From the Pick-up Games in the park to the Collegiate Competition

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Jair Andrade is a local product.  He hails from the barrio where we lived for the past three years; in fact, his family of seven was a next-door neighbor of ours.  He is the oldest of five brothers.  Nowadays, it’s not easy to get a hold of him because he is very busy attending classes and participating in the men’s soccer program at a nearby two years school, Santa Ana College.

Jair portrait

Life in the barrios of Southern California is not easy for a boy growing up.  The parents usually don’t speak English, so finding a job to pay the sky-high rent is often unsurmountable.  The peer pressure for living on the edge, dismissing the importance of staying in school, and the absence of planning ahead are collectively killing that little flame if any there is for success in a young man’s heart.  But that old mold seemed to be broken in Jair’s case.  He loves the game of soccer so much that he was willing to sacrifice.  Instead of just hanging around and getting in trouble like most of his peers, he remained studious, graduated from high school while playing varsity soccer there also.  And he never turned me down calling him to play with us at the nearby park.

He is an exciting player.  He is very intelligent, technical and fleet footed.  Not big at all, but extremely agile and proactive.  He has a tremendous understanding and reading of the game, and I love watching him compete on the collegiate level nowadays just as much as during his high school years when we played in the park.

Jair in the park

Jair is in his first year attending Santa Ana College, and after graduation he is planning to move on to a four year school studying accounting.  He recalls that the greatest influence in his life is his father, Victor, the head of their loving family.  He is the one who inspires Jair to keep a good head on his shoulders and follow his dreams with perseverance.  Perseverance – a word that is hard to come by, and completely unknown for many of Jair’s peers in the barrio.

His daily schedule is hectic.  Jair is in school during the day followed by soccer training in the afternoon, and completing assignments at night.  Games and projects on the regular basis make this rather monotonous pattern more demanding.

Jair at SAC 1Jair at SAC 2

But he loves it!  To my enquiring for advice for the younger guys he quickly responded: “Find your passion, set your goals, follow through and never forget the reason why you are in it!”

A simple formula I may add and really not a revelation of secrets where Jair is heading.  But in his neighborhood where instant gratification is king, it took recognition and acknowledgement for this age old mold to be broken.  Then planning and dedication had to follow for reaching beyond what is generally expected from most young men around here.  To a big extent, the huge difference I see in Jair’s case is that he is blessed with the encouragement of his loving family with a father at home who is a role model to him.

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