Fer Play - A Cal Men's Soccer Blog
Nov. 2, 2022
Why We Do What We Do Pt. 2/3
Dear Golden Bear fans,
A common idea that you will hear from people that have reached success is that the more you do something, the better you become. Well, that's probably because the same goes for mistakes: the more you do something, the more likely you'll mess up at some point along the way. Mistakes are the feedback that we didn't necessarily ask for yet the one we can all learn from. It helps us grow, refine the way we approach things, & avoid complacency.
This I experienced with my previous blog entry. This is a three-part blog series in which I write about the "why" that drives our lives as student-athletes & why there is still so much left to play for. The first reason, as stated previously, was because of the love we get from our supporters. I took the time to name the parents that have been there for us through it all: the Meyers, the Carmichaels, the Singers, etc.
In case the season-ending loss to Washington wasn't already enough, I only came to realize my embarrassing blog mistake until right after the final whistle. As I walked over to say hello to Mr. Himelstein post-game, he was the first to ask me why I didn't mention him in the entry. I was extremely embarrassed. He said it in a joking way, but I honestly couldn't even look him in the eyes. His son, Jake Himelstein, is one of my best friends on the team, but I've known Mr. Himelstein for longer since he's been a mentor to me since my freshman year at Cal. Out of all the parents, he is the one I'm closest to & yet I still managed to commit this mistake. After all these years, after seeing him at pretty much every single game since Jake joined the team; he even went to Italy with us! Thankfully, Mrs. Himelstein was there to back me up by saying that the only reason I hadn't mentioned him was because the next entry was for him, & she was right.
After three years of knowing Mr. Himelstein, the best thing he has taught me as a mentor is that the only thing I can control in my work is to put my best foot forward. See, we don't always control the results, but we always control the effort. If we don't strive to consistently put our best foot forward, in whatever it is that we do, then what's the point in even doing it in the first place? If we're not going to give it our best effort from start to finish, then we might as well not even do it at all. No runner will ever start a marathon just to finish their race at the 20-mile mark. No, the point is to run through the finish line. The mileage will take a toll on the body & the mind, but that's the point. It's to test how long someone is willing to continuously put their best foot forward, one foot at a time, until they complete the 26.2 miles without leaving any gas in the tank.
But what's the why behind this? Why should we put our best foot forward? The second main reason for why we do what we do is out of faith. It's this complete trust in the idea that everything we're doing will pay off in the long run. It's the belief that we're setting up this program for future success, that we're leaving it better than we found it. It's having the confidence in our work knowing that it will eventually pay off for the Blue & Gold. It's the idea that we're representing something so much greater than ourselves every time we take a step on the pitch.
We'll be putting our best foot forward because we understand that having the Cal logo over our hearts is a privilege. We'll be doing it because we believe that although there won't be a playoff run for us this season, we must begin setting this program up for next season's aspirations. We'll be doing it because we believe that the mistakes that took place this season were only meant to make us better. Some could say that everything happens for a reason; others could say that the obstacle is the way. What truly matters though is being able to grow & learn from this to continuously create something bigger & better. "The only real mistake," Henry Ford once said, "is the one from which we learn nothing."
As Hannah Montana would say: nobody is perfect, everybody makes mistakes, & everybody has those days. We had plenty of those this season. But you see, it's not our mistakes that define us, but rather how we react to them that does. That's why there is still so much to play for.
I'm extremely proud of the boys for putting their best foot forward this past weekend. I'm proud of Cameron Robie for fighting until the final whistle against Washington, tracking back hard in the last few minutes of the game to defend the number one team in the nation's counterattack. I'm proud of Juan Martinez for how competitive he was against Oregon State. Even though the result wouldn't have changed our season outcome, he clearly knows that we have a responsibility with the team, our supporters, & ourselves to always put our best foot forward. I'm proud of Santiago Hopkins for never giving up & continuing to push himself every single day at practice. It's this type of character from my teammates that inspires me on a daily basis, as well as that gives me faith in the future of this program.
So, to Mr. Himelstein & our supporters, I apologize for any & all mistakes we committed this season. All I can say is that I'm confident that this program, as well as my personal work, will only be better off because of what we can learn from this. It's thanks to all of your support & our belief in putting our best foot forward for something much greater than ourselves that keeps us going. Thank you all!
