“I mean ... three or four years ago, I never really thought I could make it,” junior Giovanni Vurro said.
But he did. Vurro recently participated in a tournament in San Diego called “Surf Club” — one of the biggest tournaments in the United States. For Vurro, this was a “really big feeling,” a hallmark of his athletic career. Greeted with college scouts, he realized that he could his crank soccer expertise up a notch by playing college level soccer.
But every skilled player once started out as a novice — from the bottom of the well. Every proficient player has a story riddled with setbacks to tell.
This is how he did it.
It all started when junior Giovanni Vurro was four years old — Vurro and his dad would go to a local park and kick a ball around. Nestled in Italian roots, Vurro was raised with soccer t, as the sport is a huge part of Italian and European culture.
When starting out as a 4-year-old, Vurro explains that he wasn’t good — he struggled with comprehending the gameplay and retaining “fitness levels.” When Vurro was younger, he played all sorts of positions all over the field — center back, left back, left wing, right wing and even center mid.
As he got older and progressed with his athletic career, Vurro’s expertise heightened.
“I got a lot better and like, sort of [developed] a game like IQ understanding the game better and being able to like communicate with my teammates better overall,” Vurro said.
Little did he know, this passion for soccer would be insatiable. As Vurro picked up on soccer, he realized that soccer was something that he wanted to continue doing — he wanted to get as far into soccer as he can.
An important anecdote that Vurro can fully recall is is when his team reached the semi finals in the state cup championship game. Though the team had lost the game, according to Vurro, this resonated with him as the team worked hard to reach that level of expertise. Because of this, it was “extremely tough” for Vurro’s mentality to lose the semi finals.
“And so just like that feeling of losing — it’s like something we didn’t want again,” Vurro said. “So when we go back, it’s something we want to win.”
As an individual player, Vurro felt that he could’ve contributed more to the team. However, with this loss paired with Vurro’s desire to win, this setback only fueled Vurro to do better the next round.
Vurro describes this as the turning point in his athletic career — a low. The year is 2015. 13-year-old Vurro switches from Red Star Soccer Academy to De Anza Force Soccer Club, one of the biggest soccer clubs in the United States. When he first joined, Vurro was placed on the lowest ranked team in bronze division — the bottom of the well. That season, there were six teams in Vurro’s 12 to 13 age group, with the first team being the most prestigious and the sixth team being worse — Vurro’s team.
For Vurro, this placement was an eye opener for his 12-year-old self — it was difficult for Vurro to take in his actual level in retrospect.
“Reality sunk in,” Vurro said. “Because I was like, okay, ‘this is the level I’m at. What can I do to improve?’”
Reflecting back on his early years, Vurro wishes that he could’ve picked up better training habits. Because Vurro’s team was the lowest team, the team wouldn’t formulate intensified trainings as if it was actual gameplay. No one would take trainings seriously — Vurro’s teammates didn’t have the drive to push themselves to get better, as the feeling was contagious. The team went through the motions and went through the drills, scraping the bare minimum.
To improve, Vurro cranked the bar higher a notch. Instead of doing two to three trainings a week, Vurro would sometimes perform four or even five trainings a week. He knew his place and started to put in the grit — more training, more conditioning and more patience.
Vurro’s coach managed different age group teams that were a bit older than Vurro’s age group. When Vurro had the free time, he would go practice with them and squeeze in as many trainings in a week as possible.
“I worked as much as I could to try and get to like the highest level I could,” Vurro said.
It took two seasons but he finally did it — Vurro jumped from the sixth team to the second team in his age group. He had received a promotion to the highest league — the national Premier League. Vurro was elated — he describes this success as a “really good feeling.”
Even though players usually climb teams in intervals, Vurro was placed directly from the sixth to the second team. This brisk transition presented itself as another hurdle — Vurro described himself as “the worst of the best” at the time. He called himself as a bad player — not because he wasn’t a proficient player, but because his skills were incomparable to the veterans on the elite team.
“I transitioned up to the higher team, I got like a lot more competitive and just like the other my other teammates like pushing me to be better,” Vurro said. “Just made me a lot more competitive and that stayed on till now, like very competitive when it comes to soccer.”
