Photo by Elizabeth Dranitzke

Luis Granados

Luis Granados began volunteering with Sports on the Hill in 1994 when his son was six years old. 

He was one of four men awarded the Capitol Hill Community Foundation's Spark Award in 2016. Among other tasks, his contributions through the years have included serving on an adjudication committee that deals with persons who abuse referees performing their duties.

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Interview Date
March 1, 2016
Stephanie Deutsch
Betsy Barnett
Elizabeth Lewis

Full Directory

[In 2016, the Capitol Hill Community Foundation initiated the Steve Cymrot Spark Award as part of the annual Community Achievement Awards. Group recipients were (from left in the photo): Larry Kaufer, Greg Frane, Patrick Coyne, and Luis Granados. Each was interviewed separately.]


DEUTSCH: This is Stephanie Deutsch. I’m with Luis Granados on March 1, 2016. Luis, why don’t you start off—just tell me where you grew up.

GRANADOS: I was actually born here in the city and grew up in Takoma Park, not too far outside. And, then, I was gone for a couple of years but moved back into the city in ’89 and have been here since then.

DEUTSCH: You said “gone for a couple of years.” College? Elsewhere?
GRANADOS: College and then Baltimore for a while. I liked Baltimore. And then Columbia, Maryland.

But, I like it here the best.
DEUTSCH: [Laughs] Where’d you go to college?
GRANADOS: At Brown ...
DEUTSCH: Oh, me, too.
GRANADOS: ... in Rhode Island.
DEUTSCH: Me, too. What year did you graduate?
GRANADOS: I graduated from Brown in ’78.
DEUTSCH: Oh. [Laughs] Okay. Sports. Did you do sports as a child?

GRANADOS: I loved sports and I was a terrible athlete [Interviewer laughs] and I was always the last one picked. But I thought I had a great curve ball because I could never hit the thing that I was throwing at. But it turned out that really wasn’t the case.

DEUTSCH: So, you liked baseball.
GRANADOS: Yeah. Baseball. I really wasn’t big enough to do any football, so it was mostly baseball.DEUTSCH: Uh-huh.

GRANADOS: In high school, I did wind up playing soccer because there were the fewest people signed up for that and at the time it was a winter sport. So, we were out there in the mud in January.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Luis Granados Interview, March 1, 2016

DEUTSCH: Sounds awful.
GRANADOS: That’s how I was able to—I didn’t make the team the first year but the second year I was

able to make the team.
DEUTSCH: So, you played soccer as a high schooler?GRANADOS: Yes. And, again, very, very poorly.DEUTSCH: [Laughs] And, so, college?

GRANADOS: No. No sports in college, not much after that, although I was a big fan. Baseball and football primarily, not really that much of a soccer fan. And, then, I guess what happened was, in 1994, after I had come back to the Hill, we adopted a little boy, a six year old. And, just a couple of months after we got back, they announced they were restarting the national soccer league, MLS [Major League Soccer], and they were going to play games right down the street.

DEUTSCH: At RFK [Robert F. Kennedy Stadium].GRANADOS: At RFK.
DEUTSCH: Where did you go to adopt him?GRANADOS: To Hungary.


GRANADOS: He was six. And, actually, one of the very first things we did when we get back, I saw McDonald’s had a little brochure about some four versus four soccer tournament they were putting on. So, I went out and ...

DEUTSCH: What year was this?

GRANADOS: This was ’94. We came back in spring of ’94. And, so, I went out and [through] people I worked with and others, was able to round up a group of four kids and so we entered the tournament, not realizing that all the groups we were playing against were organized teams. [Both laugh] So, none of those games were close. But, yeah, my son really liked playing on the team. And, so, in the fall of ’94 ...

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Luis Granados Interview, March 1, 2016

DEUTSCH: Had he played soccer before? I mean, did he know soccer?

GRANADOS: No. He was in a foster home in Hungary in a little tiny town and they really didn’t ... He knew what it was, but they didn’t have anything organized there at all. And his family wouldn’t have been able to do it even if they had. So, in the fall of ’94, I didn’t know about Soccer on the Hill, so we signed him up for Stoddert [DC Stoddert Soccer] and drove him there three times a week, which was awful.


GRANADOS: And I started out just sort of chasing the loose balls. But, then, because I was there all the time, I sort of became an assistant coach on that team. [Interviewer laughs] And, then, in the spring learned about Soccer on the Hill and that seems a whole lot better. And, in order to make sure he got in, I checked off the little box and said, “Yeah, I’ll coach.” [Interviewer laughs] And, so, they created an expansion team for us in the spring because they had a bunch of new registrants. And, again, these were all the totally new kids against the well-organized groups. And our closest game was a three to nothing loss. [Interviewer laughs] All the others were really bad. But, at the end of the season, I just thought back and said “Boy, that’s one of the best things I ever did.” And, so, I stayed with it and we got a little bit better the next year.

