SPECIAL FEATURE (July 7, 2020) - Thanks to the generous funds provided by Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) athletics' newest donors – Joshua Robertson and Erica Robertson ('20 BS) – the university's soccer field will feature many new amenities. Erica played on the women's soccer team from 2015-2018, and Joshua is her brother.
This will be the first major renovation to the soccer field since the men's team began its inaugural season in 2007.
Athletic Director Shane Hurley said, "When alumni or family members of alumni give back to the university, it leaves me feeling blessed. As coaches, we harness our hearts, minds and physical energies into helping our student-athletes. When they want to help us after they've left OLLU, it demonstrates their recognition concerning the importance of service as part of OLLU's mission, which all student-athletes partake, as well as their recognition that they can serve by helping those who come after them. As far as the university, it again affirms that we've done the right things for others to support their growth physically, mentally and spiritually. People and positive relationships must come first."
The Robertson's' donation will go toward constructing a fence with windscreens, bleachers that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and a new scoreboard. The fence has been completed (see left), and the entire project is slated to be completed in time for the fall preseason training in August and competition in September.
Erica received the donation request from her cousin, Jose Delgado, who will be a senior on the men's soccer team in 2020. Annually, current players are asked to reach out to alumni and friends of the soccer program to request financial support for the teams. When Erica received the request, she went to her brother and told him, "We need to do this."
The siblings set up a meeting with Hurley (also men's soccer coach) and women's soccer Head Coach Arthur Salazar to discuss the needs of the soccer program and how they could get involved. Field maintenance, bleachers and the scoreboard all needed attention, so this is where the Robertsons are concentrating their donation for the time being. "We would also like to continue helping the program with future projects, as well," Erica said.
Their desire to give back to OLLU stemmed from a terrible accident that Josh suffered.
Jan. 27, 2018, was like any other day for Erica. She was having dinner with her best friend, when she received a phone call from her father, Eric. "Don't freak out," her father told Erica, "but that just made me freak out even more," she said. He told her that her brother, Joshua, had been in an accident. He didn't know how bad it was, but he and Joshua's mother, Alma, were heading out to West Texas right away. Erica immediately set out to join them.
Josh's accident happened in the early hours of Jan. 27, when little to no one is on the road, especially in the back roads he usually took to get to his apartment. As he drove toward home after a long day at work, his car struck an exposed live gas line, and the car blew up instantly. Josh tried to free himself from the seatbelt that was stuck. At some point in his struggle, he was able to call his father to tell him he was in an accident, but that he would be okay. He also remembers a man driving up to his car to help him. Adrian Carrasco pulled Joshua out of his car and saved his life. "Adrian was my angel that night. For him to be there at that moment tells me that there is someone out there looking out for me." Carrasco spent Father's Day with Josh and his family this past June and the two keep in regular touch.
Josh was in rehab for quite a while and, so far, has endured more than 30 surgeries. After his initial treatment in Lubbock, he transferred to the Burn Center at Brook Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio.
Erica is about to turn 23 this August, and her brother is 27 years old. Both grew up as close as any siblings could be, with Josh taking on the role of protector and best friend. Although Josh lived mostly with his father and Erica with her mother growing up, both would see one another often. The two also have a big sister, Melanie Gootman.
Josh attended Sandra Day O'Connor High School in Helotes, Texas, his freshman year, and then transferred to Brandeis for his sophomore through senior years. He then moved on to the University of Texas at San Antonio, where in 2017, he earned his business administration degree with a focus on entrepreneurship.
Josh didn't play much soccer growing up, but Erica began her involvement in soccer at four-years-old. She also attended Brandeis, where she was on the soccer team. By her own admission, she was not that good, but she was fast, and she had good coaches. She certainly didn't think she'd be good enough to play in college, but, during the last week of her senior year, Salazar went to scout someone else on her team. Erica took a chance and introduced herself to him, who asked her to come to campus for a tryout. After that, he offered her a place on the team. It was not expected but certainly welcomed.
"When I first saw Erica play, I thought she had a lot of potential, but I felt her club team wasn't really utilizing her strengths. I liked her work rate and ability to be dangerous in space, but her best attribute was her competitive nature. I knew she would be able to have an impact on the program if she was willing to work for it, and she did," Salazar said.
Erica had a tough first season when she averaged about five minutes a game. "I've always been coachable, but never mentally strong, and I would get upset too easily and give up." In comes Salazar, who always took Erica aside to tell her what she needed to improve on. "He'd tell me I had messed up, it happens, I tried my best, but now let's move on." Little by little, Erica grew tougher, both mentally and physically, and she gives all the credit to Salazar. "He shaped me into the player I was based on what his vision of what he saw in me."
"It means a great deal to me to hear that kind of feedback," Salazar said. "When players come to OLLU, it is my hope that they have the best experience possible. We seek to create a culture that helps encourage players to grow as an athlete and a person. As the coach, I try to give each player my best, and in turn, hope that they will do the same. Erica certainly gave us her best, and I am honored to know that I was able to have a positive impact on her."
