Fer Play - A Cal Men's Soccer Blog
Oct. 28, 2021
Dear Golden Bear fans,
Welcome back to this season's fourth entry! Since the last time I wrote to you all a bit shy of two weeks ago, quite a bit has changed within our team. Not only have we finally gotten over the horrible hump that was our losing streak, but we've also proven to ourselves that we have what it takes to end this season on a high note.
To me, this all has a bit of a déjà vu feeling to it. We were in a very similar situation not too long ago back in this year's spring season. Back then we had gone over 300 days without practicing or playing together as a team & had started our season at 0-3 after having played three of the nation's top ten teams in our opening games (plus the fact that we didn't have preseason nor nonconference games before our Pac-12 spring season started while our opponents had played multiple games & had been practicing together as a team during the fall of 2020 … but that's a whole other issue). To make the long story short: we were in a similar position as we were a few weeks ago – we weren't winning, struggled to score, & couldn't keep a clean sheet.
The hard loss we took at Corvallis in that third game in the spring had the exact same result as the last game we've lost this season: 4-0, 0-4. It was tough, to say the least; but most importantly, it was a wake-up call. We were in a bad situation as a team, intoxicated by the Three Cancers of the Mind (check out my last entry for more on this). We then had a decision to make: we could either sit around complaining, criticizing, & comparing for the remaining games or we could get to work to try & turn our season around … which is the exact same thing that happened this season after our rough loss to Washington.
After that loss, the players got together to reunite after the rough patch we were going through. We didn't all agree on what wasn't working out or what had to change, but we did all agree on one thing: that we wanted to end this season on a high note & find a way to win. So that week, we went out to training & had the most competitive sessions we've had in a long time. We demanded more of each other & pushed ourselves to our highest potential in everything we did. Then it was time to prove that we did have what it takes to accomplish our mission of turning the season around, starting with a non-conference away game at Santa Clara.
I clearly remember waking up a bit earlier than expected that morning, so I decided to read with the spare time I had before getting breakfast with a friend. I read the third chapter of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg which is titled "The Golden Rule of Habit Change: Why Transformation Occurs." This is the last chapter in the first part of the book which focuses on the habits of individuals. The entire first part had gone over what is called the habit loop & all sorts of studies that had proven this to be true. The habit loop says that to change a habit, you must identify the cue, change your routine, & maintain the reward. This all makes perfect sense, but at the end there was a special ingredient that was added to the formula: belief.
Duhigg told the story of Tony Dungy, the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers & the Indianapolis Colts. He talked about how Dungy implemented new habits into all his players & how big of an impact that had on the teams. It changed both the Bucs' & Colts' entire team & organization. But his teams always came up short as they aspired to lift the Lombardi Trophy. The habits did all their work, but belief is what made the difference at the end of the day. Sadly, it took a horrible tragedy for Dungy's team to come together the way it did, but it did inspire the belief that led Peyton Manning's Colts to win the Super Bowl in 2007.
Now, I'm not comparing our losing streak to Dungy's tragedy at all, but I do think that the adversity we face has the power to inspire us to believe. Which is why that same night, I told this exact same story to my teammates in the Santa Clara locker room before heading out for kickoff. I asked them if they believed in this team, in their teammates, in themselves, & although they answered there, I told them that the real answer would be shown in the way we played that game & the remainder of the season.
Kickoff came & that belief did not seem to be there at all. We conceded a goal at the 7th minute … & then at the 14th … & then at the 22nd. We were all shocked. We didn't understand what was going on. We were playing our game & kept doing so throughout the half, but that final piece of putting the ball in the net was simply not going our way.
I clearly remember walking back into the locker room at halftime & thinking, "This is literally the first time in my life that my team is down 3-0 at half & I'm 100% confident that we'll still get a result out of this." Our playing style was there & so was our belief in each other. We were just one goal away from opening the floodgates & making things happen. Sure, there was frustration in the locker room, but we all walked out for the second half knowing that we were definitely still in the game.
