Los Jets premiered tonight on the NUVOtv Network at 10:00 p.m. ET, kicking off in a big way, trying to win the hearts and minds of viewers with this passionate look at a high school soccer team. Jennifer Lopez and her sister, Lynda, are the co-executive producers of this docuseries, which follows the efforts of Coach Paul Cuadros and the high school soccer team, Los Jets, from Siler City, North Carolina, during the course of an entire season (2013) as they face adversities on and off the field and attempt to win the State Championship.
Coach Cuadros founded Los Jets and in 2004, he took that year’s team to the State Championship, which they won. In the fall of 2013, Coach Cuadros tells his team that they have a great chance to do it again. They have the talent and skill to go all the way, but the coach never told his team it would be an easy journey.
In Los Jets, we see how much soccer means to the members of the team, mostly made up of the sons of Latino immigrants.
“Last year, we almost made it to the State Championships,” Paul Cuadros says. “Today, Latinos are 68 percent of the school’s students and growing.”
“If we make it to the playoffs, it is either win or go home,” according to Coach Cuadros.
Daniel Estrada is the goalkeeper for Los Jets. Jonathan Perrita is described as being the “joker” of the team. The captain of Los Jets is Cirilo Rangel, who has a lot of soccer skills but he struggles with anger issues. The entire team is made up of very talented teenagers and they each have their role to play in ensuring victory for Los Jets.
Coach Paul Cuadros, who has coached Los Jets for 13 years, had told himself that he would never drive the team bus, but he has to suck it up and do it early on in the first episode. “Everybody has to make sacrifices,” he says stoically.
He relates how he became the coach of Los Jets. He was an investigative reporter when he first got to North Carolina in 1999. He noticed that everywhere he went in Siler City, there were Latino boys kicking a soccer ball around. The people of Siler City were afraid of the wave of Latinos who were moving in, as well as being afraid of the sport of soccer, itself.
Convincing the school administration that the high school should have a team was a hard sell. But, Coach Cuadros went to the community and he got soccer balls, uniforms, everything needed for a team. Still, the administration turned his request down.
Eventually, though, Paul Cuadros and others helped convince the principle, though he asked Paul “Who is going to coach the team?”
Cuadros realized if the team was going to get off the ground, he needed to be the coach. Even then, the program had a rocky start, with people cursing and throwing things out onto the field.
Los Jets won the State championship in 2004. It was more than a sport to the team members; it was like a family.
“Siler City is a model for the rest of the country to look at,” Paul Cuadros says. “It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.”
The team members of Los Jets are really what made this first episode special. Following their lives both on and off of the soccer field and watching their lightning-fast moves made for great TV viewing.
“They want to be state champions; they want to win. But, there’s many things in their lives that can get in the way of that goal. They come here, and still have dreams. The team is a safe haven for them,” according to Coach Cuadros.
However, the teens have a lot of challenges that they face, like getting good grades, fitting in, worrying about if one or both of their parents will get deported, peer pressures, relationships with their girlfriends and making it into college. All of these daily concerns sometimes makes it difficult to also find time for practicing their skills and getting ready for the games, but they have a burning love for the game.
One of the team members says “Soccer is like my girlfriend. I have to take care of her and do everything right.”
Three-and-a-half weeks into the school year, Coach Cuadros helps one of his team members, the goalkeeper of Los Jets, Daniel Estrada, try to improve his grades. The coach says he is trying to deal with Estrada “on a life level.” He talks about one of his uncles who got drunk and was killed in Mexico.
“My family is everything to me. I want to go to college and play for a college team and show my little brother he can do the same,” Estrada says.
Coach Cuadros says that in the last game, the team captain, Cirilo Rangel, got three yellow cards for talking back to the referee. The coach tells him he must ignore anything he thinks is unfair and be a good leader for Los Jets. He has to control his anger rather than let it get the best of him.
“Let’s keep our composure out there,” Coach Cuadros tells the team.
Los Jets Captain Cirilo Rangel is worried that some of the team members are getting too cocky. He can see that they are basically the same team as they were last year, with a lot of skilled players, but their attitudes are different.
Cirilo Rangel relates that both of his parents were gang members. His mother is from El Salvador, though she is a permanent resident of the United States. His mother came to North Carolina first, then his father followed about a month later, then he came soon after that. “My whole world revolves around me being a Christian,” he says.
He tells his father his concerns about thinking that he might be the only team member really cares about the team. He feels like he is different from all of the other kids. His father tells him that he is, because he has the Lord.
Los Jets continue playing and racking up victories against some very tough opponents. “Stay concentrated at all times,” Coach Cuadros says. Their next opponent is the one school that took them out last year.
According to one of the other team members, “They’re just a roadblock we have to get around.”
Cirilo says that he has a girlfriend, Kimberly, who is smart and pretty. He says that she wants to be a doctor. He wants to make his girlfriend proud of him.
Kimberly says that when she first met him, all of her friends told her that he is not for her. She is worried that Cirilo, 19, will not make it.
Coach Cuadros does not get paid for his job as the coach of Los Jets. His paying job is at the university. Still, Paul’s wife says that his heart is with Los Jets. Being the coach and giving himself up to the team and the Latino community has become a passion for him over the years
“We have not waited all of this time to blow it, right? Tonight we’re going to turn back the clock and it will be our time,” Coach Cuadros tells the team, right before they face their biggest rivals, Carver High School.
The intense match between Los Jets and the Carrboro Jaguars concluded the premiere episode of Los Jets. Cirilo again talked back to the ref, which worried the coach. He does not want to risk Cirilo getting suspended. Carrboro scores first against Los Jets, with Cirilo sitting on the bench. “Just play hard, man,” Coach Cuadros tells him.
Though Los Jets “played their guts out,” in the words of Coach Cuadros, they ended up losing the game. Their season is not totally blown, but Los Jets are disheartened to lose to the Carrboro Jaguars.
“Inside the field, everything’s level. Outside of the field, everything’s different,” Coach Cuadros says. “You have to fight for everything.”
That concluded the first episode of Los Jets, produced by Jennifer Lopez and her sister, Lynda. It was created and directed by Mark Landsman. The mix of being able to see the lives of the team members of Los Jets both on and off of the soccer field is a winning combination that will keep viewers interested in checking out the entire six-episode series.
Also, the dedication of Coach Paul Cuadros to his team members is very inspirational. The community of Siler City, North Carolina, has changed because of soccer and Latinos immigrating and settling in the area. Not all, but many, of the changes have seemed to wind up for the better. The residents of Siler City have been transformed into people fearful of Latinos and the game of soccer into a community which supports the sport and gets behind their local high school team, Los Jets. The premiere of Los Jets definitely kicked off its premiere in a big way, scoring the hearts and minds of viewers. Check out next week’s episode Wednesday on NUVOtv!
Written By Douglas Cobb
(The team photo of Los Jets (2013) above pictures, from left to right, Darwin Ramirez, Martin Carrillo, Daniel Estrada, Jonathan Lopez, Cirilo Rangel. It is being used courtesy of NUVOtv.)