Patrick Finley: For mom, dad, 7 kids, soccer is in their blood

2012-12-03T00:00:00Z 2012-12-03T06:55:32Z Patrick Finley: For mom, dad, 7 kids, soccer is in their bloodPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 03, 2012 12:00 am  • 

One year for Christmas, someone gave the Laulusas a decal to put on the back of the family van. It featured nine soccer balls - two large ones representing the parents and seven smaller ones in place of children.

If you've been to Marana High School girls soccer games, you've probably seen the van. There's been a Laulusa on the team since 2002.

This fall, 14-year-old Hannah Laulusa became the fourth-straight sister to make the school's varsity team as a freshman. Allison was a freshman in 2002, followed by Elaine two years later and Haley four years after that.

After Haley graduated this spring, Hannah took over the tradition.

"It was motivation … to be more like them," said Hannah, like her sisters, a center-midfielder. "To do my best and do what they do."

Ladd, the oldest child, helped break a five-year losing streak on the school's boys soccer team before graduating in 2004. Spencer played, too, before graduating in 2011 and going to Mexico City on a Mormon mission.

"That's just what we did as a family," said Allison, 24, who lives in Orem, Utah. "We all enjoyed playing soccer."

When I first heard about the Laulusas, I made the assumption you might be making now - that the kids grew up being drilled in the backyard with German precision.

That their household was a soccer factory.

That their folks were of the genus Loco Parentus and its most dangerous species, High School Soccerentum.

None are true.

Listen to this. It's beautiful.

"Our saying growing up was, 'If you had fun, you won,'" said Elaine, 22, now a nurse in Salt Lake City. "My mom and dad would say, 'Did you have fun? Well, then you won.'"

Each kid started soccer at age 4 or 5, but each played other sports - baseball, softball, tennis, volleyball - and played musical instruments.

"If we weren't having fun, they wanted us to re-evalutate," said Ladd, 26, who's attending BYU. "People that succeed the most at anything in life, it's something they really love. It's a joy for them to do it. Soccer, for us, was a joy.

"We haven't been so engrossed that it's only fun if you win.

"We're not the crazy family that you'll see on the sideline yelling at their kids."

They were all coached, at some point, by their dad Gilbert Laulusa, a Raytheon employee who taught himself the sport in college. Mom Tina grew up with athletics, and admits to being a tad more competitive.

"If we worried about every game," she said, "we'd have ulcers."

The family had a rule - no one went to games alone. On packed weekends, siblings would go watch each other, even if parents were across town at other matches.

"We always had that teammate that didn't have anyone come, that had to get a ride to the game," said Haley, 18, a BYU freshman.

The kids mostly played AYSO soccer. Ardent members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - all the kids have gone to BYU - they refused to play soccer on Sundays. That cost them spots on club teams.

Still, making the team as freshmen "is a testament to how hard they work before they get here," Marana girls coach Dan Tarquin said.

"You can tell they've been raised right," he said. "Their family values - they're just wonderful people."

They never burned out on soccer.

"On Thanksgiving," Hannah said,"we go to the park."

The Laulusa tradition at Marana High continues past Hannah. Sam, the baby brother, is 12 and loves the sport.

But there's no pressure, his mom said, to make the Tigers when he becomes a freshman.

"We try to not make it a big deal," she said, "because it's just soccer."

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