The team not only played fabulous soccer in the second half, but we gave a perfect effort in absolutely everything we did. The Three Cancers of the Mind were nowhere to be seen & we were lifting each other up because we believed in each other.
It's a belief that started with Collin Travasos's amazing saves to keep us in the game because who knows what I'd be writing about today if it weren't for his five saves. It's that same belief that helped Wyatt Meyer score our first goal in a month off an assist from Evan Davila, which opened the floodgates for our team's attack in the 73rd minute. Without thinking of how little time was left, we kept believing in this team & in each other, & we immediately scored again in the 76th minute thanks to Shoei Honda's left-footed finish.
The belief that drove this team on that day was exemplified in all of us, but especially in Nate Carrasco's performance. Nate is a great player & he's proven that in every single practice, but he had been struggling to find the net in games. His hard work in practice was rewarded by a spot in the starting lineup at Santa Clara & his work rate was just absolutely incredible that night. He was fighting for every ball as if there was no tomorrow & willing to do anything for the guy next to him. He exemplified what it means to play with pride & defend our jersey, team, program, & university, which is why it was fitting for him to score his first collegiate goal in the 85th minute to complete our team's comeback.
The game ended in a tie at three goals each, & although it's a game that we felt we should've won, we did prove to ourselves that we do have what it takes to turn this season around. Our head coach Kevin Grimes was quoted saying it's the first time in his 22 years at Cal that we've ever come back from three goals down at half, & that simply goes to show that anything is possible if you believe.
We carried this same belief into our Pac-12 game against No. 22 UCLA. Once again, we were down at the half 0-1, but every single person on our team believed that we would get the result to go our way. We went out & played, as Wyatt would say, "inspired soccer" again in the second half & proved that we have what it takes to turn this whole thing around. Nate hit the post in the 56th minute & we could just sense a goal coming soon. It wasn't until the 74th minute that we finally tied the game when Fahmi Ibrahim curled the ball into the side netting for his first goal of the season.
To many, 16 minutes left in a game is little time to work with; but for us, that's all the time in the world, especially after what we experienced at Santa Clara only a few days before. One of our strongest values on the team is "Through the Line." We don't stop believing until the final whistle blows & we play through the finish line. As the old saying goes, it ain't over till the fat lady sings … & the fat lady hadn't sung yet.
We kept on playing through the line, but the game seemed to be headed into overtime. We were all mentally prepared to win the game in however long it took, but then came Adrian Guzman. Adrian was subbed in late in the game but had an immediate impact. One could tell how hungry he was for a win by the way he was chasing after opponents & putting them under pressure. He executed his role with a perfect effort & the beautiful game rewarded him for it. Adrian hit a sensational game-winning strike into the upper left corner of the goal at the 89th minute that later earned him the Pac-12 Player of the Week award. For the first time in a while, we finally won a game against a great opponent. Not only that, but we once again proved that we're up for the task of making the best with what we've got.
Unfortunately, our game against SDSU was postponed later that weekend, but we're still carrying this same belief with us into our away games this weekend at Washington & Oregon State. At this point in the season, we've got absolutely nothing to lose & everything to prove. We know we have some tough opponents ahead of us in the remainder of the season, but we're also confident in ourselves & in each other, which sets up an exciting season finale for our team & program.
The only thing we can promise as players & as a team is a perfect effort that reflects the pride we have in wearing this jersey & in representing this team, program, & university, as well as the belief that drives us to play through the line & never ever give up.
That's it for today's Fer Play entry. Catch our game against UW tonight at 7 pm on Pac-12 Networks. I'll be back here soon.
Fernando Andrade, Cal M Soccer #13
Oct. 15, 2021
Dear Golden Bear fans,
Welcome back to this season's third entry! For those of you that have followed along, you might know that my goal for this season was to be writing weekly blogs, which is clearly something I haven't accomplished so far. This has nothing to do with my time management this semester, but sadly I just wasn't sure what to write about with how things are going this season. If you know anything about our season or record so far, you know it's not pretty …
This won't be a motivational blog entry talking about how we can look at the positives in what we've done so far over the past two months or anything like that. Instead, I will be very up-front about what we can do with our current situation. For starters, there are no excuses that can get us out of where we are right now: there's no complaining that will make things better & no criticism that will change where we're at as a team right now.
