An October Saturday at the Irving Soccer Complex could best be described as a rainbow sea of jerseys flying around. Given the over 20 fields at the complex, every color, whether it is a deep forest green, midnight blue or highlighter yellow is bound to be represented on a player’s jersey. Even in this chaos of color, North Texas United FC's uniforms have a way of standing out. The white or red jerseys with gold lettering and black shorts worn by the collection of recreation teams who play in Irving Soccer Association are run-of-the-mill for a soccer kit. The pink socks however, stick out like a sore thumb. The socks are the work of coach Julio Contreras, who two years ago introduced the idea of wearing pink socks to help spread Breast Cancer Awareness.
“The whole idea is to spread awareness. I don’t have any family members who have been affected, but two years ago one of our players had a family member who was,” Contreras said. “We went to the hospital to help support our player’s family member, and we figured out we wanted to get the awareness out.”
Contreras coaches teams in the 5-Under Boys, 8-Under Girls, 10-Under Girls and 13-Under Boys age groups, and is assisted by volunteer parent Denise Perez. Contreras explained that with recreational soccer, you don’t completely focus on soccer, but also create real-life scenarios where you can help teach the difference between right and wrong.
“With recreational soccer you have a lot of different attitudes, especially at certain ages,” Contreras said. “I was really happy to see that spreading the awareness helped the players come together as a family.”
Since Contreras, who is hard to miss in his bright pink shirt, has some players who are as young as four or five years old, he can’t fully explain the significance of what wearing the pink socks means, but instead his explanation is geared more towards the parents.
“With the tiny kids, you can’t really go into specifics, so you just tell the parents,” Contreras said. “We have had some younger boys wondering why we are wearing pink, and I just explain it is a good cause for someone like your mom, and they usually just say ‘OK’ and continue playing. The teams have been very supportive.”
While his teams began wearing the pink socks a couple of years ago, Contreras has noticed an uptick of pink every year.
“More and more people are asking me where we got the socks and where we got some of our other stuff,” Contreras said. “We just want to make this better every year.”
Contreras began playing soccer mostly on the street as a way to have fun and kill time after school. Contreras ultimately began playing competitively for clubs like DFW Tornadoes, but decided to put soccer on the backburner once his first son was born. Contreras began getting back involved by coaching his son’s team, and now is involved in events like Irving Soccer’s Trunk or Treat among others.
“We really support a lot of what Irving Soccer Association is doing,” Contreras said. “We know every association has specific programs, but they have really allowed us to come together to give back."
Ultimately, Contreras hopes that while simple, his team’s wearing of pink socks can help build to more and more teams getting involved in the community to help spread awareness.
“In the Hispanic community, there isn’t as much awareness for Breast Cancer, and we wanted to spread the importance of getting checked just to be safe,” Contreras said. “By all means, we want to use soccer to show support for the cause.”