DEUTSCH: And did your son stay with soccer?
GRANADOS: He stayed with it—he would have been seven at that time.DEUTSCH: What’s his name?

GRANADOS: The name is Beci, B-E-C-I, which is the nickname for Bela. And he stayed with it ‘til he was about 12. And there was a little bit of a crisis then, because I was more interested in it than he was. And, so, coaching that first team that didn’t have him on it felt weird. But, I got over it and kept going. [Interviewer laughs]

DEUTSCH: And, so, he went on to ... ?

GRANADOS: He played some—he doesn’t really care that much about sports. He did play soccer in high school, but at the school he was at—it’s the New School out in Fairfax—sports was not a big deal there. They were sort of glorified pick-up games. So, he did play soccer. They didn’t even bother with having 11 on a side. Just, whoever shows up, you know, we’ll ...

DEUTSCH: It was just more for fun.
GRANADOS: ... put you out on the field. And, he also played Ultimate Frisbee there.

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DEUTSCH: Mm-hmm.

GRANADOS: Which is a really good game.


GRANADOS: But I stayed with the soccer and somehow got roped into ... Oh, they said they wanted me to be vice president. Well, that sounded easy.

DEUTSCH: Much better than being president.

GRANADOS: Yeah. But, I then later learned that, well, of course, there is a rotation here.

DEUTSCH: Oh, dear. [Both laugh]

GRANADOS: So, in a year, you get to rotate up. And, so, that’s how I became president.

DEUTSCH: And, so, when were you president?

GRANADOS: Aah–I’m not certain of the years. I’m really not.

DEUTSCH: That’s okay.

GRANADOS: I tried to think about that. I think I was president about four or five years. But, it’s all so ...

DEUTSCH: It all blends together.

GRANADOS: It blends together and it’s informal and the titles don’t matter all that much. There’s a little gang of us who do what has to be done. And, we were short on referees, so I went and took a referee course. And, then, I got a call once from the VYSA, the Virginia Youth Soccer Association, that said they have an adjudication committee that handles cases. Mostly cases of referee abuse or allegations of referee abuse.

DEUTSCH: That the referee has made unfair calls?
GRANADOS: No, the opposite. That the coach or a player threatened the referee, or sometimes even

worse. And they need to protect their referees.DEUTSCH: Of course.

GRANADOS: So, I signed up for that. And, as it turned out, what they really wanted ... They thought I was a ... My name is Granados so they figured I was a minority, which ...

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Luis Granados Interview, March 1, 2016

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DEUTSCH: Right. “We need some of them.”

GRANADOS: “We need some of them.” Depending on how you look at it, maybe I am. But I don’t really ... I’m a quarter Spanish from Spain, so I’m not sure that really counts. But, I signed up for that anyway and I was on that for a long time. I think I started that in ’99 and I just finally got off this year. And some of the cases were ...

DEUTSCH: So, they were like hearings?GRANADOS: Yeah, very formal hearings.DEUTSCH: How interesting.

GRANADOS: And serious penalties because [for] some of the people—this is the coaches—this is their livelihood. They’ll coach two or three teams, travel teams, and get paid decent wages for it. Probably not great wages, but something.


GRANADOS: And, when we say, you know, he really shouldn’t have shoved that referee, so ...

DEUTSCH: It’s significant.

GRANADOS: ... he’s going to be doing something else for six months. That’s serious.

DEUTSCH: Yeah. And I guess—it’s interesting because we always think about how sports develop the best in people, but it does also sometimes bring out that negative, highly competitive, over competitive ...

GRANADOS: Absolutely. And refereeing—I’ve done a lot of refereeing and it really isn’t very much fun. And it’s even less fun when you have to put up with people threatening you and swearing at you and sometimes even going further than that. So, in order to keep people refereeing, you have to have this kind of enforcement thing, which is they feel that they’ve got somebody behind them.

DEUTSCH: And who runs that?

GRANADOS: In the soccer world, D.C. is considered part of Virginia. I’m not quite sure why that is, but it is. So, the Virginia state soccer association runs that board. And our rulings, there’s a reciprocity. So, when we say somebody’s banned for X number of time, he’s banned. He can’t go anywhere else, at least in the United States.