But wouldn't it be nice to be able to do all of these things? Isn't it easier to make excuses, complain, & criticize than to actually put in the work to find a way to turn things around? I think that we (everyone reading this & myself included) have all had these thoughts before whenever we've faced a challenge that seems like it's too hard to deal with. But if we're truly passionate about something, we'll always find a way to get the job done, no matter what the circumstances may be.
This is what brings us all back to the basics. Before even thinking about any solutions to our problems, we must remember why we started in the first place. "Start with why," Simon Sinek famously preaches. Sure, this isn't an ideal situation for our team at all, but we must all remember how privileged we are to even be here in the first place. It wasn't too long ago that we started our college recruiting process & then went on to excitingly announce that we'd be attending the best university in the world to play Pac-12 soccer, something that is a dream come true for all of us. Why is that such a big deal? Because it's what we've been working for since we fell in love with the game of soccer.
Not only that, but it wasn't too long ago that we went over a year without playing in an actual game! The thing we love most was taken away from us. Which leads to the question: why are we still playing? Because we still love this game & have so much fun playing it; something we must remember every single time we step on the field.
It's always important to remember our why. If we don't have this purpose of our love for the game driving us towards improvement, there is no point in continuing to push ourselves to become more. When we keep this in mind, we allow our purpose to guide us towards success within this game.
Now that we've remembered our purpose, we've reached the point where there are only three things that we can still do with the six games in four weekends that we have left:
- Acknowledge where we are both individually as players & collectively as a team
- It's important to remember that, as Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels in The Newsroom) once said, "The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one."
- First, we must Acknowledge where we're at, then we must become Aware of what that means, & lastly we must take Action to make the best with what we've got (the 3 A's).
- Focus on the things we can control & ignore the rest
- This is a phrase that I shared at the beginning of the spring season earlier this year that is now a common expression used among the team, & I think it stuck with us because it truly works. There are so many uncontrollables that we've dealt with this year that it would truly only be a waste of our time to give them our focus. Instead, we must be efficient with the things that we can actually control.
- As Buddha said, "Do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do. Give it to what you do or fail to do."
- Fully accept & play the hand we've been dealt with
- In his book, Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty says that Comparing, Complaining, & Criticizing are the three Cancers of the Mind that attack our three core emotional needs: peace, love, & understanding. The horrible thing about these cancers is that they're contagious because we are social creatures & are affected by those around us, which in our case is our team. These cancers will bring out the worst of us, both individually & collectively, if we allow them to grow, which is why we must realize that there is no point in comparing, complaining, & criticizing (apply the 3 A's to this & you will understand what I mean). All that we have left to do is to accept the hand that we've been dealt & make the best with what we've got.
- If you're not ready to do this, then just re-read points 1 & 2 until they fully sink in.
So, whether you're one of my teammates/coaches, any other student-athlete or competitor, or really anyone reading this, I can assure you that although it may be the first, it's definitely not the last bump in the road that you'll be dealing with in this game that we call life. My piece of advice to you for whenever you find yourself in this type of situation would be to just hit the Reset button by implementing these four steps:
- Remembering why you started in the first place
- Acknowledging where you're at
- Focusing only on the things you can control
- Playing the hand you've been dealt with into your life to hopefully be able to make the best with what you've got.
Life & everything within it are too short to waste with the three Cancers of the Mind. We're better off practicing what the Stoics call Amor Fati – accepting & fully loving our own fate. It's only through this acceptance that we'll once again find our love for the game that made us start in the first place, which will then allow us to not only bring out the best in ourselves, but also in each other to soon be able to get back on track.
