As one of five siblings, Omar Rodriguez has always been close with his family. But his relationship with his mom is an affectionate bond.
Since Rodriguez first started playing with Santa Ana’s youth soccer leagues at the age of four, his mother has juggled working full time at a factory with making sure that her second eldest made all his training sessions and games. Although Rodriguez’s dad worked too much to go to every game, his mom still cheered him on and would often be heard screaming her support from the sidelines.
“She would take me everywhere, even though she was tired from work she used to take me to practice and wait for practice to end and take me home,” said Rodriguez, a sophomore midfielder for the Dons.
Rodriguez was one of only four returning players on the Dons team, after missing last season since fall sports were canceled. The Segerstrom High School alumni started in all 21 matches that took the Dons to this year’s playoffs and was named in the All-Orange Empire Conference first team.
These achievements weren’t easy for Rodriguez as he started the season playing alongside players who were new to the program.
“In the beginning, we had no chemistry whatsoever, we were missing that team bonding,” said Rodriguez. “During the 2019 season, after classes we would go chill in the library, and that helped us be closer to each other.”
In the spring, state community college athletics officials announced that fall sports were back on. During the time off, Rodriguez had to make sure he didn’t lose his form. It was a challenge to find places to practice and he would go to the park with friends and use the handball walls, hoping to not get rusty.
“During Covid, I tried to keep in shape and keep a ball at my feet, but they would lock down goals and close down the parks,” said Rodriguez. “We would try to find anywhere to kick a ball.”
Staying in shape wasn’t the only thing that Rodriguez had to adjust to during the pandemic.
Like many students, he struggled to concentrate when all his classes were moved online. Rodriguez lives with his entire family and a crowded home – with a noisy dog – made for a noisy learning environment.
Besides soccer, he only has one in-person class this semester. All others are online.
“I don’t like online classes because I lose focus,” Rodriguez said. “I prefer being in a classroom with a professor telling us what to study because I think it’s more difficult to learn online, especially math. It was tough for me.”
A good thing about being stuck inside with his family is that Rodriguez said felt like his bond with his siblings became stronger.
“We started watching TV shows together like Gentefied and All American,” Rodriguez said. “My favorite shows are The Office and How I Met Your Mother, I could just put them as background noise and just leave it on forever.”