Lucas Rosales will begin his senior season with the La Quinta High School soccer team on Tuesday, sliding into a forward position that has been occupied recently by some of the most decorated players in the Desert Valley League.
He started as an outside midfielder on La Quinta’s 2015 California Interscholastic Federation championship team, and scored a goal in the quarterfinals to help defeat top-seeded Millikan.
Multiple colleges have since made their pitch, and Lucas is poised to become one of the few in the program’s rich history to secure a Division I scholarship offer.
When he steps onto the field, he’s like any other player who hates to lose and will do nearly anything to win.
Every once in a while, though, someone reminds Rosales he’s different – that he’s doing it all with one arm.
“Everybody has challenges in life. Everybody,” he said. “This is one I was given, and I think I’ve dealt with it pretty well.”
Marisela Rosales and her husband Octavio were expecting a smooth delivery on Aug. 24, 1999. They had two or three ultrasounds during the months prior to the birth of their first child, and nothing had suggested anything was amiss.
Then their son, Lucas, was born without the lower part of his left arm due to a rare congenital disorder known as Amniotic band constriction, an entrapment of fetal parts in fibrous amniotic bands while in utero that is typically undetected prior to birth.
It was a revelation that would affect their son throughout his life, yet the couple spent little time asking why.
“At first, of course you research and you want to know why,” Marisela Rosales said. “But at the end of the day, God is in control, God knows what happened and there’s always a reason why things happen.”
Marisela doesn’t remember much of what doctors told her and her husband at the time. She’s chosen not to. She knew the circumstances were beyond her control, and she was more interested in looking toward the future than back at the past.
“We’ve always tried to instill in him that he can do whatever he wants to,” she said. “That’s not something that’s going to prevent him from reaching his goals. And we’ve seen him grow up normally, never making it an issue, never making it an excuse.”
Lucas has taken that message as somewhat of a personal mantra. He doesn’t want to be held to a different standard, and those around his say he never asks for special consideration because of what others perceive to be limitations.
“He’s earned everything he’s gotten,” La Quinta head soccer coach Gary Nadler said. “He works really hard, and that’s why he’s been successful.”
One thing Lucas has worked particularly hard at is playing soccer. He began playing when he was four, and led his club soccer team, La Quinta FC, to a national championship as a 7-year-old, scoring 32 goals in six games.
His dad, a general contractor, built a regulation sized soccer field on the family’s ranch in Thermal, where Lucas would spend hours kicking the ball around with his friends. Before long, the family home housed a room full of soccer trophies.
When he wanted to learn to swim and ride a bike, his dad taught him how. When he asked for a set of golf clubs for Christmas, instead of wondering how he would swing a club, they simply stood back and marveled at how he worked tirelessly to perfect a one-handed swing.
He’s now nearly a scratch player on the course.
“He was a natural,” Octavio Rosales said. “He’s pretty much one of those kids who can do everything that he puts his mind to.”
Not knowing any different, Lucas went about life as though he was the same as anybody else. Some things proved to be more difficult for him, but he’s developed such a quiet confidence in his physical abilities that he came to believe nothing was unachievable if he was willing to work at it.
“He’s been so competitive and successful in a lot of things that the disability thing is non-existent for us in our family,” Octavio Rosales said. “It’s not even something we think about anymore.
“People want to think of him as someone who’s overcome a lot. But I think there’s more to the story than that.”
A close friend once asked why Lucas didn’t talk more about not having a left arm. His explanation was simple:
“I’m not ashamed of it or anything,” he said, “It’s just that I’ve lived with it for so long that it’s not even in the back of my head every day.”
But when he needs to, he can use it for motivation.
Not only because he believes those who do not know him underestimate his abilities, but because he knows if he’s not successful in whatever he does, there will always be that lingering, inevitable excuse that it’s because he’s not exactly like his peers.
That’s not something Lucas Rosales wants in his life.
“He occasionally thinks about that, and it helps him,” Octavio Rosales said. “So, when he goes out there, he really goes for it.
“When he goes out there, he wants to prove something.”
Lucas missed La Quinta’s season opener because he is still with his club team, Soccer Life Academy, and he’ll play with the squad in the Surf Cup this weekend in Los Angeles. It’s a tournament that will showcase some of the best young talent in the United States, Central and South America and Europe.
Those close to him believe he’ll also have a monstrous senior season at La Quinta.
“He’s stronger and faster than he was a year ago,” said Nadler, the La Quinta coach. “And he’s such a smart player that he should make a real impact for us this year.”
Lucas has been in touch with coaches at Redlands, Cal State Fullerton and UNLV, and anticipates hearing from more as the season progresses.
That he’s he’s getting that kind of attention is a testament to the kind of player he’s become, and how hard he’s worked to not be seen as peculiar.
“I think he can play at a high level,” said Jesus Avalos, a Redlands forward who was the CIF Player of the Year in 2015 while at La Quinta. “He has really good dribbling skills, a high IQ, and he can definitely finish. And he’s a lefty, so that makes him a different kind of player.”
Every once in a while, an opposing player or coach will offer a subtle reminder of how different. They’ll approach Lucas after a game and tell him what an inspiration he is. It surprises him because he doesn’t see himself that way.
He’s not sure he ever will.
“I don’t really try to be anything special,” he says. “But if I can affect somebody’s life in a positive way, then that’s cool.
“But I don’t see myself the way some people do.
“I think I’m much more than that.”
Find Desert Sun sports reporter Andrew John on Twitter: @Andrew_L_John or at firstname.lastname@example.org