20+ Years of Soccer
October 3, 2018
I've decided that this is my last official soccer season. It has been a good 20+ seasons on all sorts of teams.
Early PVSC Years
Kindergarten - 5th Grade
Soccer was the cool sport to be playing as a little kid. Kids on every team wore the same reversible yellow and blue jerseys. It was pure madness at that young age, everyone rushing after the ball. I remember scoring frequently. My little-kid team was on TV once for about 15 seconds which was awesome. I have no idea why the local news would cover 1st grade age soccer, but they did. It was really fun trash talking the other team in my grade at school. The game was close, their team scored an own goal and we won. Of course, the next day at school they explained that "own goals don't count"-whatever. My friend's dad was the coach, and he took Kindergarten age soccer way too seriously, and fired the referee one game. My dad, the assistant coach said it was super embarassing, but I wish I could go back in time and see it happen, it sounds hillarious.
After second grade, we advanced to the "big" fields--with goalkeepers. I thought, "this is it, this is basically pro soccer now", even though the "big field" was still incredibly small. Everyone wanted to be the goalie and we were all terrible at it. Our coach in third grade was a lady who played on Idaho State's team. She made us come watch one of her games so we could see how players "spread out". It was cool to see. Our team name that year was the "Bad Boys", and the coach brought a boombox and played the "Bad Boys Theme" after we would score-it was really embarassing. As the years went on, less people played soccer, most moved over to play football instead. Then "competitive" soccer started.
5th Grade - 10th Grade
We had to try out for "comptetitive" soccer. I remember the tryout, we had to practice with a team of older kids, they seemed like professionals to me. Then we got put on a new team--the Jaguars. I was nervous, it was a totally new group of players. Before, it was mostly kids I knew from school, I didn't know anyone on this new team except my good buddy Michael. Our first practice was during the winter, in a church gymnasium. The team turned out to be great. Everyone was nice, and really good at soccer compared to who played before. We had fancy shiny blue jerseys, the fields were huge, it was 11 vs 11, and the competition was a lot better than before. We played in legit tournaments. I don't remember how it happened, but this is when I really became a defender. As much as I love scoring a goal, I like denying the other team goals too. My family had a college foreign-exchange student from Kenya, Moses, for a few years. He played on Kenya's national team, and was the best player I had ever seen. Sometimes he would come play with us at practice which was super cool!
Not only was our team great, I really lucked out with the Jaguars, as I got the best coach I've ever had--in any sport. Darren was our head coach, a cool guy with a great mullet. Darren worked us decently hard at practice, he was serious enough to have our respect and could motivate all of us with our different personalities. He was fun, sportsmanlike, and very kind. I think all of us on the Jaguars were very lucky to have him as a coach. If I ever coach a team someday, I hope I can be half as good as Darren. After a few years, as we grew older, a more experienced coach joined us--Matt. To me, Matt kind of had a "gangster" personality, like a tough guy who happened to be into soccer. This is crazy of course, as he spent a good amount of time each week coaching us young teenagers-not something your typical tough gangster does, but I didn't think about that at the time. I just knew he made us work really hard. I absolutely hated soccer practice with Matt. The most memorable practice had us running ladders OVER and OVER. If you thought ladders on a basketball court suck, they are even worse on a soccer field. I thought it would never end.
Our Jaguar team had some good rivals. Early on our rivals were the Spiders--the other team our age, and the Blaze, a team a year older. I was always scared to play the Blaze. They were bigger and stronger than us, and liked to slide tackle. Despite this, we often beat them, which made them mad and the games even more intense. We always beat the Spiders, but it was still a good rivalry to play against the other team in town. As the years went on, we ended up with an Idaho Falls rival- Ballistic. They were a strong team and an even match for us. We often met at the end of tournaments and each game was always good. But the absolute best rivalries happened in high school.
