With three little boys who have played soccer, I was so excited to have the opportunity to chat with OKC Energy player, Cordell Cato and his wife, Jonelle Cato, who is also a soccer star! Cordell and Jonelle have two children and have lived in OKC for about a year. The couple was living long-distance before moving here and made their relationship work with lots of video calls!
What was your first impression when you found out you were coming to Oklahoma City?
Cordell: To be fair, it was up in the air. I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of people didn’t do Oklahoma justice; there were a lot of people that asked “Why are you going there?” But it has been good since we’ve been here!
Tell us about your team!
Cordell: The team is better than last year. There are a lot of talented guys on the team this year; they come from a lot of different backgrounds. A lot of us get along well, which is a bit strange to be honest! If you bring a lot of personalities into one environment, sometimes the vibe doesn’t work out that way. But this is a really good team.
Tell us about raising your kids in Oklahoma City!
Jonelle: I think it’s a nice place to raise kids. It’s definitely family-friendly.
Cordell: Last year was a lot of getting to know Oklahoma, but this year was a lot more different parks, and the kids love being outside so it’s nice! In the neighborhood we’re in, a lot of people are walking around (when it’s not 100 degrees) and that is something that’s really top-quality here. I’m really grateful for that.
Where is your kids’ favorite place in OKC?
Jonelle: Chuck E Cheese!
Cordell: Chuck E Cheese is at the top of the list. My daughter points out Main Event every time we pass. We went there once, and I think the other one is Fun Zone. I actually really like that place too.
Why are you proud to represent Oklahoma City?
Cordell: When we go out, we are not just representing the OKC Energy team, but I feel that we’re representing the entire city at once. Oklahoma City welcomes us, so I feel like in a sense I need to do my best and give back to them in that way.
What does a typical day look like for you? Specifically, people want to know what you eat for breakfast (I was totally hoping he would answer Wheaties to this question).
Cordell: This year my breakfast consists of walnuts, blueberries, blackberries, mangoes, dates and bananas. It’s unusual, but that’s what I eat every morning for breakfast.
Our daughter wakes us up in the morning, she’s usually up first. We set them up with breakfast, that’s usually our first duty. I usually have to wake my son up; he’s the lazy one. Now that I’m injured, I get to practice around 11 when it’s just about getting done to kind of get set. We usually eat lunch in the car since it’s about 1:30 and then they come back home and shower, 3:00 is nap time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. 6:00 is dinner and the kids have 7:00-9:00 to watch whatever they want, whether it’s TV, the iPad, whatever. That’s the typical day right now, but it will change when I start back going at the regular time to practice.
What is your proudest soccer moment?
Cordell: The first time I scored for the National team. That was the first game we played in the 2015 Gold Cup against Guatemala.
Do your kids dream of being soccer stars like their parents?
Cordell: We’ve never pushed them to play. My son will play when I’m playing. He’ll kick the ball all the time, or at practice, he will run around and play. He doesn’t want to play for a team yet, but he’s only four. When I ask my daughter, “do you want to go play for a team?” she’s like “yeah”. They’re so close that she kind of mimics what he does, so maybe if it actually happens and he says no, she’ll probably be like “I don’t want to do this”. As they get older, we’ll see how it ends up.
What does a kid who dreams of being a soccer star needs to know?
Jonelle: I think they need to know that it is a long road. They have to be disciplined. They’re going to have those days when you wake up and don’t feel like playing, especially when they’re young. Just to be humble, and not to get too cocky. Also – just practicing for 5 minutes or 10 minutes can improve your game a lot!
Cordell: It is also important to enjoy the journey. When we’re kids, we tend to have fun with everything, no matter what we do. You can be playing with a shoe box as a kid and still have fun. But I think as you grow and get older into those adolescent years, it becomes “Ok I want to be great at this,” and you become obsessed with it and forget to have fun. Then it becomes more difficult. So I would say to keep having fun while you’re trying to become the best.
What advice do you have for parents?
Jonelle: It is so important to speak positivity into them. I make them say positive things about themselves every single day. They have five specific things they say to themselves every day: they are black and they’re beautiful, they are strong, they are capable and they can do anything. I think it’s important to pray with your kids as well.
Cordell: You get so caught up in work, it’s very important, no matter how tired you are, no matter how driven you are, whether for money or a higher position, we tend to look so far ahead that we tend to miss what’s in front of us. Like my wife said, it’s so important to spend that quality time because your kid is only going to be three for one year. All kids want is that time and that affection or for you to have compassion for them. I think that’s important as a parent, and that’s why I try to spend as much time as possible with them.
So there you have it: two award-winning soccer stars that have lives a lot like ours. They have kids that love Chuck E Cheese and waking up early and hate napping. They worry about spending enough time with their kids and stress about building them into amazing little people. Sure, they are more athletic and talented than most of us will ever be, but they wake up and eat their walnuts and fruit just like the rest of us.