LAKE BUENA VISTA –As he took to the field last month at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, there were definitely some butterflies in Omar Castro’s stomach.
After all, the 13-year-old Plant City native had never appeared in a game similar to the one he was about to play in, representing the Region III Olympic Development Program in the Thanksgiving Interregional Tournament against other regional sides, and two U.S. Under-13 national teams.
In a surprise to none who knew him, though, Castro’s inner nerves didn’t surface as he continued to show why he is the latest young player from Hillsborough County to draw impressive reviews in a big setting. Former University of South Florida and University of Tampa coach Jay Miller, who led the Spartans to a NCAA Division II national championship in 1981, was Castro’s head coach for the weekend, and was impressed with the calmness Castro brought to the game.
“He’s just a solid kid, he does his work, he doesn’t get overly excited, but he’s such a steady, steady player,” Miller said. “He’s in a position where you have to be calm, you have to have ice in your veins, and two games straight here I’m looking for a mistake, and I can hardly find one.”
A center back, Castro has grown up around the game of soccer. His parents moved to Plant City from Mexico 18 years ago, his father and three older brothers all having grown up playing the sport and his older cousin currently a part of the youth academy at Mexican First Division side Indios. With that upbringing surrounding him, it’s hardly a surprise his natural talent emerged at an early age.
“Before my dad moved from Mexico to here, he played soccer, my brothers all played,” Castro said. “My dad started training me, and I liked it.”
Miller said the upbringing Castro had is typical for players who have reached the level he has.
“We find that is the M.O. of most all of these players,” Miller said. “Most all of them come from a family that is committed to soccer, and usually older siblings, they’re usually always playing up against them. It’s just a culture to be able to be that good.”
A large number of his family were there to watch him play for the Region III team at Disney, something that Castro said inspired him to play as hard as he could. The confidence he shows on the field is something he Castro has had to work on. According to his coach at the Plant City Lancers, Stephen Rossiter, Castro normally tries to deflect praise away from himself, putting the team first. Rossiter believes that as Castro has begun to believe more in his abilities, he has seen his game reach new heights.
“Since the first tryout he did with the Olympic Development Program, I just kept telling him that I had confidence in him,” Rossiter said. “There was no doubt in my mind that he would go because I’ve been around, I’ve seen a lot of soccer, I’ve been coaching for about 10 years, been all over the country. There’s other players out there similar, but he just has that natural ability that you see at this level. He’s had it since he started, he just had to believe in it, and once he started believing in it, he’s made it this far.”
Castro sees soccer being a big part of his future, with the goal of playing college soccer, and becoming the first member of his family to earn a college degree, coming before aspirations of playing professionally. With the outlook Castro has, Rossiter doesn’t see any reason why he won’t be able to accomplish anything he wants.
“He has a love for the game, soccer is his life,” Rossiter said. “It’s not just something that he does. … He’s got a lot of goals set in his life, and I think he’s definitely going to achieve them.”