Almost everyone envisions their life to play out in a certain way. But along the road of their perfectly set out plans for their future, actual life happens. There will come a day when something will happen to you and change the person you once were, alter your dreams and change your life. You have to decide whether it will make you or break you.
Twenty-five-year-old Joel Pinto believed his goals would all happen one after another without interruptions.
Soccer was then and continues to be his passion. He would spend every day playing soccer with neighborhood friends when he was growing up. Pinto wanted to grow up to be just like Mexican soccer player Jorge Campos. Campos was a goalkeeper and striker in the 1990’s known for his speed and leaping ability.
“Every time I would see him play, I would think to myself what it would be like to be him,” Pinto said. “Now that he’s retired, I study Lionel Messi’s moves.”
Pinto attended Plainfield South High School and played for the school’s soccer team all four years. After his high school graduation in 2007, he thought about just going to community college for financial purposes. But his father told him he’d pay for his college monthly as long as he kept his grades up. Pinto decided to continue his soccer dreams at North Central College.
“He worked hard to one day become a professional soccer player. There wasn’t anyone that wanted it more than him,” said Luis Trejo, Pinto’s soccer mentor and good friend. “That’s why he was a starting freshman at North Central.”
Two years into his college career he was no longer getting financial help from his father. His father ran into serious financial problems and had to stop paying for Pinto’s college to save money. Pinto had a hard time trying to afford college, while playing soccer, paying his apartment and only being able to work part time. During his junior year of college, he broke his ankle during soccer practice when him and another player kicked the ball at the same time. Pinto knew he wouldn’t be able to play soccer for a couple of months.
“He was going to physical therapy every week and in the gym daily to get back on the field as soon as possible,” Trejo said. “I saw him struggle but he just wouldn’t give up.”
While on his road to recovery, Pinto’s long-time girlfriend started to get continuously ill. He took her to the doctor one morning and after an hour visit, they discovered she was pregnant.
“I just remember being speechless in the doctor’s office,” Pinto said. “I didn’t know what to think or say.”
Pinto’s mother Maria Rodriguez, was excited to have a grandchild, but said she wishes her son would’ve waited until he was ready so that his dreams could come true before he could see his future kid’s dreams come true.
“I knew his life would change dramatically and he will have to pursue different dreams,” Rodriguez said.
Pinto dropped out of college and started working full-time at a paint factory. A couple of months after his son was born, Pinto and his high school sweetheart decided to go their separate ways.
“I felt like everything was going wrong for me. My son is a blessing, but everything else was a struggle. And I just wanted to play soccer, it’s my getaway,” Pinto said.
Pinto stopped playing soccer for a while to support himself, his son and payoff college debt.
“Honestly, no one dedicates more time to their son than Joel,” said Jose Pinto, Joel Pinto’s brother.“He likes to teach him the soccer skills that he knows.”
Now that his son is 5-years-old, Joel Pinto said he wouldn’t have his life any other way. He said he thought his dreams were over because the way he envisioned his life wasn’t working out as planned. But it will just take extra steps to get where he wants to be. Pinto still plays soccer on his time off and has recently joined a Joliet league for the summer. He’s also saved money in the last couple of years to go back to school this fall. He said he wants to be a role model to his younger siblings and son by graduating college and still pursuing his dreams.
“My son has taught me more about myself than anyone or any soccer experience,” Pinto said. “Without him I wouldn’t be who I am today. He’s made me a better person and I think that’s more important than being a better soccer player.”