DEUTSCH: Wow. Interesting. So, do you still do that? Or, you’re done with that?

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Luis Granados Interview, March 1, 2016

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Luis Granados Interview, March 1, 2016

GRANADOS: No. No. I have no car and—I actually rented a car a couple of times to go out to their meetings, because their meetings aren’t really close. But I finally gave that up.

DEUTSCH: Yep. So, now you’re ...
GRANADOS: Now I’m still coaching. I coach the Under-10s. That’s the age group that I like the best. I

did the older for a while, but I like the Under-10s better.

DEUTSCH: So, at Under-10, are the teams co-ed?

GRANADOS: No. They’re not technically co-ed. We have both a boys and a girls division. The rule is any girl that wants to can play with the boys. And some of my favorite players over the years have been the girls. But right now I don’t have ...

DEUTSCH: Especially the kind of girl who would choose to play with the boys.

GRANADOS: Yes, yes.

DEUTSCH: But, now you don’t have—now you’re boys.

GRANADOS: No, my team right now doesn’t have any. I was trying to lean on one little girl to join us, but I don’t think she wants to do it.

DEUTSCH: And, so, do you meet often with the other fellows, Patrick and Greg and ... or do you talk often?

GRANADOS: Yeah, we talk a lot. In fact, there’s a registration deadline this afternoon and I’m missing a couple of teams. So Greg better get me the information so I can ... One of my hats is ... With older players, players above 12, we don’t have enough here on the Hill to have a league. But we do have enough to have a team in each age group. So our team is entered in something called the Suburban Friendship League, which is a bunch of clubs from northern Virginia who are all in exactly the same boat. And it also gives our guys a chance to play against people they don’t know every week. And it’s not technically travel soccer, but there’s a lot of driving involved.

DEUTSCH: There is travel involved.
GRANADOS: And a more formal registration thing. You really have to have signed up carefully and ...

So I’ve been running all that for Soccer on the Hill for a very long time now, like, 15 years, I think.DEUTSCH: So, that means dealing with all the paperwork?

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Luis Granados Interview, March 1, 2016

GRANADOS: Lots and lots of paperwork, yes. And today is the deadline for telling them what teams you’re going to have in the spring.

DEUTSCH: Mm. So, you have to go work on that. [Laughs]
DEUTSCH: What do you do professionally?
GRANADOS: Now, I’m retired. I was a lawyer. I worked downtown at a big firm.DEUTSCH: Did you specialize in some particular area?

GRANADOS: Yeah, I worked with employee-owned companies, employee buyouts of their businesses, which I enjoyed.

DEUTSCH: But now you can indulge yourself in soccer full time.
GRANADOS: Soccer and also I write. I both write, and then I got involved with an organization and I

help them publish books.DEUTSCH: What do you write?

GRANADOS: Well, it’s the American Humanist Association and it’s sort of an anti-religion group, been around for a long time. And, so, our books are all humanist oriented. Separation of church and state, things like that.

DEUTSCH: And what’s the publishing, I mean ...

GRANADOS: It’s called Humanist Press.

DEUTSCH: And is it an actual—so, it’s a publishing house?

GRANADOS: Yeah. We put out books, e-books, printed books. We sell as many as we can. I wish it were more.

DEUTSCH: You’re probably excited that there’s a new bookstore coming to the Hill. Did you know that?


DEUTSCH: There’s going to be an independent book store in the little shopping area—you know where Labyrinth toys is?

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DEUTSCH: It’s in that little .... Yeah.

GRANADOS: Oh, excellent. Okay. Yeah, independents, for some reason, are actually making a comeback. Because we all thought that Amazon was just going to swamp everything, but at least in the last couple of years, independents have been doing better.

DEUTSCH: Yeah, yeah. Anything else I should know?
GRANADOS: My mantra is I like the coaching the best. I’d get rid of all the other crap in a heartbeat

except if I did that then I’m not sure I’d be able to coach.DEUTSCH: Right.

GRANADOS: And I try to teach three things. I want you to play hard, I want you to play smart, and I want you to be good sports. And I think, if you learn how to do those three things, you can do pretty well in life.

DEUTSCH: Not just on the soccer field.
GRANADOS: Not just on the soccer field. I want them to try to win. If you don’t win, it’s all right. If

you do win because we beat somebody easy and you just lazed through it, it’s not all right.DEUTSCH: Yeah, yeah. Try to win, but if you don’t win, it’s okay.

GRANADOS: Mm-hmm. But, try to win. If I see you out there not running, I’m really loud! [Interviewer laughs]