West Valley youth team gets leg up on college

Macayo’s helping guide local players

Posted 9/22/22

Nava Singam’s Macayo’s Restaurant serves notable chimichangas, frozen margaritas — and a possible pathway to college for some local soccer players.

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West Valley youth team gets leg up on college

Macayo’s helping guide local players


Nava Singam’s Macayo’s Restaurant serves notable chimichangas, frozen margaritas — and a possible pathway to college for some local soccer players.

“A lot of times when you come from a humbling beginning you always try to figure out how to get to the next point,” Singam said. “I see a lot of these folks that are part of the community that are excellent soccer players who don’t understand have the ability to get to college.”

Singam, who owns 10 Macayo’s Restaurant’s in the Valley, including one in Surprise at 15565 W. Bell Road, recently donated 40 virtual athletic mentoring sessions to aspiring female college athletes in the West Valley Phoenix Rising Youth Soccer Club.

Next Step Mentoring, a program that connects college athletes with teens and families across the country, is providing the virtual mentoring sessions.

The company helps give guidance and advice on the collegiate sports recruiting process.

Jason Johnston, the team’s coach and former longtime Surprise resident, is leading multiple age groups of the Rising Youth teams.

The two oldest age groups will benefit from the mentoring sessions, which are aimed at improving the long odds of going on to play a varsity sport in college. Next Step Mentoring is going to help the Rising Youth Soccer Club players with how to earn scholarships to help defray the rising costs of college.

Two of Johnston’s teams — an Under-17 and an Under-15 — that will take advantage of the mentoring sessions. Most of the players are sophomores and juniors in high school, including some players from Shadow Ridge High School in Surprise.

About 14 of the 19 players are from the West Valley, raning from Buckeye to north Peoria.

Johnston takes his team on trips across the state, as well as California and Nevada as part of the Southwest Region. He calls his team a “pretty diverse group.”

Working with Next Step Mentoring is a natural fit for the Rising because of their connection with Mario Diaz, its founder. Diaz’s daughter, Franchesca, played for Johnston a few years ago. Mario Diaz is also currently on the soccer club’s board of directors.

“He’s always been a big advocate for the West Valley groups,” Johnston said. “Our program is a college prep program for soccer. Most of these girls will be playing at some type of level collegiately. It fits the whole program as a whole.”

Johnson said he hopes the mentoring sessions will help the players begin to carve out their futures.

“A lot of these parents don’t have the funds to help get these kids there,” Johnston said about college. “They’re hoping this is their pathway to bettering their life.”

Johnston said future planning for the players begins as young as their freshmen years. Soccer players can’t be recruited until their junior year but they already are attempting to start the selection process for them early.

“At some degree they have to sell themselves,” Johnston said. “It’s not a Disney Channel tryout for ‘Hannah Montana.’ We teach them how to make their own highlight videos. As a program we do that. We do a women-in-leadership program where ladies from U.S. Fitness come in and do a lot of mentoring for them on how they can change the world and make an impact.”

Singam, who is also opening an O.H.S.O. Brewery in the Village at Prasada development near Waddell Road and Loop 303, said he hopes 40 different players take advantage of the mentoring sessions.

“I’m hoping they learn how to build their resumes and also how to showcase what their athletic skills are for universities,” Singam said. “Some may need athletics to get themselves into colleges. I hope they understand the NCAA and how those rules apply to them to get enrolled in school.”

Johnston plans to get the program started with the U17s by end of September, with the rest of the sessions spread out in October and November.

Getting his players ready for college isn’t the only thing the Rising Youth teams work on beside actually playing soccer.

The team’s coaches recently took the soccer club’s three oldest age groups to show them how to change a tire.

“We want to be more than just a soccer program,” Johnston said. “It’s a way to impact these people’s lives. People like Mario and his program. We really try to impact people in their lives and show them that we can be more than soccer.”

soccer, Phoenix Rising Youth, scholarships, college prep