Our biggest strength as a team lies in our diversity. The variety of cultures, ideas, & lived experiences that come together to form this team may at first divide us, but it is when we listen to & learn from each other to use the best of what we're made of to find a way to get the job done that we're at our best. As soon as we fully understand that & allow it to bring out the best in this team, we'll definitely be able to turn things around for the better.
And, if literally none of this works, then, as my friend & guest on the eighth episode of my podcast Cam Kondo would say, "When things don't go right, go left."
That's it for this week on Fer Play. I hope you enjoyed this blog entry & hopefully found a thing or two to be helpful for whatever it is that life is throwing your way. You've got this!
Until next time,
Fernando Andrade, Cal M Soc #13
Sept. 21, 2021
Dear Golden Bear fans,
Welcome back to this season's second entry! The beginning of this season has already presented us with many obstacles & has been filled with ups & downs, but that's the beauty of this game. The best thing about sports isn't the trophy at the end or the recognition that everyone notices; on the contrary, it's the little things that people don't notice that make this whole journey worth it & that have gotten us to where we are today.
It's the lessons that we take away from the game that shape us into who we are in everything we do both inside & outside of the game. It's the adversity this team has already dealt with so early on in this season that has taught us how to adjust & adapt to what we have in front of us without complaining because we know that we're better off focusing on what we can control & ignoring the rest. It's Jack Singer being willing to play wherever the team needs him to & still find a way to make it work by giving his absolute best effort, which then rewards him with PAC-12 player of the week, Top Drawer Soccer's team of the week, & Gatorade Athlete of the Month. It's the crowd cheering for Shoei Honda's first collegiate goal when what they didn't see is how he struggled due to things he couldn't control during preseason, on top of the enormous sacrifice that is moving across the Pacific Ocean while still learning English to become the first out-of-state player on this team. It's Evan Davila working on his shooting every single day after practice until the ball moves exactly the way he wants it to that then turns into him consistently finding the net for the Golden Bears & earning an honorable mention to Top Drawer Soccer's team of the week.
It's all these little things that add up on the list of ingredients for a nice recipe of life success. While there's no single recipe for success & everyone has the unique ability to add in
their own ingredients, it's always great to learn from others along the way. Learning from the greats around you is also an essential ingredient in the recipe of life success. Studying the greats shouldn't get confused with studying famous people & those that society calls "successful." Studying the greats is about learning from those that are where you'd like to be. The greats can be your teammates, classmates, co-workers, bosses, friends, relatives, etc. It's not about who they are, it's just about what they've done & what you can learn from their journey.
I have a monologue episode on my podcast about this & I go over the following 3 tips on how to study the greats:
1. Identify someone that is great at what they do (especially if they're great at something that you'd like to be able to do as well)
2. Study their journey to learn about the adversity they've had to face in their journey & how they were able to overcome those obstacles along the way
3. Write down your notes from what you've learned & meditate on that information until you fully understand that you can apply those exact same steps to your recipe for life success as well
This is an extremely simple practice, but one that will definitely add a lot of flavor to your main dish of life success. Someone that I study a lot is a Mexican content creator called Roberto Martinez & one of my favorite quotes from him translates to: "We're not just made up of our influences. Rather, we're the sums of our influences plus the unique touch that we give to them by our way of understanding them." Which leads to my point that the purpose behind studying the greats isn't to copy them in the hopes of becoming them, but rather to learn as much as we can from them so that we can them go on to become greats ourselves.
I invite you all to study those around you that you consider greats, like Jack, Shoei, & Evan, or anyone that you look up to. Everyone you'll ever meet knows something that you don't, & learning from each other is what makes this game that we call life so beautiful.
That's it for today on this entry of Fer Play. If you have any comments/questions/suggestions for this blog, feel free to reach out to me via Instagram DM @FerAndraez . I loved chatting a bit with those that reached out last time & I appreciate your time. I look forward to getting to know you all a bit more throughout this season & can't wait for the next entry.
