Soccer coach Javier Torres is determined to be the mentor he needed when he was younger. With a lifelong passion and talent for soccer and the support of Peoria and Valley families, Torres has launched and expanded Growth Soccer Training (GrowthSoccerTraining.com), a premiere youth soccer program. The popular youth sports program has helped hundreds of local kids find their own passion for soccer.
For the Love of the Game
Torres came to the U.S. with his family from his original home in Mexico at the age of 10. “I loved soccer from a young age,” he recalls. “In Mexico City, it was an activity that was part of our day-to-day life—it wasn’t formal or organized. We’d play pick-up games in the streets, at parks, and at parties. Basically, anywhere we could.”
A few years into his time in the U.S., at age 14, Torres joined organized soccer and fell in love with the game. Hooked on the sport, he developed his skills and played D-1 and semi-professional soccer—always practicing extra hard to make up for his lack of formal training as a child.
“As a coach now, I try to be the person I needed when I was a young athlete,” he says. “Looking back, I owe everything to my parents who, like the dedicated parents I coach with now, shuffled me to game after game and gave me every opportunity possible.”
Unfortunately, an injury kept Torres from going pro, but at 23—just five years ago—a loved one recommended he coach a youth soccer team. “My first team I coached was 8-year-old boys and from there, coaching became my passion,” he says. “Soccer teaches kids lessons they won’t learn anywhere else. These skills then have a ripple effect into not only their athletic lives but school, families, and the community.”
Becoming “Coach Javi”
As a coach, Torres developed his own style and techniques that resonated with the young players he mentored. He says he believes in focusing on the fundamental techniques and skill sets needed to become the best athletes they can be. He teaches his players not to be afraid of the ball but instead to think of the “why” and “how” of the sport—to problem solve and master the ball before they play the game.
“There’s much more to soccer than just the actual sport,” he says. “To be the voice I didn’t have as a young athlete, I help youth learn about nutrition, the importance of rest, technical abilities, and many of the things I learned almost too late in my youth soccer career.”
In addition to the athleticism, Torres hopes that every young athlete he coaches keeps the life lessons they learn with them whether they go on to play soccer at higher levels or not.
“I tell my athletes and their families, first and foremost, to remember to have a good time and that we celebrate both our successes and our losses as a team,” he says. “In turn, they’ve helped me to grow as a person too—I’ve coached young athletes from various backgrounds, and I’ve learned to have fun with the sport and celebrate with the kids every step of the way.”
“When the athletes I’ve coached look back on their experiences with me, I hope my legacy is one as a coach who cared, who shared his passion, and was big on all of the details that go along with the sport,” Torres adds.
Growth Soccer Training
Although Torres started Growth Soccer Training as a side gig, word started getting out as parents noticed the improvement in the young athletes’ abilities on the field. With word of mouth spreading from one local team to another, he opened his original location of Growth Soccer Training in 2019 in a 2,000-square-foot repurposed warehouse garage in Peoria.
“When I told parents that I wanted to expand the space, they helped to fundraise for our new location, which recently opened,” Torres shares.
The 12,000-square-foot training center at 35th Avenue and Bell Road marks a critical expansion from the previous 2,000-square-foot facility. The new center features two indoor fields, interactive training spaces for technical training, shooting, and finishing zones, a classroom to teach tactics and review taped plays, and a family viewing area. All of this is combined with the elite programming sought out by Valley residents. Many of the original Peoria families have even become more involved.
“I now have three partners and a team of five coaches who all believed in me and that we could create something bigger,” he says. “Two of the three partners are parents whose kids have participated in the training programs.”
A year-round operation, Growth Soccer Training leads private and group sessions, striking hours, speed and agility programs, and Little Baller classes for younger athletes.
“What sets us apart is our ability to pay attention to the small details and techniques that will help develop every skill set,” Torres says. “Whether it's working on speed, foot placement or striking ability, it’s my job to understand what each player needs and teach them the tools necessary to grow into the best version of themselves.”
He adds that he hopes eventually to expand the model and impact how soccer is taught to young athletes nationwide.
Lessons to Last a Lifetime
Oftentimes, participating in youth sports can be a childhood rite of passage.
“For younger kids, they learn to socialize in soccer—there’s one ball and ten athletes. For older kids, the sport can teach them discipline and that it’s never too late to start something you’re passionate about,” he says. “I think in society, we need more comradery in general; we may lose together, but we also win together.”
Whether his young athletes are at Growth Soccer Training for a season or if it’s the training that catapults them to a professional career, Torres hopes they take the lessons from their experiences with them out into the world.