John Gambadoro is known for his brash opinions, going on rants and talking about all things sports five times a week.
As much as the Ahwatukee Foothills resident loves what he does, his day job as a mid-afternoon sports talk radio host for 620-AM KTAR didn’t compare to his drive time conversations three-times a week.
His daughter, Kaylee, spent the last year playing soccer for the Tucson Soccer Academy. It required about three hours of commute time three times a week.
Not only did it give her a chance to expand the 2103 Desert Vista graduate’s game, it gave dad and daughter some special bonding time on the drives to and from Tucson.
Subject matter was wide ranging and no topic was off the table. It was no different than their normal relationship but Gambo, as he is known, soaked in as much as possible knowing face-to-face time with Kaylee was going to be limited very soon.
“Pretty soon it is going to be time to let go a little bit,” Gambo said. “She has worked her whole life to play a high level of Division I soccer. For that to happen, she was going to have to sign with a program out of state.
“As a parent you’re very excited for her, but you are also a little nervous.”
The Gambadoros are facing a new chapter in their lives as are many families who also have student athletes who are leaving home, if they haven’t already, for the first time as the start of their collegiate career is upon them.
Desert Vista’s Kaleb Germinaro has already left for Penn to get a jump on his football career, Mountain Pointe’s Kenny Lacy already made his way to Los Angeles for the start of his UCLA career as an offensive linemen, while former Pride baseball player Brantley Bell got a jump start on his move to Ole Miss and was looking for a batting practice pitcher in Oxford, Miss.
While those athletes have to get a jump start on their transition to their new environment, others are getting their last couple of weeks with their families before heading out.
Kaylee leaves Aug. 3 for Loyala University in Chicago, Ahwatukee resident and Valley Christian graduate Tana Kemmer doesn’t leave for Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, for the start of her basketball career until Aug. 26, and Mountain Pointe graduate Connor Arendts will pack up, including his lacrosse stick, for his move to Adams State in Alamoso, Colo., in mid-August.
It is a daunting step, but one they’ve been preparing for a long time. Getting acclimated doesn’t have a time schedule and the void left at home will never be filled. It’s a process that has to take place.
“The three biggest things I can think of are: 1. Don’t get discouraged. Everyone you are competing with is there for the same reason you are,” said Mike Arredondo, who made the transition from Desert Vista to New Mexico football last season. “No. 2, remember what got you where you are. No matter what sport it is you put in hundreds of hours of practice and work. Work just as hard or harder now; No. 3, have fun. Meet as many people as you can and have fun. If you can’t relax or have fun in college your schedule will make you miserable.”
While Arredondo speaks from experience, it is hard for in-coming freshmen to fully understand until they step on campus themselves.
Until then they will enjoy their time with family and friends as much as possible.
“I’m definitely nervous but anxious to get up there and get adjusted to everything, meeting the team and getting settled into the environment,” Arendts said. “It’s a big step moving out of state to play at the next level but I feel like I’m more than ready, nervous yes, but ready.”
Kemmer had similar sentiments and was in Iowa this week for a basketball camp before staying there permanently near the end of August.
“I’m here already and when I am back home I see a lot of Iowa Hawkeye and Iowa license plates in Arizona to make me realize how college is getting closer,” she said.
The day it finally happens just might be harder on the parent(s). After being part of just about every decision and daily happenings, they have to hand over their freshman to college coaches and lifestyles.
“As a parent of a 16, 17 or 18 year old you can’t go to sleep unless you know they are home and safe,” Gambo said. “The worry is always going to be there, but you have to let them go. Kaylee made a lot of sacrifices to this point right here.
“At some point, you put your faith in your kid and know you brought her up the right way. It is going to be very hard, but you know it is the next step.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.