A unique combination of sports and technology, drone soccer is spreading throughout Long Beach schools and the world. Recently, Cabrillo High School on the Westside won a national championship in the burgeoning sport.

Drone soccer is played in a 5v5 structure with a robotic drone striker and forward on offense, and a center, sweeper and keeper on defense. In one match, there are three three-minute sets where the teams attempt to score goals by flying their striker forward through their opponents’ goal.

Cabrillo‘s team, the Flying Jags, advanced to the national tournament on a string of luck before sweeping the competition at the U.S. Drone Soccer National Championship in May.

The team is made up of six students: team captain Giovanni Tuon, Andres Ibarra, Valerie Soto, Stephanie Salgado, Nathan Warren and Jesus Zavala. Marco Flores and Kenneth Fisher, both teachers at Cabrillo, oversee the Flying Jags and helped lead them to a national title this year.

“We heard from Sato Academy that there was this great opportunity for kids to start learning about drones and all the aeronautical skills about them,” Flores said. “It kind of started off like, ‘Let’s just play for fun,’ and, I mean, we still have fun.”

Drone soccer is growing, allowing kids the opportunity to learn new skills and be on a team.

“The whole team aspect, I’ve never really been a part of because I’ve never been on a team before,” Soto said. “It’s just exhilarating in a way, just being around so many amazing people and being able to do some amazing things with them.”

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Last year, the Flying Jags lost to Sato on a few different occasions, one even being at a tournament Cabrillo hosted. This year, they were determined to show improvement.

“What’s been allowing us to get better is having all these new people join and having our team members be the teachers and mentors,” Flores said. “That’s where most of the learning and development happens.”

After the possibility to go to nationals opened up, Cabrillo took practicing to a whole new level, Fisher said.

“I’ve never, in my 26 years of being here at Cabrillo High School, seen such a small group of kids literally giving everything they have to make sure that they improve,” Fisher said. “I can’t express how proud we are of this team and what they’ve been able to accomplish.”

The Flying Jags have only been flying for a year but said their team’s key to success was consistency and communication. Ibarra said during competitions, the team would put their heads together to figure out what they could do to beat the team in front of them.

“It’s what really carried us with momentum to beat more and more teams each time, because we just kept learning more and more with every team that we faced,” Ibarra said.

The Flying Jags used this communication to sweep the tournament and claim the national title.

“I think the entire team feels a sense of pride,” Soto said. “We’re this small school in Long Beach, you know, you never really think about how big of an impact you can truly have. I don’t think it’s truly seeped in how important this really is.”

Cabrillo will be representing the United States in July when they travel to Hong Kong for an international tournament.

“It’s not often you hear a Title I school that has students going across the world to compete,” Flores said. “Hopefully this puts a new perspective to Cabrillo High School.”

Flores said Cabrillo will be hosting a summer camp this year for interested LBUSD middle schoolers to come and learn about the drones and this growing sport from the national champions.