MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Roberto Ponce, originally from Sacramento, California, looks like your average 20-year-old lance corporal. What you can’t tell just from looking at him, is that he volunteers his spare time to help coach a soccer team of 10-12 year-olds for the Camp Lejeune Youth Sports program.
Ponce started as an assistant-coach for youth soccer in 2013. The children and other coaches saw evidence of his passion for the sport during practices and up to this season’s final game, Nov. 1, 2014.
“He always brings good energy into the games and he always goes above and beyond for the kids,” said Chrystian Amoros-Diaz, team Fury assistant coach, and San Juan, Puerto Rico native.
He began playing soccer when he was eight. He played in both defensive and mid-field positions.
“Ponce clearly knows the game and what is important to teach the kids,” said Andrew Keller, team Fury assistant coach, and Houston native. “Our season has been impeccable.”
Ponce learned his passion for helping others from his parents, Robert and Virginia Ponce, who own their own catering business and volunteer regularly.
“My favorite thing they do takes place every year on Thanksgiving Day,” said Ponce. “Each year they go underneath a bridge in Sacremento and cook 200 turkeys for the homeless. They’ve been a big inspiration to me.”
Ponce’s coworkers also see the importance of his selfless dedication to Camp Lejeune’s young soccer players.
“His volunteerism represents what should be expected of out Marines, especially our junior leaders,” said 1st Lt. Liston Pennington, supply officer for Headquarters Battery, 10th Marines, and Laurel, Md. native.
This year, team Fury went all the way to the top, winning the championship as an undefeated team. Following the final win, the coaches shook the kids’ hands and gave them. High-fives, cheers, and smiles were also omnipresent after the ninth consecutive win for team Fury.
“I will be out here for as many seasons as I can,” said Ponce. “I love the youth sports program.”