Oct. 25, 2022
Why We Do What We Do Pt. 1/3
Dear Golden Bear fans,
Why do we do what we do? What keeps us going? Where do we get motivation from?
These are some of the questions I asked myself over this past weekend while we were away on our last trip of the regular season at UCLA & SDSU. It's no secret that every single game left is a must win for us if we'd like to get a chance to make a postseason run; anyone that has either watched us this season or that has seen our record knows this. After facing adversity all season long, the time had come. It was now or never. Win or go home.
But why until now? Putting ourselves in this situation reminded me of all the papers I've left until the last day to write & then have used that pressure to produce some of my best work. Funnily enough, it was very similar to what happened on the field as well. The second half at UCLA & the overall play at SDSU is the best I've seen this team play. No, it wasn't the results we were looking for. But wow, what a performance, nonetheless. I guess we all feel the most alive when we're closest to death.
The reason I was asking myself these questions is because I began to think of what would happen if we no longer had this pressure. What would we then be playing for? What would inspire us to keep moving forward?
These questions, I believe, should be asked by all of us, not just as collegiate student-athletes, but as humans in general. Too often, just like student-athletes, we're so busy that we rarely take a moment to take a step back & put things into perspective. This past weekend, in the midst of a very hectic ending to our trip, I was reminded by a small act of kindness why I do what I do.
This is the introduction to a three-part blog series in which I'll be exploring why we do what we do as D1 soccer players, why there is still a whole lot to play for over the last three games of our season, & how this can apply as life lessons for us all, including you, the reader.
The first main reason for why we do what we do is out of love. This love that I'll be writing about, while it may include romance, is by no means limited to it. The love that I'm referring to is mostly one that comes from the strong bonds we build with people that are there to support us throughout every step of the way. This support is what inspires us to keep moving forward, whether that's to fulfill the dreams that our supporters didn't get a chance to or to pay it forward to the next generation as we pave the way for them in the same way that those that came before did for us.
Now, you may think that this inspiring support comes directly from the people that we're closest to, & while that may be true, it's also not limited to just that. The beauty of getting to truly know someone & their story is that when you do that, you're not only meeting the person in front of you, but also their parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, mentors, & anyone that played a role in shaping them into the person they are today.
Our most recent game against SDSU was crazy. We played some incredible attacking soccer, but unfortunately only managed to come away with a comeback tie thanks to a very late penalty from Fahmi Ibrahim. If that's not frantic enough, the game ended at 5:15pm & our flight back to Oakland was boarding at 6:40pm. Our hearts were racing from the game & the beats per minute remained high as we quickly gathered our things & bid our farewells to all our supporters that came out to the game (half the team is from southern California) before having to head to the showers. It was amid this hectic moment that I was reminded why I do what I do.
As I hugged my grandma, who I'm very close to & hadn't seen in over three months, she asked me to please post a blog, vlog, podcast, or anything else soon so that I can send it her way. This, alongside seeing the rest of my family there to cheer me & my team obviously meant a lot to me; I've learned to never take things for granted. I began to jog away as we obviously had a very tight window to shower before heading to the airport when I heard someone call me over. I was pretty sure that I had said goodbye to every member of my family at least twice or thrice, so I wasn't sure who it was saying my name.
When I looked over & saw that it was Collin Travasos's mom calling me over, I was surprised & a bit confused, but I obviously headed on over. Mrs. Travasos told me that I couldn't leave without meeting Fer Play's number one fan that has read all my entries, to which Collin's grandma immediately added that she has also watched both of my Italy vlogs on YouTube as well. I honestly remember standing there for a second in shock without knowing how to react.
See, every single thing I post is like closing my eyes & taking a shot on goal hoping it goes in. It's obviously my intention for it to have an impact on at least one other person, but I never get to find out whether it does or doesn't, nor how my work is perceived. Getting the opportunity to hear this firsthand while being introduced to someone I had never met truly meant the world to me.
I've written about how I believe that Leonard Griffin is the best man for the job in the previous entries this season. The main reason behind that is because he is truly changing the culture of this program, which started with the Italy trip this past summer (I promise I'll write about this soon - https://youtu.be/iGFiGrDz4vY). The common denominator that the most successful Cal teams have isn't in their current roster, but rather in their alumni, parents, & fans that are there to support them consistently. I've always envied this since it's something we didn't really have … up until now.
