Tony Scalercio, Valencia High girls' soccer coach, had been out on the field coaching all day. He returned to his hotel room in San Bernardino too tired to go out for dinner.
Scalercio picked up the room service menu and walked over to the phone to place an order. Before he could dial, the phone rang. It was the front desk with an urgent message from his wife. Scalercio's life was to change forever.
His daughter, 12-year-old Kierra Scalercio, had been diagnosed with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, a life-threatening disease caused by low blood platelets.
Kierra, an avid club soccer player, was forced to quit. Any trauma inflicted on her body would result in bleeding that couldn't be stopped.
"When I received the phone call that my daughter was at Childrens Hospital my heart sank to my stomach," he said.
That was almost two years ago, and the ordeal has made Scalercio a different coach. Although he has been around soccer his whole life, his most valuable lessons were not learned from his peers or from former coaches. They were taught to him by his daughter.
The strength and courage his daughter showed fighting ITP has given Scalercio a new-found love for coaching. He not only coaches soccer but teaches his players about life, how to overcome obstacles and that even the toughest challenge can be conquered with a little inspiration.
"Life is too short to be mediocre," said 34-year old Scalercio, who played professional soccer for the San Diego Sockers in the Major Indoor Soccer League and coaches at Cal State Northridge. "Watching my daughter's strength and courage and never complaining has inspired me to motivate my players to make the most out of their talents."
Through the course of learning from his daughter's courage, Scalercio has developed a rare talent to encourage his players to over-achieve.
Traditionally, the premier soccer players from the Santa Clarita Valley have enrolled at Canyon or Hart, leaving Valencia with only a few top club players.
Scalercio isn't deterred.
He's funneled the motivation taken from his daughter and translated it into a positive formula he brings onto the field. The results have been encouraging. Over the last few years, Scalercio has learned to turn ordinary players into an extraordinary team.
"Tony is a true professional, but he's always known kids have a lot going on in their lives," said Steve Sampson, former men's U.S. National team coach. "He communicates to them, he cares about their schooling, personal lives, their family and growth as individuals. Players want to play for the man more than if he just cared about soccer."
Scalercio's gift in pushing his players is reflected in the level of play at Valencia. Last year's Times' coach of the year has guided the Vikings to the playoffs the last two seasons and recorded the school's first victories over Hart and Canyon.
"I've been fortunate enough to win many championships, however my biggest victory was watching my daughter overcome her challenges," said Scalercio, who has a 35-10-9 record in three years at Valencia.
The Vikings are 5-0 this season.
"With Tony we've beaten a lot of teams we've never beaten before," said senior Michelle Bontempi. "He always has faith in us. He never doubts us. He makes you do the best you can."
As bright as Valencia's future looks, Kierra's is too. Through numerous visits to Childrens Hospital and a successful surgery in October, she is healthy and will return to the soccer field this week.
"Every day when my dad drives me to school he tells me that I'm the best and that he loves me, and it makes me want to try harder," said Kierra, now 13.
"I can't wait to play soccer again. I'm very excited."