Family

Teen finds his calling while coaching youth soccer

Luis Arduz, 18, a senior at Henry Clay High School and a volunteer YMCA youth soccer coach, instructed his team of 8- and 9-year olds in a game in September that they won. Despite his youth, Arduz overcame some self-doubt and impressed parents with his maturity.
Luis Arduz, 18, a senior at Henry Clay High School and a volunteer YMCA youth soccer coach, instructed his team of 8- and 9-year olds in a game in September that they won. Despite his youth, Arduz overcame some self-doubt and impressed parents with his maturity.

In some ways, it seems like a no-brainer for Luis Arduz to coach kids soccer.

"I love little kids and I love the game of soccer," said Arduz, 18, who began volunteering at the YMCA this fall. But sometime between the beginning and the end of the season, he found not only a passion for helping kids, but a professional calling.

The senior on the state championship soccer team at Henry Clay High School had kicked around a lot of career options, including law school. But coaching, he said, cemented for him that he should teach and coach kids as a profession.

"I have little cousins and I sometimes baby-sat, but when they are your family, they get on your nerves," he said. "But with kids that you don't know, it's a very neat experience."

Arduz, who also is an academic mentor and tutor and works at Winchells on Southland Drive as a host and busboy, is the kind of teen whose schedule is packed most days.

He'd like to coach so he can be a role model, he said.

"I can be someone who is close to their age and they can think, 'I could be like him someday,'" he said. "After all, I was a kid just a couple of years ago."

It took a little while to get the kids to all listen to him, Arduz said. OK, not all of them always listened, but still, he tried to instill some good values.

"I always tell all my players it's all about teamwork," said Arduz, who said he worked hard to give his co-ed team of 8- and 9-year olds equal playing time. "You have to consider the other players around you."

Jackie Powell, whose son Zachary played on Arduz's team, the Panthers, said she was concerned when she saw how young Arduz was.

Erica Webb, league sports coordinator at the High Street YMCA, said, "The first practice with the 8- and 9-year olds was a little shaky."

"By the end (of the first practice), he found a nice groove."

Powell said she was impressed by the intensity and maturity that Arduz brought to the field.

"He was intense in the game, but he still had his ear open to the character building, too," she said. "You wouldn't expect that necessarily with such a young coach."

Webb said she was impressed that Arduz didn't go on a fall-break trip with his family, because his YMCA team had soccer practice.

"I mean how many seniors (in high school) would turn down a vacation to stay home and practice with his team?"

In addition to teaching soccer skills, Arduz hopes the kids will learn that nobody's life is perfect, but that that doesn't have to hold you back.

He is an example of that.

Arduz was born at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. His parents are from the Dominican Republic, and they divorced when he was 2. His father taught him to play soccer. His mother, who once owned a Lexington restaurant, now lives in Miami with her mother.

When he was a kid, he moved from apartment to apartment until moving in with an aunt a few years ago.

"It was kind of a rough childhood," he said. "I hope I can help see kids that it can get better."

At the end of the season, the team parents put together a poster noting all the Panthers' wins.

"It had Panthers written all over it and all the kids signed it," Arduz said, pausing briefly. "I'm going to get a little emotional right now. They gave me a hoodie that said 'coach,' and I thought that was just the most awesome thing."

He doesn't see himself playing soccer in college, except maybe at the club level. He wants to concentrate on his studies. He plans to be the first person in his family to earn a doctorate.

For now, though, that coach hoodie is in frequent wardrobe rotation.

And, next spring, he'll be back on the sidelines.

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