High school soccer was amazing for so many reasons. First, the Jaguars players were split between all three high schools in town. Since we would be playing against our Jaguar-teammates and friends, it made us want to win that much more! I loved playing against Century and Highland. I got my first yellow card against Highland hip-checking Zach Anderson, one of my good Jaguar friends. We both thought it was really funny. Century was an even bigger rival, as we had to beat them to go to the state tournament. Their mascot was the Diamondbacks (rattlesnakes), and after one game, one of Century's players found a rattlesnake on the field, and made the poor decision to capture it in a solo-cup...and he got bit. I think he turned out ok, but I thought it was kind of funny that a Diamondback got bit by a diamondback!
I was so scared to try out for high school soccer. Casey Kemmerer, my friend Kelly's older brother played for Poky, and told me how intense high school soccer tryouts were. I believed him and trained like crazy all summer before tryouts started. I would go on runs, jump rope for 10 minutes at a time, it was the most I've ever trained for anything. It turned out to be unnecessary, but I'm glad I was prepared. Soccer started in August, and it was great meeting everyone and making new friends before high school started. It made starting high school a little less scary.
My first two seasons at Poky I got to play center defense, my all time favorite position. I scored a few goals too! Our coach was a really weird guy--George. He was nice, but would go a little mad sometimes and have an insane practice where we would run so much that people would puke. He was very dramatic and tried to motivate us in weird ways. One time before a big game he told us about a dream he had and kept saying "Our March is Now!". That was kind of the slogan for the season--really weird. One time he told us a story about how "The wolf is nothing without the pack, and the pack is nothing without the wolf". Really weird. He always cried when the season ended at dinner. Our Poky High jerseys were pretty unique, they were old-school with big collars. Then we got new white and blue jerseys, and red "PHS" soccer shirts. I stupidly washed them all together and ended up with a pink jersey for a little while. Even though Poky soccer was great, there were some bad times. A broken shoulder blade and concussion really put a damper on two seasons.
High school soccer meant a lot of traveling around Idaho to play games. On the Jaguars we would occasionally go to Idaho Falls or Boise for a tournament, but it was nothing like getting out of class early, getting on a travel bus, and driving a few hours to play a big game. It was a lot of fun traveling as a team, especially when I was a freshman, I thought the older kids were really cool. It was always fun sharing ipods and mp3 players, finding out what music everyone else liked. I think our soccer team was in way better shape than anyone else at school. I remember having to run stairs in weights class, and most of my classmates were football players-it was so easy and they had such a tough time! Our practices really paid off.
I was pretty psyched to be done with high school soccer for one big reason. No more soccer practice! Then, the first week of school, some guy on my floor was asking if people wanted to be on a soccer team. Of course I did. The guy organizing the team was Taylor Townsend, a good player from Washington. Our floor's team was fun, we had an intramural sport almost every night of the week that first sememster, which was awesome, and soccer was one of my favorites. Even though we just played intramurals, the University of Idaho had a lot of great players, and almost every game was a good challenge. I got to know Taylor more throughout college and he introduced me to pro soccer. We'd watch the Portland Timbers play at his apartment, they were a great first team to root for, especially since most of northern Idaho likes the Timbers's rivals--the Seattle Sounders.
I got to be on some fun intramural teams in college. My favorite team names were: Dyslexia Untied, Oceanic Flight 815, and The Abusement Park. One of my good friends was a big ice hockey fan and he played indoor soccer with us sometimes. Indoor soccer in Moscow is played in a hockey rink, and at his first game we explained that it was a lot like soccer and hockey combined. He comes into the game and IMMEDIATELY checks an opponent player into the wall. It was SO FUNNY, I still laugh thinking about it. It almost caused a fight, and we should have told him no checking, but it was so hillarious. The best college games were against my brother's teams. We would meet in the playoffs, and as the older brother, my team had to win. We would guard Ryan like crazy, as he was the big threat on his team. Thankfully Taylor usually carried us past them. The last couple years I got to play on Ryan's teams too, and while neither of us is a soccer superstar, when we are out there together we would dominate. We are both fast and have good ball movement together. I pity anyone who tried to guard us in college.
