In May 2009, Gonzo Soccer’s soon-to-be co-founders Monica Gonzalez and Alyse LaHue held a soccer clinic for latino girls at Chitown Futbol in Chicago’s inner city. Monica, former captain of the Mexican National team and Alyse, then-marketing director of the Chicago Red Stars women’s professional team, were a formidable coaching pair and the soccer clinic was a huge success—so much so that the owner of Chitown Futbol asked them to come back and teach another one. Soon, the clinic became a weekly affair and before long, Monica and Alyse needed more coaches to accommodate all the girls who came to play. Fortunately, each woman had an impressive list of friends who just happened to be professional soccer players! Gonzo Soccer began very much by accident, but its formation was a matter of supply and demand. The girls of inner city Chicago needed a place to play. It wasn’t long, however, before Monica and Alyse realized that these girls needed much more than just soccer lessons, they needed academic support and the tools necessary to help them react to everyday risks of urban living. As a result, Gonzo Soccer has become so much more than just a soccer club for girls—it is a place for them to learn life skills that will help them stay in school and out of trouble, a place for them to get the academic support they need, a place to belong.
Gonzo Soccer received a lot of great publicity, along with many requests to open academies in other locations. Soon, two additional Gonzo Academies opened in Texas and one in Tijuana, Mexico. Gonzo Soccer Colombia started in April 2013 with a Department of State, ECA Sports Envoy Program. Monica was invited to Colombia to host soccer clinics and workshops on girls in sports because of her experiences as a Mexican-American Olympic soccer player and current ESPN commentator. She visited Bogota, Quibdo, and San Andres to empower young women through sport, lead seminars for coaches and even appeared on national television shows to talk about her experience growing up as a female athlete in the U.S. The program was a resounding success. So much so, that after the final workshops and clinics in San Andres, the community approached Monica about starting a Gonzo Soccer academy in San Andres and before Monica left town, the first Gonzo academy in Colombia was launched. Shortly thereafter, Gonzo received a grant from the U.S. Department of State to start four new academies in Colombia. In November 2013, co-founders Monica and Alyse visited Bogota, Barranquilla, Medellin and Quibdo to formally launch these academies.
The next logical step and great desire of Monica’s was to open an academy in Mexico City. As fortune would have it in early 2014 Cecilia Vales was introduced to Monica and actually lectured her—
“How is it possible you captained the Mexican National Team and you don’t have an academy in Mexico City where you live?”
The two set off on a mission and within two weeks Gonzo Soccer Mexico City was launched. Regina would become the program director and head coach. Cecilia, the Director of Mexico and Latin America. Gonzo began to form partnerships both in the public and private sector, and within six months opened in both Queretaro and Rosarito.