Siblings reunite, compete on the pitch

By Joel Umanzor, Staff Writer

In some instances in life, people experience role reversal, which, by definition, is a situation where a person adopts a role the opposite of which they would normally assume in relation to someone else.
This type of experience usually places a person in a situation where empathy from previous experiences exists and understanding is bridged between two people.
For the Garcia brothers — Diego and Raul — this Contra Costa College soccer season is one in which role reversal has come in the form of being reunited as student-athletes and teammates on the Comet soccer pitch.
Diego, 23, and Raul, 20, are two of the three sons of local business owner Diego Garcia who introduced them to the game of soccer early in their lives through his football club, Richmond Sol.
The brothers attended Salesian College Preparatory High School and played together on the soccer team there when Diego was a senior and Raul was a freshman.
“In high school it was a little bit different,” Raul Garcia said. “More was expected of Diego because he was already there and he put in the work. He had already made a name for himself at (Salesian). I went to Contra Costa first and then he transferred in.”
For Diego Garcia, his path to the Comet soccer team led him first to San Francisco State University. Then he stayed out of school for a few years before jumping back into his education at CCC.
“Originally, I was at SF State but then I stopped going to school for a year before deciding to come back. It was easier for me to go to CCC,” Diego said. “I’m here for a year to try finish (general education) classes and transfer back out to another college.
“But seeing my brother playing here I thought I might as well play soccer one more time.”
According to Comet coach Nikki Ferguson, the role reversal of the two brothers has been good to see up close and has added a dynamic to the team that can help fuel its competitive fire throughout the long season.
“These are two brothers, but they are more than just limited to that on our team,” Ferguson said. “With Diego coming into a situation where his brother was in a position of experience ahead of him, it added to the competition and experience of our team overall.”
Ferguson said, “There was a moment during one of our first practices in the summer where Diego looked at me and asked me, ‘How did you get my (younger) brother to be so good?’ I think at that moment he started feeling more at home with the team, especially seeing how much his brother had progressed in our program.”
Ferguson also remembered a moment after the team’s disappointing non-conference game against Fresno City College, a 1-1 tie, when Diego spoke up after the game.
“Diego stood up and spoke out after the game and gave his teammates some (wise) words. He really opened up to us and showed the team leadership by being vocal,” Ferguson said.
This new dynamic for the Garcia brothers is just a new chapter in their competitive natures.
“I think we are all really competitive,” Diego said. “Me, him, even my younger brother and our dad, so I guess that competitiveness helped us push more. You know, each of us is better at certain things (than the others) so whenever someone is not the best at something, we would push to improve and do better.”
Both Diego and Raul see that dynamic unfold on the soccer field as they try to play their part as pieces of the bigger picture of competing for a Bay Valley Conference championship.
“Regardless of it being my brother, or any other teammate, playing soccer is all about teamwork. We need teamwork to be successful in life also,” Diego said.
“Whatever it is, you obviously have to work hard on your own to get what you want. However, along the way you need help from someone else, and building that teamwork will help you get whatever you need.”
Teamwork will often cause teammates to butt heads, but according to Raul, those disagreements should not be perceived as personal attacks but as sharpening points for experience.
“Disagreements will come up, but as we have gotten older we have learned to not make it personal and take it as constructive criticism to get better,” Raul Garcia said.
The brothers are perfect examples of the type of athletes who come from the East Bay but often do not get the spotlight in the area — and they recognize the importance of that.
Diego Garcia said, “I think there is a lot of talent here in Richmond and a lot of good players don’t end up playing here. They always go far away from here to play on bigger clubs. But when you get a lot of people from Richmond together in one place, it gets really competitive and you see the talent that Richmond has.
“Unfortunately, to play in school activities you need to have good grades and not everyone has that out here. So you can’t see the full potential of what (great soccer players) Richmond has.”
They are keeping open minds as to what they want to achieve in the coming years and how CCC fits within those plans to get to the next level.
“We both are planning on transferring at the same time,” Raul said.
“I have a couple schools in mind but I’m not exactly sure,” Diego said.
Both the Garcia brothers are open to continuing soccer after transferring if the opportunity presents itself, but say education is their main focus in the future.
“I joined the team because the opportunity was there for me. If I get the opportunity again, I’ll do it, but it’s not my main issue,” Diego said.
For the younger of the two brothers, Raul, soccer is still factored in as a serious portion of his future plans.
“For me, if the opportunity comes, then I definitely will take it,” he said. “If any school offers me that chance, I will take it.”