CICERO, Ill. — With the U.S. Women’s soccer team winning another World Cup this year, girls are more inspired than ever to take up soccer at a young age. A soccer club in Cicero has had international success, while teaching their players to thrive on the field and in school.
The Cicero Jaguars were founded 10 years ago by coach Jose Montenegro Marmolejo. Marmolejo chose to help lead young women in part to honor the life of his mother, and more recently, the life of his sister.
“Two years ago my sister passed away from cancer,” he said. “It motivated me even more to help these girls.”
The Jaguars started as a team of only four girls. And over the past decade, more than 400 have played for the club, most in junior high and high school. The club has four teams based on age and include dozens of young women working together, helping each other excel at the game they love.
Dayana Rosendo is the captain of her team. She’s 13 and has been with the Jaguars for a year. But has been playing soccer since the age of 6.
“What I like about this team is that everyone here gets along,” she said. “The coach is really nice. Jasmin. I like how she trains us. She’s had a lot of experience too. She went to UIC for soccer I think.”
In fact, coach Jasmin Carrera got a full scholarship to UIC to play soccer. She got her degree in criminal justice, is currently a police officer and played for the Chicago Red Stars reserve team. She is a true inspiration for the young women she coaches.
“We try to teach them discipline, time management,” she said. “I always tell them school is first. They have to be able to balance.”
Carrera grew up in Little Village. Her father is also one of the team’s coaches. She says many of the players come from underserved communities where crime is a big problem.
Jocelyn Rivera is a high school junior who hopes to play soccer at Northwestern after graduation.
“Soccer has helped me a lot,” she said. “I live in a bad neighborhood (and it) helped me focus on school and a way to relieve my stress after a long day of school.”
The team not only plays in the Chicago area, they’ve traveled abroad to tournaments in Mexico. One in was in Veracruz last year and another was in Guadalajara this past summer. The team won both of those tournaments and will head to Spain next year for another competition. And while soccer is the team’s focus, coaches stress that time management and academics are most important.
Soccer expenses like uniforms, gear and travel add up. If you’d like to sponsor the club, you can visit their website at https://www.cicerojaguarsfc.futbol.