In the beginning seasons, Vurro’s team had finished third to last in the league.
“It was a really upsetting think to lose so many games,” Vurro said. “As such a competitive person, I didn’t like losing it.”
A season later, Vurro went from a second-rate player on the lowest ranked team on De Anza Force for his age group to a co-captain on one of the most elite teams — this was ingrained as a all time high for Vurro. For Vurro, being co-captain was one of the most important points for him, as he felt a huge sense of responsibility.
“I felt pretty privileged, pretty honoured to be able to lead these guys,” Vurro said. “It was nice being in a leadership type of position.”
As a co-captain, Vurro did his best to push his teammates as much as possible. From attending training rundowns to heated practices, Vurro’s team used to even get into “scuffles” because of how bad they wanted to win.
“We had wanted to win so badly that it had pushed us to become closer and pushed us and made us better,” Vurro said.
However, the grit, the pain and the hope payed off — as the next season rolled around, Vurro’s team was able to win the league with two games before the league ended. Vurro dubs this as the “greatest moment.”
Vurro participated in the MVHS soccer team his freshman year, but didn’t continue after that one season. According to Vurro, the team couldn’t give the formal training and competitive aura he craved for — the practices weren’t taken seriously and no one exhibited a competitive streak.
High school soccer wasn’t enjoyable for Vurro — though he still scored goals, it wasn’t the same as playing club soccer at De Anza Force.
“We lost a lot of games that season and it wasn’t fun to play anymore,” Vurro said. “When soccer doesn’t become fun to me, in a certain situation — that’s when I want to stop.”
Retiring from high school soccer, Vurro now plays club at De Anza Force full time.
Playing overseas is a hallmark of Vurro’s athletic career — an unforgettable achievement. Vurro has been traveling to attend a one week camp hosted in Italy for three years. The first time Vurro traveled overseas for this was because one of his coaches he knew in Italy referred the program to him. After program acceptance, in the following two years, the director asked Vurro to come back and play overseas at the camp again. Set in the mountains, the camp retreat invited professional soccer teams to guide the attendees. According to Vurro, being accepted to the camp for three years in a row is a big deal.
Last year, Vurro’s team traveled to Italy to play at a regional tournament. Finishing second place, Vurro reflected that going back to Italy to play soccer was nostalgic for him.
“Going over to like overseas was really nice because again, I grew up in Italy, and I go back every summer,” Vurro said. “And so, just the environment of playing there was a lot different than playing here.”
Each city in Italy has their own dialect — when Vurro’s team plays he describes it as more of a “city versus city thing” rather than individual teams playing from the same city.
“It kind of has a different sense of camaraderie than you have here,” Vurro said. “Here, their your teammates of course and you’re close with them because it’s everyone’s from the same city — [there’s] a bigger sense of unity.”
Vurro has been dubbed “the soccer guy” by his friends — as a hot headed soccer player, Vurro doesn’t beg to differ. Above all, Vurro’s effort are concentrated in the flame that fuels his competitiveness: winning.
“I like winning,” Vurro said. “I hate losing a lot more than I like winning. So when I win, I feel happy but I still know there’s things we can improve.”
Soccer practices and games are a getaway — a loophole from Vurro’s
lifestyle riddled with the MVHS telltale: schoolwork and stress. When he plays, his mind is a clean slate and he doesn’t think of any of his burdens.
Additionally, Vurro has never felt that playing soccer was more detrimental than beneficial — soccer never took a gloomy toll on him. Vurro’s ambition is indefinite — his ardor for soccer has never faltered through the years. Every setback paved the way for a comeback.
“[Soccer has] always been beneficial to me. The pressure of losing and the stress, if anything, just made me better,” Vurro said. “It would make me want to win more the next game and play better next game.”
Vurro has put in the grit, the trainings and the sweat to be where he is, but he has never felt completely satisfied with his performance at any point in his athletic career. Some improvements that Vurro has been trying to work on is utilizing his weak foot. Vurro is a left-footed player, meaning that he maneuvers the ball with his left foot. Left footed players are especially rare in soccer — according to Vurro, only 10-15% of players are left footed, as it’s hard to find a left-footed left back. Left back is usually Vurro’s main position, but he sometimes moves up to left forward.
