Friday, January 04, 2008

My Son Italo and Athletic Intent

First off, Happy New Year Everyone. I hope it's grand for you all.
I've been thinking about my son, Italo, a lot lately. I'm a dad, so I always do, but lately more than ever. I was telling him the other day that he might be the best natural athlete I've ever seen.
When I met him in Peru he was 7 years old. He was already playing soccer with the 12 year olds and asking me for money to bet on his own team to win. They often did.
When I married his mom and adopted him--along with his younger brother Marco-we came back to my apartment in New York. I bought them gloves and a basketball, and while Marco enjoyed playing, Italo was sort of fanatic. My sister Regina steered us to the baseball and basketball leagues that her son Tommy was playing in at the time and we got them signed up. Italo had never touched a basketball before coming to the states, but worked out for hours with Tommy, became the team's point guard and made the all-star team that year. Not speaking English.
In baseball, I'd taught him how to throw--he'd never really thrown a ball in Peru--and catch, but his coach put him in right field, the place where non-athletes go to die in little league. First play to right he misjudged it and a kid got a triple. Next play he made and I yelled for him to throw it to second in Spanish, as the kid was trying to stretch a single. He nailed him. Two weeks later he was moved to second base. He made the all-star team that year. The following year his coach moved his own son off shortstop to third to make room for Italo to play short. Italo was MVP of the league that year.
This isn't bragging so much as just admiring his athletic prowess. He continued to do the same things when we moved back to Peru and when we returned again to New Yorik. When we moved to Texas he was a sophmore in high school and quickly made and started for his high school soccer team. He played baseball as well, but not at the level he had played earlier: he started, but wasn't choosy about his pitches and so often looked uncomfortable at the plate. Rather than get down, he had me take him to the batting cage regularly, went to the fast pitch machine for a couple of hundred pitches at a time until he was back in a hitting groove.
His dream is to be a pro-soccer player. He's been playing in several leagues the last couple of years since high school, and for last year and this has been playing on the area's semi-pro club. He started this year on his new semi-pro club on the practice squad; now he's playing regularly. In a month he'll be starting. And these are good players, he says, most with college soccer under their belts, a handful with time in the big leagues, either here in the US, or in Mexico or South America.
So Madeleina, who played her first league soccer this year and began to learn the game a little, has been asking about Italo's chances of making the pros. I let her know that his size is a detriment: soccer players have gotten big since Pele's time, and Italo is only 5'8" and weighs about 150. So I don't know. He also has to be seen by the right scout on the right day and all of that, but he's doing his part toward that by playing in semi-pro.
Now none of that really matters. He was just born athletically gifted and has utilized that gift well. But it's the rest that counts. It's freezing here in Joshua the last few weeks, and when it's not freezing it's been raining mostly. Still, he's upped his workout regime to at least three or four hours daily, plus games 4 times or so a week and then a couple of nights practice on top of that. He does about an hour of situps, pushups, light weights and balancing work daily (his balancing work has him stand on one ceramic cup, then switch feet without touching the ground. He can do that for days and mostly likes to do that while we're talking so that he can't look at his feet while he's doing it.
Then he heads outside with a weighted chest vest and begins his daily run: a run around the front yard, past the barn, over one creek-bridge, up the slope and around the fire pit, across the garden, down the slope and over the second bridge, down into the creek bed and then up a slope into the front yard. He'll do that for about 30 minutes, faster and faster, so that his last lap is at breakneck speed.
Then he begins his sets of running around the paint cans, set up in a row that he dashes in and out of like a barrel horse racer, to improve his cutting speed. After 20 or thirty sets of that he does it backwards. Then he does his quick step workout between a series of pipes he's set up, forward and backward, just like the paint can routine, to sharpen his backward mobility. When he trips he lands flat on his back, gets up and starts again. He changes the distance between the pipes every couple of days so that he can't get used to their placement. "Keeps me sharp, dad," he explained.
Then it's time to kick, and he kicks those 8 soccer balls at the tiniest of targets from every concieveable angle and distance and speed for probably 45-minutes daily.
Couple of hours later and he'd off to practice or a game.
I've explained to Madeleina that even with all his natural talent, if you want to be a pro at something, that's the sort of dedication it takes. And then, even if you don't make it, you've given it, really given it, your best shot. Same goes with writing or dancing or being a good cop.
And if Italo makes it, it will be all Italo. If he doesn't I don't believe he'll have regrets. He knows the odds.
But I sure am proud of his work ethic.


Morgan said...

"...faster and faster, so that his last lap is at breakneck speed."

"Then he begins his sets of running around the paint cans...After 20 or thirty sets of that he does it backwards."

Yes, that work ethic is incredibly inspiring. I'm going to keep this post in my pocket for a very long time.

Big respect to Italo.

All the best to you both.

many thanks

John Baxter said...

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