I can honestly say it was one of the best days of my life. I was eleven years old, and I was invited to suit up with West Ham United Academy in England and play a friendly against Luton Town. All the nerves disappeared as soon as the ball touched my feet and I connected with boys halfway across the world through the common language of soccer. I somehow managed to give two assists that day, and I even scored a goal. The boys chanted “the power of America” as we celebrated together just as you might imagine little boys would do. It was the greatest feeling in the world. Though I had played since I was five, from that day forward I knew I was a footballer. It changed me. I actually believed it. I felt it.
Playing this sport throughout the years has taught me so much about myself. Personally, I’ve learned how to tackle the ups and downs that come along with playing at the highest level in uber competitive Southern California. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I am a stronger person and player because of the challenges along the way. In soccer and life, there are things that you have no control over, but you can always control your attitude and how hard you work. The kind of person you want to be is always in your own control. And if you believe in yourself, no one can take that away from you. Being a strong student is truly as important to me as being a strong player. In college, I know I can balance the rigorous demands of being a student athlete. This balance is all I’ve ever known for as long as I can remember. It is me. It grounds me as a person. What grounds me as a player comes from within: it’s that feeling of having a ball at my feet and connecting with my fellow teammates who share a passion for the same game. It brings me back to that feeling I first had as an eleven year old boy. I can still feel it. I always want to feel it for as long as I play.