Using his weak foot — his right foot — has been a improvement point of his for a while.
“I’ve been trying to work on it during practices, trying to use more drills more on my right side,” Vurro said. “It’s been improved now.”
Vurro’s most memorable game was when his team played their rivals, Santa Clara Sporting, at the San Francisco International Cup. De Anza Force has beat Santa Clara Sporting by 3-1.
According to Vurro, games usually take five to ten minutes to gain momentum and intensity. For this game, Vurro remembers that from the first minute to the 90th minute, the two teams were going at it as hard as possible.
“When I watch the replays of us scoring goals, just to see how excited the team was, the guys on the bench,” Vurro said. “Everyone just came together and it was a really important game for us to win. It was nice having that feeling of camaraderie.”
The top of his head bobs up and down from above a shrub — Vurro limps into view, arms sporting two massive crutches. A gnarly cast bandages the lower calf of his leg as he slowly maneuvers his way over to the Olive Court.
On Sunday May 5, Vurro’s team had a game. Competing with a team called Star Academy at Prospect High School, Vurro’s team had tied the game 2-2 for the National Premier League (NPL).
“I was tackling a player and then I got to the ball just a second before he did,” Vurro said. “And so when he kicked it, instead of kicking the ball, he ended up kicking my ankle.”
Vurro had to get subbed off from gameplay and had to ice his ankle. It was swollen for a short period of time, but now Vurro is on crutches to relieve pressure.
This league was a tough blemish for the team — what De Anza Force needed was a tie to win the league. Vurro’s team ended up losing to one to their rivals, the Santa Clara Sporting. One of the players tore his ACL, which was a agitating moment for both Vurro and his team to pull through.
“We had worked a lot that season, and then to lose to our rivals — last season we could’ve potentially won the league,” Vurro said. “And it just pushed us to get better next season.”
Vurro is hoping to get back into gear within a week or so. He plans to take a rest period and skip practices that week, as well as letting his ankle rest to avoid any inflicted pressure. Vurro’s next
game at the time would’ve been in two weeks, so he had time to recover.
“I’m probably going to be more reserved and be careful of not aggravating it too much,” Vurro said. “But as soon as I feel okay, again, I’m just going to go back to normal intensity.”
Vurro’s father is one of the most influential people involved in Vurro’s soccer career. He was always there pushing Vurro to get better — especially when Vurro was younger, as he wasn’t as “fit.” Vurro’s father’s encouragement and soccer expertise fueled Vurro’s drive to get better and excel in the offense of his sport.
“When we do sprints and stuff I was usually near the back,” Vurro said. “But he’d always be on the side pushing me, telling me to get better, telling me to work as hard as possible.”
After every single game, whether Vurro’s team loses or wins, his father always has some kind of feedback for him, as he has been watching and playing soccer for forty years — he inputs criticism that usually almost always aids Vurro’s game.
“I try and adapt and try to use what he’s saying in trainings and then apply it to the game,” Vurro said.
“In soccer, there comes a lot of respect and discipline — discipline in listening to your coach, respecting your coach even if you disagree with them,” Vurro said. “Just understanding that they’ve experienced more of the game.”
Vurro holds a gratifying amount of respect for his coaches, soccer veterans and referees — there’s a level of respect between a player and a soccer veteran. He reflects that even through what they’re saying may be wrong, in the long term, they’re usually correct.
“You learn to respect the referee law, even if you don’t agree with his decisions,” Vurro said. “He’s still a person in power, a person who has influence. And so you have to learn to respect that.”
Vurro hopes his passion for soccer never ebbs away — in fact, it continues to grow over the years.
“I have fun playing [soccer] and it’s something that I enjoy doing,” Vurro said. “That combined with my willingness to win that it’s like now becomes such a crucial part of who I am. Everyone knows me a the guy who plays soccer. Because it’s such an important part to me, I don’t think [my passion] will ever drift away.”