The first main reason for why we do what we do is that love & strong bond that we share with our supporters. It starts with Wyatt Meyer's, Kevin Carmichael's, & Jack Singer's parents showing up to every single game, home or away, midweek or weekend, in-state or international, with a proper pre-game tailgate to cheer us on all 90 minutes long. It's the parents of Collin Travasos & Evan Davila opening the doors of their home to welcome us in for dinner during our SoCal trips. It's parents like Juan Martinez's, Tate Dolan's, Christian Gomez's, & Arman Samimi's, who, regardless of how long the trip may be, find a way to come cheer us on at our games. It's the parents & alumni that can't make the games but are texting us throughout it as their eyes are glued to the livestream. These are only a few of the people that inspire us through their love to continue our pursuit of happiness on the field.
For me, it's my parents' & siblings' making the time to make me feel their presence & support daily. It's my uncles, aunts, & cousin showing up to some of my games even though they don't really care about the game of soccer & probably have something better to do with their very busy lives. It's my grandparents excitedly texting me after they've watched or read any of my work. It's people like Collin's grandparents, who I may or may not have met yet, but are always supporting from wherever they may be.
To all of you: thank you. Regardless of whatever happens with our season, you all gave us so much to play for. I appreciate every single one of you so much more than you know.
P.S. Just a quick reminder that this is only the first of three entries for this series of why we do what we do. You can follow @CalMSoc on either Instagram or Twitter to see when the other entries come out. I'll also be posting about it on my Instagram @FerAndraez. I'll be back soon!
Oct. 11, 2022
Dear Golden Bear fans,
I have a bit of an interesting story that I'd like to share with you all today. For the first time in a while, I got quite the unexpected compliment for my written work. The good news is that both my blog, Fer Play, & my podcast, Denting with Fer Andrade, got a shoutout on Pac-12 Networks when I stepped on the field in a game shy of two weeks ago. The not so good news is that this happened when we were playing at Stanford, which obviously was not a great result at all.
First off, I'd like to thank both commentators for taking the time to read my blog & mention it on the broadcast; but, most importantly, I'd like to address what was said after the compliments. The commentators quoted me on my last entry when I said, "It's hard to think of a better man for the job," when talking about our new head coach, Leonard Griffin. They then added that Leonard has made known to the public how much he likes our ability to bounce back from situations that are filled with adversity; something we've proven to be capable of in previous cases, like how we reacted after tying three games in a row, & something we would need to do again after another tough result at the Farm.
If you followed us along our trip up north this past weekend, you might not think that we truly managed to bounce back at all, but I would argue otherwise. What the public doesn't know, unless they're paying very close attention, is that we continued to face adversity throughout the weekend. Injuries & back-to-back games with red cards only dug our hole a bit deeper. But we also managed to push through this in what I would say was a very admirable way. It's not easy to go down a man at Oregon State University & manage to secure a tie against the Beavers. It's not easy to be missing four starters at the University of Washington & only allowing one goal against the number one team in the nation. It's not easy, but I also know it's not what we want. To that I'll quote Robert Greene's saying, "Everything that happens to you is a form of instruction if you pay attention."
We're halfway through our Pac-12 season & we're definitely still in the mix. We're a bit under .500, something we're looking forward to improving on this weekend, & there are five teams in our conference which are all within a three point range. This, in my opinion, is not a horrible situation to be in, but we'll obviously have to improve in this second round of Pac-12 play if we'd like to extend our season. To pay attention to these previous results when facing adversity, to study what has been working for us & learn from what happens when we shoot ourselves in the foot is a great form of instruction.
Someone once told me that to beat the best of the best, we must give a perfect effort & have a bit of luck. While I pride myself in not believing in luck, I understand what they meant. Sunday's performance against the best in the country was a prime example of that. We gave a perfect effort with what we had, but having four key players out isn't really having fortune on our side. We don't necessarily control the situation, but we can always control how we interpret & respond to it. That's what we did, & I'm proud of all my teammates for the way they battled through this past weekend, including freshman Marco Brougher who made his debut in goal at UW in front of his family in great fashion.
