Local residents Kevin and Maria Pule have enough children to form a family soccer team. For non-soccer types, that’s 11 kids.
There isn’t actually a family Pule team, but there are three Pules currently playing for the Orcutt Crusaders: 10-year-old twins Analea (pictured right) and Malia (left), and 9-year-old sister Leila (center). Analea plays goalie, Malia plays defender, and Leila plays forward.
“[They’re] really sweet girls, but terrors on the field,” Allan Hancock College physical education instructor Paul LaSage said when he nominated the Pules for the Sun’s Athlete of the Week feature.
Soccer is the Pule family pastime. It started with older sister Marissa, now 20, who played soccer in high school. The younger Pules grew up watching their big sister play, and jumped at the chance to get on the field themselves.
“I’ve done it with all of them—rec soccer, all-stars, club, travel club, and high school,” Kevin said.
The father of 11 has become a professional soccer dad of sorts, telling the other parents, “‘I’ve been through all of this already.’ As long as parents don’t think that their kid is the best player, it’s OK, because they can’t do it all by themselves. It takes a team.”
So what makes his kids good team players?
“I think it’s the way I was brought up and how I brought them up,” he said. “I’ve always told them, ‘I can’t afford to buy your way onto the team. You have to prove that you have the ability to do it.’”
Last year was the first year Kevin got to coach his daughters’ team, which took league cup in the Orcutt United Soccer League.
“It’s all just what they put into it; they just need to focus,” Kevin said of his players’ abilities. He described a coaching style that is stern but effective. He strives not to give his daughters special treatment.
He said he tells the other parents, “I probably make my kids cry more than yours.”
Analea, who played goalie for the team, shared some of her defense secrets with the Sun: “Sometimes if I can’t catch [the ball], I’ll punch it out of the goal box,” she said.