A 9-year-old goalkeeper stands in front of the goal as he watches an opposing player approach the penalty box. He assesses the play — based purely on instinct — and launches himself into the air, stopping a shot headed to the top right corner of the goal.
That was SF State athlete Guillermo Castro’s first save, and the beginning of his career as a goalie.
Guillermo, now 18, can give you detailed descriptions of nearly every goal he’s saved and gotten scored on.
“It’s something to keep in the back of my mind for the future. Like, if a similar situation comes up I know what needs to be fixed from what I did last time,” Castro said. “Before a shot even comes I think about prior shots that were similar and how could I prevent from being scored on.”
Guillermo always had the desire to play goalkeeper, but had to convince his dad — also named Guillermo Castro — to let him play the position on the team he coached. His father was a goalkeeper too, so he was adamant that his son would have deal with the stress that comes with the position.
“That position is not an easy one to play, you always have to be thinking. And at the end of the game you’ll either be the hero or the one to blame,” Castro said. “The goalie only has one opportunity to make the save, so you have to have a strong character and not beat yourself up too much.”
Castro gives credit to his dad for building the foundation for the goalie he is now. He helped his son become mentally tough by making sure he didn’t get too low on himself after bad games.
They would sit together Sundays to watch professional goalkeepers play. Castro and his dad would analyze the mistakes and the good plays each goalie had.
The Gator goalie applies that same process when he watches himself on the videos his dad recorded after each soccer game.
Castro — of Salvadoran parents, who moved to the United States in the late 1980s — was born in East Los Angeles, but was raised in Palmdale, Calif. From there, Castro and his dad drove roughly 375 miles each week to make club soccer practices in Los Angeles.
He wanted to play in as many different levels of soccer as possible, from recreational, club and high school teams to the under-17 El Salvador national team.
The Salvadoran coaching staff scouted Guillermo as his team — the Lancaster Rattlers — were competing at a tournament hosted in El Salvador. Shortly after, Castro became a part of the national team at age 16 and spent the summer of 2010 in El Salvador.
He was offered to stay in El Salvador to finish high school, but decided against it because he wanted to attend a university in the United States.
“I don’t regret my decision because I’m getting an education now. I’m playing at a high level and I will go back (to El Salvador) to try out for the 21 team,” Guillermo said.
Getting an education has been a must for Guillermo all along, and wants to be an example to students and soccer players from his hometown.
“I’m proud of myself, because I am about the only player that actually got out of my town. I believe I was the only one to get signed to a major university,” he said. “I just want to be a role model for a lot of the students out here. And to show, especially for the kids back home (in Palmdale) that are still playing high school soccer, that hard work pays off.”
Eventually, Guillermo wants to play for the El Salvadoran national team because he wants to represent his family and his heritage. He also wants to be part of the reason why soccer in El Salvador progresses.
“I just want to be a part of their development,” he said. “And for people to say ‘Oh, Guillermo was part of why El Salvador got bigger and better.’”
His former high school head coach, Juan Paolo believes Guillermo can accomplish any goal he has set for himself.
“Barring any big injuries, he’s the only one that’s going to stop himself,” Paolo said. “There’s no limit to what he can do on the field.“
SF State men’s soccer assistant coach Kelly Coffey has noticed the freshman’s eagerness to improve.
“He’s got great work ethic,” said Coffey. “He wants to get better and so far we’ve seen him work really hard to work on his game.”
Guillermo has stood out, not only with his work ethic, but with his curly, long, frizzy hair on a bunch behind his head and his polite temperament.
“We’ve had one of our trainers ask ‘Who’s that guy? I think he’s a goalkeeper that’s got the long, frizzy hair; he always says hello and he says please and thank you,’” Coffey said. “He’s the most polite student athlete.”
The Gators have two seniors — Mike McNeill and Anthony Rodriguez — ahead of Guillermo. But head coach Joe Hunter was impressed with the amount of experience the goalie possesses.
“He may not see a lot of time this year because of the experience and the age and the quality of the players we have in front of him, but he’s certainly a goalkeeper for the future that we can build around,” Coffey said.