Shelby soccer star battles the odds to sign full-ride scholarship.

June 17, 2022

Shelby soccer star battles the odds to sign full-ride scholarship.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press. 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

SHELBY — A few years ago, Ricardo Bahena was living in Mexico where he played soccer in the streets and didn’t speak English.

After moving to the US and settling in Shelby, Bahena quickly overcame his obstacles and became a soccer sensation for the Tigers.

The forward/striker recently signed a full-ride scholarship to play the sport he loves for Berea College in Kentucky.

“Just a few years ago, ‘Rica’ was not even thinking of attending college for the thought that his soccer and academic skills were ‘not good enough’ for college,” said Shelby Boys Varsity Soccer Coach Jairo Coronado. “Now, he has signed to attend a college with a 33 percent acceptance rate and play soccer on a full-ride scholarship — over $200,000 worth — that will cover his college education for up to five years. 

“I never played on an organized team,” said Bahena during an OCP interview last fall. “I was playing soccer in the streets.” 

– Contributed photo

“At first it was tough for me, I didn’t know a lot of English. I think I learned from them by playing soccer with them,” he said of his Tiger teammates. “If we want to do something, we have to play like a family.”

Bahena credits his coach and teammates for helping him acclimate from informal play to an organized sport. “To win games, we have to have good communication with all of our teammates.

“My coach said, ‘You’re fast, you have talent, but there are a lot of things you need to work on.’ And there are still things I need to work on, but Coach keeps helping me a lot.” Coronado is like a father to him, he said. 

“Ricardo is a great student-athlete,” said Coronado. “He works hard on and off the soccer field. He’s a very good offensive player. He plays forward or wing, but can play anywhere on offense. He reads the plays and opponents very well and knows when to finish the ball and when to pass it to an open player. 

“His dedication and hard work ethic was recognized as he earned the All District Award in 2020 — when the Shelby Tigers won their first district title after 15 years,” said Coach Coronado. “In the 2021-2022 season, Ricardo was a driving force behind our undefeated conference championship. He earned All Conference, All District, All Region and All State honors. Additionally, he also received the All State Academic award and was named West Michigan Conference Soccer Player of the Year. He also recently graduated from Shelby High School with academic honors.”

The soccer sensation tallied 17 goals and 10 assists this season with a pass completion of 91 percent.

“This is a vivid example to show the younger generations of student-athletes that working hard pays off,” said Coach Coronado.

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