She had 14 days from today to sign and date the document for it to become official. But she had no need to take that long. She was not allowed to sign it until 7:00 a.m. Wednesay morning, so she signed it at 7:01 in the auditorium of Desert Vista High School in front of friends, family and coaches. Since she is not 21 years of age, I had to sign it as well. But only after reading all six pages quite a few times. The document is called a National Letter of Intent or for sports purposes a LOI, and today my daughter Kaylee Gambadoro officially signed her LOI to play Division I soccer at Loyola Chicago on a full scholarship.
It is the culmination of a lot of hard work, dedication, sweat, tears, late nights practicing and even later nights doing homework, long car rides, long plane rides, long bus rides, long weekends away from home, lots of ice baths, lots of cleats, lost balls, one day in a New Mexico hospital with a concussion, lost toe nails, lots of scars, even more raspberries from slide tackles, plenty of missed school events, dances, parties, football games and the list goes on and on and on. Needless to say there were a lot of sacrifices, including some friends who had different priorities in high school.
But it got her to where she is at now and she will get to fulfill her dream of playing college soccer at the highest level, and in the process become the first Gambadoro to go to college. Hard to believe, especially when you hear how intelligent I sound, I know, but it's true. And more importantly than the soccer, she will get an outstanding education at one of the top colleges in the country.
Kaylee started playing soccer for the Gilbert Arsenal when she was 7, moved over to the Ladybugs when she was 11 and then to Sereno when she was 14 where she was a part of a great run by the Sereno 95 Girls that saw them win five state championships. In her final year of club soccer after her Sereno team disbanded, she is playing for the defending state champion Tucson Soccer Academy and making the three-hour round trip commute for practice three times per week.
She was blessed to learn and work with great coaches in Manoel Coelho, John DeMartini, Paul Taylor, Davey Lopez, Tara Koleski and Todd and Amy Garelick. She got to play with some amazing players on all of her teams, players that pushed her and made her better.
She stands only 5-foot-1, not great size for a holding midfielder, but her coaches all loved her because they felt she had the heart of a lion and was always the most physical kid on the field. She didn't score many goals -- only one in the last seven years -- but she excelled at blowing up plays, winning 50-50 balls, forcing turnovers and she got more than her fair share of yellow cards.
She was fortunate to play in the ECNL league when she was at Sereno and that allowed her to be seen by dozens of college coaches every month. She was contacted by a bunch of Division I schools on September 1 of her junior year and after going on a few visits and considering San Diego State, UC Santa Barbara, Iona, American and a few others, she chose Loyola in early October of her junior year. She wanted to make her decision quick so she could concentrate on school and soccer and not have to worry about it. She hasn't regretted it once. She was sold on Loyola the second she visited the school and spoke with coach Barry Bimbi. Now she has visited Chicago in October, July and October again. So she still has no idea how cold it gets. But she will adjust, just like she did to this heat when we moved here from New York.
Kaylee had a good support group with my wife Patti and her sisters Gabriella, Alyssandra and Brooke. Without that support system, she wouldn't have had the chance to succeed the way she has. I'm going to be very sad the day she leaves for school but with FaceTime, Skype and other avenues to stay connected, I'll be ok. I think. OK, I might not be but I'll try. I'm sure I will cry a little or a lot, probably a lot. And I can always go visit, but not too much -- I don't want to crowd her space. Anyone have a condo to rent in Chicago?
Congrats Kaylee - your Mom and Dad are very proud of you and love you very much.