March 6, 2009
By John Philip Wyllie
While her soccer career began at the age of six on a South Bay AYSO team, Bonita Vista High midfielder, Isabel Barreto spent the next six years honing her soccer skills on the dirt fields of Tijuana.
“My dad (Benito) loved growing up over there and he wanted me to play where he grew up. He is very well known in TJ. I played in La Liga Menor de Tijuana for a team called Mexico. I was inspired by an older brother that played, so when I was old enough, I wanted to play too,” Barreto said.
Soccer is a family tradition for the Barretos.
“I have a lot of great memories of being coached by my dad and my brother there. When I was 13, I was part of a team that made it to the nationals and we got to play in Monterrey. We went all the way to the final, but had to be satisfied with second place.”
In recent years she and her father have returned to Tijuana each season to give the kids living there now the same opportunity she had. While she finds coaching kids occasionally frustrating and always a challenge she likes the idea of giving back.
“Many of these kids are without parents who care or are there for them. With our help they have become more motivated. Years ago my parents created a team where they could play and where I could play as well.”
Barreto has found coaching to be more of a challenge than playing.
“At times they can be little brats, but we can handle them and soccer is good for them. Sometimes I think I am wasting my time with them, but after I think about it I realize that they don’t have many opportunities. They spend most of their time out on the streets so we started the team to keep them from getting into bad things. The most important thing we teach them is teamwork. Sometimes I feel that they don’t listen to me as much as they should, but by the end of the year they always show improvement I think my coaching down there has not only helped them, but helped me as well in terms of leadership.”
While only a junior, Barreto demonstrated that leadership this season in helping the Bonita Vista Barons reach the first round of the CIF Division II playoffs.
“I feel what I do best is defend. I like that more than attacking. I don’t think I am really that good with the ball, but when the opportunities come I will take them. My role is more of a defensive midfielder. Through the years I have become more aggressive and I have learned how to control the ball better,” Barreto said.
Not happy with a third place Mesa League finish behind Hilltop and runner-up Eastlake, Barreto hopes her senior year will be one in which the Barons regain their long time run as the South Bay’s top dog.
In the scholastic off-season she will be shopping for a new club team that will help her sharpen her skills, but regrettably she will not return to coaching. With the economy tanking, the Barretos have had to suspend the soccer program they began in Tijuana. When the economy gets back on track they hope to restart it.