With all of this being said, I can only be excited for how this team will react in the second half of the season. As for the coaching staff, I cannot imagine how excited they are now that they've seen the team's character that they can build on. The best is yet to come for this team, & most certainly for this program.
That's it for this entry!
Until next time,
Fernando Andrade, Cal M Soc #13
Sept. 28, 2022
Dear Golden Bear fans,
Welcome to Season III of Fer Play! It has been almost a year since I last wrote here, and the extent to which the Cal men's soccer program has changed has been immense. For starters, former head coach Kevin Grimes retired after 22 years of coaching at Cal, which is crazy considering that all our current players were not even born when he first started coaching the Blue & Gold. The initials KG and Cal soccer are pretty much synonyms at this point, which says a lot about all that he accomplished here in Berkeley. Today, I am writing to you from the Leonard Griffin era. In all honesty, it's hard to think of a better man for the job. Not only has he had success with his previous teams, but he was even an assistant coach on KG's staff here at Cal a few years ago, so he's quite familiar with this program & its culture.
This entire transition has obviously been an adjustment for everyone. From tactical upgrades to new team culture practices, this team has been through it all. But there was one constant throughout this entire process: we always had each other's backs as teammates & brothers. Call me cheesy if you'd like, but we honestly couldn't have made this transition as smooth as it was without each other's support. From start to finish, we set standards as a team to hold each other accountable, we were open to new ideas, and were willing to make sacrifices if it meant helping the team continue to head in the right direction. This team improved so much in the spring thanks to the work we all put in, guided by the leadership of Jake Wilson, Henry Foulk, & Ben Simon, who have been with us every step of the way.
After finding success in the spring, as well as in our trip to Italy (more on that in the blogs ahead), we were definitely expecting more out of the start to this season. We haven't kicked off this new era exactly the way we had hoped to, but what I've realized just now as I'm sitting at Caffé Strada while writing this blog is how far along we've come in just a few months. This group of collegiate soccer players has sparked a change in this program that may eventually come to change some lives for the better, & we haven't even realized it because we're so busy making it happen day in & day out.
Sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in everything that we're up to as student-athletes that we forget to take a moment to find some stillness & reflect on everything that's happened. On the road to success, it's important to sometimes pause, look around, realize how much we've progressed, & give thanks for everyone that has been there for us all throughout the way … & then use it all as fuel to keep moving forward. This program is still a bit far away from its dream destination, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to be proud of so far. Recognizing what we're capable of should only make us hungrier as we continuously inch closer to our collective goals.
As I'm typing this up, I happened to read a quote by Richard Branson that seems to be a very fitting concluding thought to this entry. "Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision, & change." These past 9 months have certainly included adaption, revision, & change, not only for us players, but for everyone involved with the Cal men's soccer program. In a way, Leonard & our new assistant coach, Ricardo Guiterrez, have had similar experiences to all of ours' these past few months. They've lived through constant change – from living & coaching in San Francisco, to moving to work in Phoenix, & now being here in Berkeley all in the span of 3 seasons. In the same way that we've had each other as teammates, they've had each other as co-workers. Just how we've had to adapt to new coaches, they've had to adapt to new players. We all love each other, but we do recognize that they're working with players that they didn't recruit, in the same way that we're working with coaches that never made us an offer.
The reason we've all managed to adapt to this is because we have the bigger picture in mind with everything we do; we're all doing our part to ensure that this program is headed in the right direction. So, while it hasn't been our dream start, there is still a lot to be proud of when looking back, & a lot of soccer left to play & be excited about when looking forward. For now, we'll continue doing our thing: adapting, revising, & changing constantly, all with the same goal in mind – to put this program back where it belongs.
That's it for this first Fer Play entry back. I'll do my best to continue to update this on a weekly basis with what we're up to as well as to write about what our trip to Italy this past summer was like!
Until next time,
Fernando Andrade, Cal M Soc #13
P.S. I really missed blogging & was at the point where I just needed the right excuse to start back up again. I recently wrote an entry for the Cal Athletics BeLOnG blog about my Mexican-American identity in honor of Hispanic & Latinx Heritage Month. You can check it out by clicking here.