2013 - 2018
After graduating, I thought that was it for playing soccer. I got moved to Salt Lake City for work, and got to go root for the Timbers when they would come to play Real Salt Lake. I bought a Timbers jersey for the occasion, and realized how great wearing soccer jerseys was! They are so comfortable and don't shrink! One night me and Emily Cundick decided to get Benihanas. We were the only ones in the whole restaurant, and I was wearing the Timbers jersey. Our Benihana chef, Luis, asked if I played, and I said of course, and he invited me to play with his team. I had no idea what to expect but I was excited. I showed up and found out it was a Mexican league. Our team was called Grand Prix. Even though I was the only person on the team who didn't speak Spanish, it was still a lot of fun. The rest of the year I went to a few more RSL games and became an RSL fan too. Then I got moved to Louisiana.
Even though Louisiana was great, I had to come back to Salt Lake--I missed it. As soon as I moved back, I was walking downtown and ran into another Benihana chef, Ramon, who recognized me from Grand Prix, and invited me to come out and play again. I have been playing for Grand Prix ever since. We get a rad jersey every season. I'm one of the older guys on the team now, and I'm starting to feel it as I don't heal as quickly as I used to.
In 2015, my family took a trip to Europe and we managed to get tickets to a PSG game. It was so much fun seeing a team of superstars play, and I've been a fan ever since. I love watching PSG in the champions league, it is always a big event at my apartment. It has been a great 20+ years of soccer.
My Ultimate Teammate Roster
This is my ultimate soccer team lineup of players I've played with over the years. These guys are all really good, and I'm glad I got to play with each of them. The rule in this game is ONLY people I've played with on a real team, no pros, otherwise Marco Verrati and David Luiz would be on the list.
- Bert - Fast, tall, and great ball handler. Always gets swarmed by the other team when they realize how good he is. My first choice to take a free kick.
- Taylor T - All around soccer star. Like a velociraptor, he is fast, and also smart like a raptor. You can always tell he is thinking how he will beat you next.
- D Raz - The white Mexican, has good handles and has always impressed me, even as a lowly freshman on a team of seniors
- Brendan J - Real Salt Lake's best fan, Brendan seems born to be a team captain, and a competent soccer player with excellent field vision
- Michael G - One of my best friends growing up and a strong athlete. Makes good decisions every time he gets the ball, and I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have in front of me as a defender.
- Jody - An intramural teammate in college, Jody is quick and good at everything
- Chips - Grand Prix teammate and excellent defender
- Marco - Not sure if his name is actually Marco or Marcos, but who cares, he is an awesome player and I couldn't ask for a better teammate. Bert probably learned it all from him.
- Myself - Obviously I'm on my own team, and I call dibs on center defense.
- Caesar - One of the strongest defenders I've ever played with, he is fast, strong, and nothing gets past him
- Jose - The only logical choice. Good goalie and a fun teammate.
- Tony R - A thorn in my side when playing against him, he is a great ball handler and it is a huge relief to play with him instead of against him
- Young Brandon - Supposed RSL academy prospect, this young man blew me away with his raw talent. He plays any position well and I'm glad I got to play with him before he goes pro one day
- Greg T - I think this guy is actually a Terminator, I've never met a player so tough. Great defender
- Byron E - A natural leader and strong defender, he was a great role model for the young players on my high school team, and I think he is coaching Poky now.
- Ito - Another good goalie and fun teammate
- Kevin - Kevin looks like Zlatan and is a quick, aggressive player with great field awareness
- Ryan B - Might seem odd to pick my brother, but we are a quick duo together, and he can rise to the occasion and carry a team.
This team would be so awesome, every one of them is a skilled player, and more importantly, they are a kind and sportsmanlike group which is my favorite kind of teammate.