The one constant in University of Guelph-Humber student and Hawks athlete José Caro’s life has always been soccer.
Caro was born in Canada and raised by his parents in his native country of Chile, where he first kicked a ball at the age of three.
“You fall in love with things you do constantly on a daily basis and soccer was one of those things,” said Caro.
“We didn’t have all the technology or Internet so our option was take the soccer ball and go kick it outside. Especially in Chile, soccer is all there is. It’s the number one sport,” he said.
Caro took this passion for the game that he shared with his father and two older brothers and made an attempt at a professional career. The precocious young left midfielder joined the development program at Chilean top-level team Club Deportivo Universidad Católica, where he trained five times a week after school from the age of nine until he was 13.
His dreams were cut short when he moved to Brampton at 14, but his love of the game endures at Humber, where he won consecutive national soccer championships in 2012 and 2013.
“Soccer’s been a motivational part of my life,” said Caro, as he fondly recalled getting quite the reception from his new potential Hawks teammates when he transferred over from bitter rivals Sheridan in 2011.
“No pun intended but I got my ass kicked at the tryouts. But I made the team and it’s been a very successful four years,” he said.
Hawks assistant coach Ricardo Fonseca said he also remembers the ‘warm’ welcome Caro received when he first joined.
“For the first little bit, I’m pretty sure we called him ‘Sheridan’,” said Fonseca.
“Even till this day we joke around a little with him being at Sheridan and coming here, but overall, there was no hostility, he was welcomed,” he said.
On what sets him apart from other players, Fonseca had an instant response.
“His determination and leadership,” he said.
“Over the last four years, he’s been a tremendous leader for the team and even a mentor towards a lot of the players. They all look up to him and respect him and listen to what he has to say,” said Fonseca.
“There were games where he didn’t get a lot of minutes or no minutes at all, but it never stopped him from coming to practice and putting in the effort. He kept working and ended up playing in nationals,” said Fonseca.
“It shows you that hard work pays off,” he said.
Caro is now in his final year of a bachelor’s program in psychology. As well as playing for the varsity team one last time, Caro also coached the Hawks’ extramural soccer team this year, leading them all the way to a heartbreaking loss on penalties in the final of the season-ending extramural tournament at University of Toronto-Mississauga.
“I decided I wanted to give back because of all the opportunities to succeed Humber has given me over the years,” Caro said.
Caro said the courses he’s taken at the University of Guelph-Humber on human behaviour and sport psychology have been a huge influence on how he plays and coaches.
“One of the things you’re taught by your instructors is how people react to different situations, especially athletes,” said Caro.
“You’ve got to have a certain type of understanding of why they do the things they do on and off the field and that’s huge when it comes to understanding the game and how it’s played and how it’s coached,” he said.
It’s also given him the ability to get a better appreciation of how to get the best out of an athlete.
“You don’t want a coach who’s constantly telling you to do this, to do that. You want to give some autonomy so players can make their own decisions. You still feel passionate, you’re still part of the team, but you just have to be more of a mentor,” said Caro.
Humber Campus’s recreation programs coordinator Jennifer Maclam witnessed Caro’s effectiveness as an extramural coach firsthand this year.
“He’s got great communication with the players and commands a lot of respect from them,” said Maclam.
“He’s got a lot of experience, he knows how to motivate the players, and he’s not afraid to play his best players when they need a goal,” she said.
Caro now plans to hopefully do his masters of Professional Education in the field of applied behavioural analysis at Western University but doesn’t rule out coaching in the future.
“One of my goals is getting my licenses, I already have some of the initial licenses for coaching and the next one will be my pre-B and hopefully my B License after,” he said.
“I think he’s definitely on the right track as a coach,” said Fonseca.
“He brings the same hard work and dedication that he does as a player into coaching and it shows in the way his team plays,” he said.
And when asked to choose between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, truly the most defining and polarizing question of our soccer times, Caro laughed as he revealed where his allegiance lies.
“Messi,” said Caro. “I’m not really a fan of Ronaldo and all that attitude.”