By Matt Schwab
Las Positas Athletics
Las Positas women's soccer coach Andy Cumbo describes sophomore center midfielder Paola Barron as a soft-spoken leader by example.
"She's also tough as nails," he assures.
Factor in a deft touch as a vital connecting link between the Las Positas back line and the attack, and, well, Barron's an invaluable asset for the program.
"She's a great teammate, very coachable and fun to work with," Cumbo said of Barron. "She's made a ton of progress since we started working together and it's a result of her focus and dedication."
Barron, an Oakland resident and native of Mexico who came to the United States when she was 6 months old, plans to continue playing soccer at a CSU program and major in social work. She is on track to earn her degree at Las Positas this school year. She plans to give back to her community as a social worker.
"Growing up in Oakland, I've seen a lot of things," she says. "I live in the Fruitvale District, so growing up there with a community of Latinos and African Americans, I feel like another social worker in that area would be super helpful to a lot of people."
The Hawks (2-4-1) are preparing for conference play combatting a tough schedule. Three of the team's four defeats have been by one goal. Barron believes the team's record does not reflect its level of play or how hard they've been working. "I think everyone's doing great," she says.
Barron graduated from American Indian Model School, a small high school near Lake Merritt, and has played club soccer for East Bay United since the age of 12. She planned to transfer to City College of San Francisco for personal reasons after last season, but Cumbo convinced her to stay. It's clear that player and coach agree she made the right call.
"I was going to transfer to San Francisco, but knowing that coach Cumbo was going to come in and take over the soccer team, that was just like a whole lot of support he was giving me and convinced me to stay at 'Las Po,'" she says. "Now I'm definitely going to graduate this year because my plan was to be graduating in three years. It's come down to two years."
Cumbo recalls asking her to stay and give it a chance. The team clearly benefits with her on field.
"She makes our team stronger and she'll continue to make even more of an impact as the season progresses," Cumbo says. "Paola makes a lot of personal sacrifices each day to be a student at Las Positas College and she makes our campus a better place. "
Of her playing style, Barron agrees that she leads more by actions than words.
"On the field I guess I could be supportive, but I'm not the type of person to scream out, but off the field I will able to talk to my teammates about stuff, about how they did, give them feedback, obviously good feedback because what we want is positivity," she says.
Moreover, Barron has observed that both the men's and women's teams are making progress in terms of team bonding. There's always a lot of harmony and growth, personally and collectively, in Cumbo's programs.
"From what I can see, he's done an amazing job with both teams," she says. "At least with our team we're not getting results, but we're getting way better than we used to be. These group of women we're connecting so much not only on the field but off the field. I feel like both teams have done the same thing. He was working with the boys last year, but they've always seemed like a family and they always worked well together."
Of course, with the women's team Barron keeps things connected with skill and force of will. She gives the Hawks lift.