Through Erica's first three years on the team, Josh was always in the bleachers cheering her on as much as he could. He worked as a safety captain on the oilfields in West Texas where he worked 14 days straight, and then have 14 days off, so he took advantage of that time to see his little sister play.
Erica sealed her place on OLLU's record books for her talent on offense, and she also excelled in the classroom. "I always knew she was going to be successful, and I am so proud of her," Josh said.
Before that fateful day in late January, Erica was looking forward to her senior year, hoping to finish on top with lots of records broken. When she and her parents arrived in Lubbock, Texas, to see her brother, everything else was wiped away from her mind, and her focus was on her brother.
Throughout the recovery period, Erica contemplated sitting out the spring semester. Her professors advised her to do so, but she knew Josh would want her to stay in school so that she could finish her last season of soccer. "My professors were very understanding, but Arthur was the one who got me through. For a while, I did my schoolwork online, but Arthur communicated with my professors, and he and the team kept in close touch with me."
Once Erica was able to return to school, she would be on campus Monday through Friday, and then head out to be with her brother on the weekend. "Everyone was so supportive, and my teammates had a card for me. They say that OLLU is a big family, and I definitely felt it."
As Josh's health improved, it was time for Erica's senior season to begin in August 2018. "I attended most of her games throughout her three years, even traveling to Kansas for nationals two of those years, so I was determined to make every senior game," Josh said.
"Seeing him there meant a lot. When I would mess up, he knew I would get in my head, so he'd yell at me from the bleachers to keep going. Seeing him and hearing him helped me a lot."
Her last home game on Oct. 28 had to be moved to a different field due to the home field sustaining rain damage. "It was extra special for our family to have the game at UTSA because it was where Josh graduated." The Saints won 1-0 against the University of Houston-Victoria, and Erica led the way with five shots, two on goal. Josh and her family participated in senior ceremonies (see left), where she received a senior soccer collage. Her last season ended at the conference tournament with a 2-1 overtime loss to LSU-Shreveport.
Salazar added, "After all Josh went through, it was so awesome to see him out at the games supporting Erica and the team. His story is truly amazing, and I am grateful to have been able to witness the strength, love and support his family showed through it all."
Erica recently finished her student teaching and completed her Bachelor of Science in education, with a bilingual certification this summer. She plans to walk the stage at commencement scheduled for December 2020.
Aside from the funding for OLLU, Erica and Josh are proudly pursuing a new endeavor – opening an indoor/outdoor soccer facility in San Antonio. She loves kids, but a teaching job will have to wait for now. The new facility will take up much of her time as she plans to feature a wide variety of opportunities for youngsters to play the sport she loves. Once restrictions are lifted in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, construction will begin on a location they will select.
Josh has also broken ground on a new building complex near BAMC, called the Neonormal Community Foundation, that will provide housing for non-military burn victims and their families receiving care at the Army facility. "It will be like a Ronald McDonald House (or Fisher House) that will offer accommodations for those suffering from burn injuries, who have to stay close for rehab and medical procedures."
Life for them both is good. Josh says nothing much has changed; he just looks different. His hands are about 20 percent functional, but future surgeries will help remedy that. His mentality, he says, and his heart and what he stood for are all the same. "I don't let anything limit me now, so I will do anything possible to be able to function normally."
Both Erica and Josh have their own houses in the same neighborhood, while their father, who is retired, lives in Boerne. Their mother continues to work for a construction company, and she lives nearby, as well. Josh enjoys cheering for his favorite team, NFL's New Orleans Saints, and doting on his Weimaraner puppy, Murphy. Erica has fun with her kitten, Leo. Both pets are sources of stress relief and unconditional love.
"We credit OLLU for their undying support and love throughout the entire ordeal," Erica said.
"On game days, Coach Salazar and Erica's teammates would always come to talk to me before and the accident and after the accident," Josh said. "They were always very respectful, and they got Erica through a lot of turmoil. We both have a lot of love for the university, and we felt we needed to give back."
Salazar said, "My focus was on helping Erica and her family during this difficult time. Going to college and having the stress of being a student-athlete is difficult enough, so to have this accident happen just compounded things for Erica. My responsibility to her was to provide support and guidance as best as I could, academically, athletically and emotionally. I am proud of Erica's teammates for being a huge part of her support system as well.
"Erica was always a great representative of the program, and we were here to help in any way possible. If/when she needed to leave and be with family, we would support that decision. Fortunately, at the time, the program was in a situation that we could help her financially, and I felt it was the right thing to do in order to help alleviate some additional stress. I'm just so proud of Erica for working hard through such a difficult experience and graduating," Salazar concluded.
The university is proud of Erica's accomplishments and is grateful for her and her brother's contributions that will undoubtedly be enjoyed by many current and future Saints.