The story behind "The Checkers"

Shortly after I arrived in LA as a young kid, I end up on a team that I think was called the Diamond Bar Renegades (I might be wrong on the name, but that sounds about right). I don’t remember exactly because that team was short lived. The team was rebranded (or at least the name was changed) and we were reborn as the Diamond Bar Warriors. Even though the name changed, the results didn’t. We just weren’t very good.

We were not a good team. There is no way around that. And we had a coach who literally had no interest in us or the sport. One day, one of the dads named Abby was at this junior college called Mt. Sac for one reason or another. Maybe because we practiced there? I don’t remember. Anyway, one day Abby meets a guy who had just moved to the States from Italy. His name is Gennaro. Gennaro was at Mt. Sac taking ESL classes. Gennaro’s English was, let’s just say, real limited. But Abby finds out that Gennaro had played in Serie B and Serie C in Italy and knew soccer. Somehow he and Abby come to an agreement that Gennaro would become the coach of the hapless Diamond Bar Warriors.

So all of a sudden, this rag tag group of kids has a recently retired ex Italian pro as our coach. We couldn’t really understand him. He couldn’t really understand us. His wife would play the role of translator from time to time. But that didn’t really matter. We all seemed to just get each other. Things clicked.

 At the time Gennaro takes over as coach, we were languishing somewhere near the bottom of the silver division.

 All of a sudden things started to be very different for us. We spent training sessions doing almost nothing other than working on our technique. Session after session was just technique. And our new found technical prowess began to pay off. We began winning games. We began to really enjoy ourselves. We kept getting better. And the results kept improving.

I remember Gennaro demonstrating the technique drills and how he wanted us to do them. His game was legit. He was such a good player and I think all of us wanted to emulate that.

Anyway, so now we are winning games. We start winning tournaments. We’re attracting new players. We get promoted to the gold division.

The Warriors are making moves.

 And as any great story like this would go, within a couple of years, we won State Cup.

 This was the first real team I ever was a part of. And we wore these Umbro shorts that had a subtle and tonal checker print. If you played soccer in the United States somewhere over the last 25 years, you probably wore these shorts too. They might just be the most iconic pattern of any soccer related product of all time.

And that checker board pattern is the inspiration for this shirt. Not only is it an incredible pattern that most of us can identify with, but it represents a specific moment in my life and a team that helped influence my love for the sport.