“Soccer is my life, and I think about it constantly,” freshman RJ Vargo said.
Hard work and determination led center midfielder Vargo and the San Juan Soccer Club to second place in the annual NorCal State Cup in 2018.
Vargo started playing at 4 years old, improving his foot skills and taking shots. He played for recreational clubs until he was 8. Then he moved to competitive soccer, joining the San Juan Soccer Club until switching to Union Sacramento FC last year.
San Juan placed second in the under-15 age group.
Vargo attributes his success to his team and dedication.
“That year was great for our team,” Vargo said. “We had a lot of good players, and my skills definitely improved because of the work I was putting in.”
While most people would be content with placing second in the prestigious tournament, Vargo said it felt “terrible” to make it all the way to the final and lose.
However, Vargo added that he gained experience playing in a championship game, not to mention the “hundreds of hours” put into soccer sharpening his skills.
“I learned how to both mentally and physically prepare myself for a big game like the state cup final,” Vargo said. “I practice with my team three times every week, and on top of that I try to play around with a ball every day.”
Vargo hopes playing high school soccer will help him improve his skills and stand out for his club.
Sophomore teammate Miles Morrow praised Vargo’s skills on the field, saying Vargo is a “huge help” to the team.
“RJ is a great presence on the field; he makes great passes and helps to create plays,” Morrow said. “The team really benefits and plays well when he’s out there.”
Matt Vargo – Country Day athletic director, co-coach of the coed soccer team and RJ’s father – added that RJ has a great work ethic and continues to improve because of it.
Matt said, with the extra commitment of high school soccer, RJ plays about six days a week, including weekend games.
Although initially driven by his endless passion for soccer, RJ said his determination to continue improving his skills stems from his goal to play in college and beyond.
RJ takes inspiration from his father’s college soccer career at the University of the Pacific (UOP) in Stockton.
“Watching UOP or Sacramento Republic FC play helps drive me to get better because I know I can be (as good as them) if I put the work in,” RJ said.
RJ said he watches certain professional players and tries to mimic their styles of play.
His idols include professional soccer players Wayne Rooney, Pelé and Ronaldinho.
“(Seeing) them play makes me want to be like them,” RJ said. “That’s how I motivate myself to keep putting the work in.”
Matt added that he does not put pressure on RJ to excel in soccer.
“I’m very proud of how far he has come as a player,” Matt said. “If he wants to play in college then he can, but I am not going to force him. I let him drive everything that he does regarding soccer and every decision that he makes. ”
—By Arjin Claire
Originally published in the Oct. 15 edition of the Octagon.