Last week Ricardo “Richie” Velasco, Grande Sports Academy Class 2012 alumni and Casa Grande resident, became the first Grande Sports Academy player to garner postseason NCAA soccer honors when he was named First Team All-Conference and Conference Freshman of the Year by the California Collegiate Athletic Association, an NCAA Division II athletic conference.
Richie just ended his first season as a freshman at California State University – San Bernardino and had a fantastic start of his collegiate career. Velasco appeared in 14 matches for Cal State San Bernardino and started in 12 of them. In that time he scored a team-leading six goals (three of them game winners) and added an assist. His 13 points this season was also the best on his team. Grande!
Richie was able to provide us with a quick interview to discuss his transition from Grande Sports Academy to the collegiate pitch.
Grande Sports Academy: Richie, congratulations from everyone at Grande Sports Academy family. You spent three successful years training and playing with RSL-AZ Academy at Grande Sports Academy. How did the academy and facilities help you prepare for a college soccer career?
Ricardo Velasco: Grande Sports Academy has helped me so much. It prepared me physically and mentally for my future career as it helped me grow on and off the field, as a player and as a person.
Grande Sports Academy: Has the transition from Grande Sports Academy to college environment been difficult for you? Are there any similarities with the life at GSA? How do you like the life at the Cal State campus?
Ricardo Velasco: The transition to college environment hasn’t been too difficult, because I am doing the same things I did back home and at Grande Sports Academy, i.e. go to school, study and play soccer. The only thing that is rather difficult is that I’m away from home and I do get home sick sometimes and miss my family and friends but it is not really that bad. There is definitely a couple of similarities with the program at Grande Sports Academy, for example you get to meet people from all around the country and become close friends with the soccer players. However, it is not like at GSA where you become almost brothers with your teammates. Still pretty close though. I really enjoy the life at Cal State. I have really good friends. The campus is very nice and the best thing is that I get to do what I love the most, play soccer every day!
Grande Sports Academy: Is the style of play in collegiate soccer different than what you were taught at RSL-AZ Academy?
Ricardo Velasco: For the most part it’s different. At RSL-AZ I was used to playing on the ground, keeping possession of the ball, but in collegiate soccer it’s all about going forward, putting a lot of pressure on the other team trying to force a mistake and just playing really at a really fast pace.
Grande Sports Academy:What effect has being surrounded by some of the best coaches and young players in the country and training at these amazing Grande Sports Academy facilities had on you and your soccer development?
Ricardo Velasco: Absolutely, it had a huge effect on me and my development. It helped me mature as a player and helped me better understand the game of soccer. Being coached by experienced coaches and surrounded by great players every single day also created an environment with very high level of competition. At Grande Sports Academy we trained with full speed and commitment every day and improved with each practice. I learned new things from the coaches and players each day.
Grande Sports Academy: Please describe what was in your opinion the most influential thing during the time you spent at Grande Sports Academy?
Ricardo Velasco: That was without a doubt the whole Grande Sports Academy family, from players, coaches, tutors, the staff and the owners. Each and every one of them influenced me every day and helped me become a better person and soccer player. They all were and always will be a part of my unforgettable experience at Grande Sports Academy.
Grande Sports Academy: You are still at the beginning of your career. What are your plans for the future? Are you still thinking about maybe turning pro or you want to hold off that thought for until after college?
Ricardo Velasco: My plans are exactly the same as they have been all my life, and that is to become a professional soccer player. My plans have not changed since I have gone to college, if anything the whole experience so far has made me want to achieve my goal and my dreams even more.
Grande Sports Academy: What do these awards mean to you? Is there anyone in particular you would like to dedicate these awards to?
Ricardo Velasco: These awards mean a lot to me. They showed me that hard work and dedication always pay off and helped me realize that I can achieve much more in my soccer career. I would like to dedicate these awards to my family and friends, all my teammates and coaches at CSUSB and of course the whole Grande Sports Academy family who has supported me and helped me with everything including school and soccer. Thank you Grande Sports Academy for letting me be a part of such a wonderful family!