SAN RAFAEL ? Leslie Ziegler is the most amazing, dedicated soccer mom in the history of the sport because she would pick up her kid, Alec, after school and take him to soccer practice.
Huh? Why? Isn?t that what soccer moms do, take their kids to practice? That?s true, except for this one little thing.
Soccer practice was 220 miles away.
?My parents did say they would support me in playing soccer,? said Ziegler, a 2007 Montgomery graduate, now a junior defender for Dominican University, ?although I think they maybe didn?t know what they were getting into.?
Ziegler?s story winds like Highway 101 from Eureka to Santa Rosa. It curves and dips and rises to where the mere telling of it strains credibility, not to mention common sense. But this is what you do for love and in the summer of 2003 Ziegler had to decide what he would do for his love of soccer.
He was about to enter Eureka High School as a freshman. Ziegler had been playing soccer for five years, had obvious talent and was told by both his high school coach and his club coach that if he wanted to develop that talent, he needed to play elsewhere. The Eureka area, they said, would not be able to offer the kind of instruction and competition to match his skills. Ziegler and parents, Leslie and Paul, did their research and came up with Santa Rosa United, the club team.
Except Santa Rosa is 220 miles from Eureka. Dad and mom were entrenched in their jobs, Paul a budget administrator for the Eureka School District, Leslie a receptionist at a chiropractor?s office. But they were willing, they offered, to drive their son down to Santa Rosa to practice and play for the SRU U14 team when Ziegler wasn?t playing soccer for Eureka High.
?They did think driving down to Santa Rosa four times a week was too much,? Ziegler.
God love them for that.
So for six months during his freshman year Leslie would pick up Alec from school at 2 p.m. and head south, in time for the SRU practice at 6 p.m.
Two hours later Leslie would pick up Alec from practice and drive back to Eureka, getting home around midnight. Mom and son, on average, did that three days a week, twice for practices and once for a game.
During his sophomore year they made that thrice-weekly trip for eight months to the SRU U15 practices/games.
During his junior year Ziegler, now able to drive, made it to Santa Rosa three times a week for another eight months to join the SRU U16 team.
?I can?t even imagine,? said Jon Delano, Ziegler?s coach at Dominican University.
To be sure Ziegler had very understanding teachers at Eureka. They allowed it, as long as he made grades, and the whip-smart Ziegler always made grades.
Every six months mom and dad would ask their son the same series of questions: ?Do you still want to do this? Is soccer still this important? Are you doing this for yourself or for us? If you are doing this for us, stop doing it. You should only be doing this for yourself.?