley Flash.
During his journey, he was one of the most decorated goalkeepers the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College soccer team has had. No one would agree with that more than coach Dan Balaguero.
“Juan is a top quality player but even a better person. He was the most coachable player I have ever had in my career and always did the extra work and would come in early to work on speed drills,” Balaguero said. “Juan firmly understands that there are no shortcuts to being successful. He will work hard every session and every game.”
Balaguero knew Gamboa was something special as soon as he stepped foot on the grounds at UTB-TSC, but it was a process early. That changed during a tightly contested conference matchup.
“He came to UTB in 2007 and started out on the bench for three games but never once complained and just trained hard.” Balaguero said. “That same season he got his chance against the University of the Southwest and had a fantastic game (1-0 win) and started every game after that for four straight years.”
Now comes the next transition in Gamboa’s career, to the soccer pro ranks as a player and coach.
Gamboa joins the Flash, an indoor professional soccer team in the Professional Arena Soccer League, as their goalkeeper.
“He is perfectly suited to the fast paced indoor game,” Balaguero said.
Gerardo Guerra Lozano, president Flash, agreed.
“We decided to sign Gamboa since our initial tryouts. He showed great athletic qualities, but overall his dedication and support of the team,” Guerra Lozano said. “He will be our starting goalie this season.”
As much as Balaguero praised him, Gamboa reciprocated the respect.
“Being able to be coached by Dan Balaguero taught me so much, from creating spaces to game tempos and how to control them,” Gamboa said. “Dan was the first coach I had who wouldn’t only tell us what to do, he was out there doing everything himself, whether it be running, lifting weights, or even just playing in practice. He was always there and that motivated me to work as hard as I could. That is why I try to be as involved in the practices as possible.”
As much as he loves to block shots, he is also dedicated to help his high school squad get better. After being an assistant for two seasons, Gamboa has taken over as the head coach at St. Joseph Academy.
“It’s a great program here at St. Joe with great kids,” Gamboa said. “The boys are willing to listen and work hard. We are having a great start to our season and I feel we have what it takes to make it deep into the playoffs.”
Gamboa will be the first to tell you that it has not been easy for him trying to reach the pinnacle of his soccer career and that nothing has ever been given to him, and he has great words of advice for anyone trying to make soccer their livelihood.
“My advice for the next generation would be that if their dream is to play at a higher level — whether it be college ball or pro — dedication is most important thing,” he said. “You have to be dedicated to the sport because I can assure you that while you are taking a day off, there are thousands working as hard as they can to earn their spot.
“Openings at the higher levels are scarce so you have to knock on all the doors available. And if your dream is to really play pro, don’t take no as an answer. Keep fighting for it, anywhere you can go. I personally have been all over the place trying to make my dream come true. Who would have thought I’d get the opportunity so close to home?”
Lopez brings in transfer Milan
Golf coach Anthony Lopez signed Odessa Junior College transfer Saad Milan to join the team starting this spring.
“I think right now our team is capable of being a top 25 team in the nation — we proved that in the fall semester,” Lopez said. “Any time you can add some more firepower to your team, it’s what you’re looking for. We had the opportunity and we had a willing student, … and once I knew it was Saad I was smiling from ear to ear. I honestly can not wait to compete.”
Milan is a native of Mexico. He was born and raised in Torreon, Coahuila.
Prior to transferring to UTB-TSC, the 2011-2012 OJC team for which Milan played won six team titles in a row during the regular season. The Wranglers finished third at the 2012 NJCAA National Championship.
“I came to UTB because I liked their golf program, and I think there is a good future for the team and for me,” Milan said. “I feel very sure that we are going to do something this year.”
The first men’s golf tournament in the spring will be Feb. 17 when UTB-TSC travels to take part in the Claude Jacobs Invitational, hosted by the University of Houston-Victoria. They will compete in four spring tournaments before the Red River Athletic Conference Championships on April 28 in Houston.