Los Jets was filmed last fall. It follows the top-ranked Jordan-Matthews High School Jets, or Los Jets, as they compete against other high school teams and battle their way towards the goal of being in the North Carolina State Championships. All of the members of Los Jets are the sons of Latino immigrants who settled in the area searching for a better life for themselves and their families.
Besides Los Jets being a series where viewers get to see a sports team find the faith and strength within themselves to struggle against the odds and win, people who tune in will also get to see intimate portrayals of the lives of the teenage boys off of the playing field. The episodes will give viewers a candid peek into the family lives of the team members and how they interact with friends and make relationships that will last for a lifetime.
Recently, Coach Paul Cuadros took time out of his busy schedule and granted this Exclusive Interview to the Guardian Liberty Voice. He founded the team and has been the coach of Los Jets for 13 years.
Douglas Cobb: Thank you, Coach Cuadros, for agreeing to do this interview. Switching careers from one of being an investigative journalist to being the soccer coach of a high school team must have been a big move.
What brought about the decision to switch careers?
Coach Cuadros: I have not switched careers as much as added on coaching as a part of my life. I am still a journalist, a teacher, and a coach, too. I still do investigative reporting in the time that I have left at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Coaching has been fun, inspiring, and an excellent experience working with young people.
Douglas Cobb: Before coaching Los Jets, Paul, did you have any previous coaching or playing experience?
Coach Cuadros: I did. I had coached in Chicago in a league for kids and prior to coaching the high school team had coached locally in the Chatham Soccer League, a private, non-profit soccer league coaching at the Challenge and Classic level, licensed, and had coached in several tournaments.
Douglas Cobb: What originally gave you the idea to found Los Jets? What was the initial attitude of the school administration and community of Siler City?
Coach Cuadros: The students at the school reached out to me to help them establish a varsity program at the school. They had tried several times over several years to convince the administration that a program would be beneficial to the school. I took up their cause. The original attitude by the school and community was one of resistance. Siler City is a football town and the powers who control football I believe thought soccer would somehow diminish their program. There was resistance to form the program and initially the administration did not want the soccer program to play on the football field or game field. Other members of the Siler City community took up the cause and were able to form the program.
Douglas Cobb: In the first episode of Los Jets, Coach Cuadros, you called Siler City a model of America. Would you please get into what you meant a little bit here?
Coach Cuadros: Siler City is a model of America in several ways. First, it is the quintessential small town America. It became home to the actress who played Aunt Bea from the television show Mayberry RFD. In many ways it is Mayberry. At the same time, it has been through this tremendous change demographically with the arrival of Latino immigrant workers and their families. As such, it has learned how to cope with immigration and demographic change and been through it all. Siler City has a lot to teach other communities in America in terms of dealing with this issue and how to come out ahead.
Douglas Cobb: What do you do at the university as a day job, Coach Cuadros? Is it true that you do not get paid to be the coach of Los Jets?
Coach Cuadros: I am an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I teach reporting, newswriting, and long-form narrative non-fiction writing and reporting. I did not get paid to coach for many years as a coach but today I receive a small stipend to cover travel expenses.
Douglas Cobb: Paul, how much time during soccer season would you say you average spending time with the team members of Los Jets, coaching them, teaching them different skills and soccer plays, going to the games and talking to their family members?
Coach Cuadros: Wow. Well, it is a lot of time. We practice five days a week, usually 3 hours, and play two times a week, with one game a travel game. All together it is about 20 hours a week sometimes more depending on travel and depending if it is a playoff travel game in which we can travel up to six hours for a game at times.
Douglas Cobb: What are some of the ways soccer and coaching Los Jets has affected you, personally, over the years?
Coach Cuadros: Leading the campaign to create the team and leading the team to victory has changed me profoundly. I learned that you can make a difference, that you can advocate for things that you believe and find a way to make change. That’s a powerful lesson to learn, one that has helped me to go on to do other things in my life. I am the chair and leader of the Scholars’ Latino Initiative at the University of North Carolina, a college preparatory and mentoring bridge program for Latino high school students wanting to go on to higher education. We have sent more than 200 students through the program onto high school graduation and on to higher education. I didn’t know I could do things like this before I created the program and took on entrenched forces. So, one thing I have learned that one person can make a real difference if even in a small way.
Douglas Cobb: Which team or teams is/are the main rival(s) of Los Jets, Coach Cuadros? The Carrboro Jaguars, who beat Los Jets in the first episode, must be a major one.
Coach Cuadros: The Carrboro Jaguars have become one of our rivals. We’ve beaten them in the past and they have beaten us. That makes the season a lot of fun for the kids.
Douglas Cobb: Did you get to meet Jennifer Lopez and her sister, Lynda, at some point before or during the 2013 soccer season, Paul? If so, what did you think about them and their idea to film a docu-series created and directed by Mark Landsman based on Los Jets?
Coach Cuadros: I met Lynda Lopez prior to the filming of the series and helped Lynda persuade the Chatham County School Board to allow the production crew to film in the school. She is a smart, wonderful, passionate person who believed in the project from the start. I have gotten to know her as an experienced journalist who has the eye for catching an important story and having the passion and will to see it come real. I met Jennifer Lopez in New York and learned how passionate and devoted she was to the story of Los Jets. Jennifer is a warm, beautiful person, a smart businesswoman who believes in the power of story to transform lives. She and Lynda want to tell powerful stories about and that impact the Latino community in a genuine way and Los Jets is it.
Douglas Cobb: Just a couple more questions to go, Coach Cuadros! How many of the 2013 Los Jets soccer team members will be returning in 2014? What would you say the chances are that Los Jets will repeat and win the State championship in 2014?
Coach Cuadros: We have several players returning from the 2013 season for 2014 and we should be competitive. The team is also a contender for the state title and this coming year will be no different.
Douglas Cobb: Finally, Coach Cuadros, you mentioned in the premiere of Los Jets that America has become more accepting of soccer over the years. Do you think that soccer will soon become as popular in the United States as it is in the rest of the world?
Coach Cuadros: I think this past World Cup’s viewing and attendance by Americans shows that soccer, or futbol, will become among the top tier sports in the U.S. in popularity and participation. Too many hundreds of thousands if not millions of boys and girls play the sport at the recreation and club level around the country for it not to grow and gain in popularity. These new players and fans will continue to develop their love and passion for the game and we will see a generational turn in terms of fans. Soccer will no longer be an adoptive sport in the U.S., but will be homegrown.
Douglas Cobb: Thanks once again, Coach Cuadros, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. Good luck in the 2014 season!
Written By: Douglas Cobb