FORT BRAGG, N.C. –
"It’s like my first love,” said Sgt. Raul Quinones. “People don’t realize it in the beginning but anything that is an extra-curricular activity, I think that’s a person's first love. As an athlete that's my love for soccer.”
Along with being a truck driver, assigned with 217th Transportation Company, 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)
, San Antonio, Texas, Quinones is also a center back for the All-Army soccer team
. He is currently in tryouts for the All-Services Soccer Tournament, here on post. This 35-day tryout narrows down 40 players to 18 for the final game. Quinones is the only Army Reserve Soldier on the team and is one of two team captains.
Quinones first found out about the All-Army soccer program in 2012, that knowledge reignited his dream to play soccer again.
Growing up in Laredo, Texas, Quinones had an opportunity to develop his soccer skills. Lionel Messi, is a soccer role model for Quinones. Messi is an Argentine professional soccer player that is amazing in the game, said Quinones.
“He can do magic,” said Quinones. “Messi can change direction while running in a full sprint still with control of the ball close to his feet. All around best player, Messi’s character -- you will never see him in the news getting into trouble.”
Quinones played in high school and received a full scholarship to Texas A&M International University where he studied criminal justice. It was here Quinones learned of future opportunities to play semi-professional soccer in college.
“I played semi-professional soccer in college with the Laredo Heat,” said Quinones.
Quinones shortly realized after leaving the semi-professional league, he lacked the experience in criminal justice. His criminal justice degree he received in college failed to help him gain a job in the law enforcement field said Quinones.
Playing soccer is something Quinones has done since he was 5 years old said Quinones. He knew he wasn’t going to play soccer forever, so his next passion was securing his country. He hopes to someday work for the border patrol.
“I thought having a military background would help in a career of criminal justice, so I joined the Army,” said Quinones.
From 2011 to 2014, Quinones transitioned from active Army to the Army Reserve when the opportunity to play soccer once again emerged.
Army coaches saw his hard work and team spirit and acknowledge that they choose the right soldier, said head coach, Roye Locklear, a captain in the National Guard.
“Quinones has done very well,” said Locklear. “He’s performed at the highest level, with his experience and level of leadership. What Quinones brings on and off the field is a vital component to the success of this team.”
Locklear, assigned to the Florida National Guard
with the 11th Recruiting Battalion is a previous player for the All-Army soccer team. He became the head coach in 2010 after deciding to transfer his skills.
“I always wanted to get into coaching,” said Locklear. “Obviously father time catches up with us at some point; the opportunity presented itself to apply for the head coaching position, and I was very fortunate to be selected in 2010.”
Like Locklear, Quinones realizes that he can’t play soccer forever and would like to be a head coach in the future.
“In sports, athletes start to look for coaching positions to transfer their abilities,” said Quinones. “I was an assistant coach last year; my job was to collect player’s names to bring back this year.”
In 2015 Quinones tore his medial collateral ligament, meniscus, and anterior cruciate ligament during a soccer game against the Air Force at Camp Pendleton, California.
“Getting hurt, for any professional athlete is their worst nightmare,” said Quinones. “It’s like a stab in the heart because you love what you do. You're playing a sport you're passionate about and now something is stopping you from doing what you love; it’s worse than breaking up with your girlfriend.”
Through the healing process, Quinones continued to work out and soon jumped at the chance to get back into the game. His wife, Kristy, was concerned about the dangers and she was reluctant about about the idea of her husband playing again.
“The most challenging part about playing soccer is coming into the soccer camp with the same level of soccer skills as my teammates,” said Quinones. “These guys play soccer every day back at their unit, most players are single and can play soccer whenever they want. Staying in shape is challenging for me, I work from 8 am to 5 pm, coach youth soccer from 7:30 pm to 9 pm. After coaching I help out my wife with the twins, after that, I go for a run from 11 pm to 11:30 pm.”
Kristy described the first time she saw Quinones play, and how she realized there were two sides to her husband.
“Seeing him in his element was different,” said Kristy Quinones. “Raul is a very quiet person, but when he’s on the field he’s super loud, and really into the game hardcore. I love seeing him play; I can see it in his face that soccer is his passion.”
As a soccer coach, Quinones shines even more, said Kristy. Quinones is good at mentoring kids and talking to them about his experiences and lessons he learned. With his son, he is very observant and compliments him a lot said Kristy.
“I want to challenge my son to be better than me,” Quinones said. “I want him to see how far I made it with soccer, and how it can take him around the world. Soccer opens up a lot of doors.”
Quinones son, Raul Quinones, has played soccer for three years. His grandfather introduced him to soccer; after that he has enjoyed it ever since, said Quinones.
“Knowing my dad plays gives me motivation and inspires me,” said Raul Quinones, “I think I could be better than him one day. Anything you put your mind to is possible.”
“I have a lot of experience in soccer,” said Quinones. “I’m trying to help teenagers to enjoy their dream, by showing them that they can travel the world by playing soccer. Little by little I’m making the world a better place, instead of joining gangs or breaking the law, the teens that I coach go to soccer practice.”
Quinones uses the words of Denzel Washington to encourage and elevate others with the knowledge he has gained.
“At the end of the day, it's not about what you have or even what you've accomplished. It's about what you've done with those accomplishments. It’s about who you've lifted up, who you've made better. It’s about what you've given back," said Denzel Washington. This quote influenced Quinones to teach youth soccer players to reach their full potential.
“I love his personality,” said Sylvia Ogden, a coworker of Quinones with UPS. “I joke with my husband saying when our grandchildren become old enough Quinones will be their soccer coach. Quinones coaches a lot of coworker’s kids. Everybody speaks very highly of Quinones; he’s a team player and a mentor.”
Teaching others and developing a mentorship means a lot to Quinones. “Through the years of experience and knowledge gained, passing down this information helps improve individual’s quality of life,” said Quinones.
“If people are going to read this article, I would like to change some lives,” Quinones said. ”What people don't know about me is that I listen to motivational speeches when I drive, when I go for a run, when I work out and when I sleep. I don't have a specific favorite motivational speaker; I listen to all of them all the time. It helps me be at peace mentally and emotionally. I listen to them more than I listen to music.”
For game one against the Air Force and game two against the Navy, All Army faced the same challenges said Quinones. All Army had full possession of the game, with full control of the ball.
“If you don’t score goals you can’t win,” said Quinones. “Both teams had very few opportunities, but they took advantage of it and scored, we just couldn’t put the ball in the net. Long story short, goals win games, not possession, not control of the game but goals.”
All Army now has the opportunity to still fight for third place in the tournament said Quinones.
”It doesn’t matter if we’re going to be first, second, or third,” Quinones said. “We will fight till the end. This is our mentality now, even though we know we are not going to win first place— we are not going to give up.”
“I’m hoping this will be my last time playing,” said Quinones. “Two days ago I got confirmation that I passed my background check for border patrol.”
Quinones has two more phases left before becoming a border patrol agent for Homeland Security. Being in the military helped him tremendously for an easy transition into Border Patrol Quinones said.
“It means the world to me because I can finally say I love what I do and I see it as a career and not as a job. This will give me the necessary tools to support my family and continue helping my country,” said Quinones. “I've been waiting a year and a half since I started the application process. I am happy it's almost over, and I'm ready for this stage in my life.”