Until next time,
Fer Andrade, Cal M Soc #13
Dear Golden Bear fans,
Welcome to Season II of Fer Play! Whether you're someone that's read all of my entries or you're reading this blog for the first time & have no clue what you're getting yourself into: WELCOME! My name is Fernando Andrade (but you can call me Fer) & I'm a junior student-athlete from San Diego. In this blog, I've shared some of the lessons I've learned playing for this great team & some of the behind-the-scenes things about Cal Soccer that you may not be aware of. I look forward to continuing sharing the best lessons I'll learn this season from my teammates, coaches, opponents, & obstacles that will come our way, as well as interacting a bit more with you all & hopefully being able to answer some of the questions that you may have.
Last season's entries ended at a weird time due to a mixture of personal issues, schoolwork, & other projects I was working on, but now I'm back & better than ever. I have three main goals for the blog this fall season:
1) I will try to write more blogs (we'll see if I can keep up with weekly entries)
2) I will attempt to make the entries shorter than last semester (less than 1,000 words)
3) I want to build an interactive community through this blog to hear from you all as well
These goals will require some commitment, but I do think they're realistic. A tip of advice I always share whenever I'm talking about goal setting is to set goals through the S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) system. This system includes areas that are fact based while others are opinion based, but it's surely a great place to start.
Regardless of what you do in life, it's always best to, as Simon Sinek would say, start with why. Why are you doing that? Finding a purpose in everything you do will guide you along the way & make life a whole lot more enjoyable. Not only that, but once you give your life a true purpose, everything you enjoy doing will automatically be driven by your why.
I'll give you an example that will hopefully make a bit more sense out of this. My purpose in life is to leave my dent in the universe in absolutely everything I do. This simple sentence took me a long time to come up with & it's truly what drives me in everything I do every single day of my life: from playing soccer & writing this blog, to hosting my own podcast & pursuing a double major at the best public university in the world, amongst a couple of other things.
That's my why, but a purpose is meaningless unless you continuously apply it to your life. In his famous Ted Talk, Sinek goes on to present the Golden Circle which starts with why, continues with how, & ends with what. How we do things truly matters … a lot. It's what differentiates us! To continue my example: in everything I do, I look to be the person in my life that I once needed. So, my how is becoming the leader I once needed by celebrating amazing people, helping those that are struggling, & inspiring others to do the same. Once again, this how fits into anything I do, which gives everything I do daily a deeper meaning than it may appear to have for most.
So, what's the result from all of this? What's the final product? Well, the what can be anything, & that's the beauty of this Golden Circle. In this case, my what is this blog, but I have many what's in my life - at least for now - & they're all aligned with my why & how. Now that I have my S.M.A.R.T. goals to help me out (Specific: write a weekly blog for an entire semester; Measurable: there are 15 weeks in the semester; Attainable: you bet it is; Relevant: it clearly aligns with my Golden Circle; Time-based: weekly for 15 weeks), I'm ready to take on this challenge!
All of this serves as an analogy for what the team is currently experiencing. We didn't have a pre-season nor non-conference games in the spring, so having both now for the fall season is something we don't take for granted. This is the time to not only improve both individually & collectively, but to find out what this team is truly about: find our why, realize our how, & work towards our what throughout this season. This team has shown a lot of character in less than a month of being fully together, especially by the way that we've handled the obstacles that have been thrown our way. I truly can't wait to see what we'll produce as our what throughout this season.
- Set your goals through the S.M.A.R.T. system
- Start with why & discover what your Golden Circle is made up of (why, how, what)
- Apply it all to your life on a daily basis!
Whether you're one of my teammates, coaches/staff members, friends, relatives, or a Golden Bear fan, I highly recommend that you start off your season/semester by trying out these three things!
I'd love to hear from all of you & am definitely open to feedback! Please don't hesitate to reach out to me via DM on social media to let me know what you think of my blog, ask me any questions that you may have about Cal Soccer, the life of a student-athlete, or anything else, as well as what you'd like to read more about here. You can find me on Instagram as @FerAndraez
Until next time,
Fer Andrade, Cal M Soc #13