South Bronx United has always been my second family. Spending four years at this soccer club led to many discoveries and opportunities which I have made the most out of. I created lots of memories with my teammates and coaches on and off the field, which I will always remember and cherish. Since I didn’t have the opportunity to play high school soccer, South Bronx United gave me something to talk about during my high school years. In addition to playing soccer, we attended many events off the field. My coach, George, also gave me the opportunity to intern with him at Columbia University Teachers College. I continue to go back during summer and winter breaks. On the field, George made me the player I am today, especially by inspiring me to play central midfield. Looking at how far South Bronx United has gone and the direction its heading now, it is quite impressive. Most of the luxuries the various teams enjoy now was not available during my early years at the club from 2009 to 2012. However, we were content and made the most out of the little we had.
Graduating in 2012 was a bitter sweet moment. Leaving the club wasn’t easy for me considering the fact that I saw everyone as a part of my second family. But it was made easier as I thought through my final decision on where to attend college. Through an annual South Bronx United College Showcase, I had caught the attention of Mr. Kyle Graves, the head coach of the men’s soccer at Morrisville State College. Change is always bound to happen and I embraced it deciding to continue my education and soccer career at Morrisville.
College education is significantly different from high school and I was up for the challenge. I went into college as an Individual Studies major, even though I had in mind that I wanted to pursue business administration. I felt that Individual Studies would give me a feel of how rigorous the courses will be for at least in my first year. I had little knowledge on the difficulty level of the classes, but my major concern was how I would adapt to the life of living hundreds of miles away from home in a small town. One fellow SBU senior, Karim Ouedraogo, came to school the same year I did. Another, alumnus Carmel Addae, had already been in the school for a year. We went from a large SBU family to one of only three, but together we would explore and have an experience in Morrisville. Having met a couple other boys from Ghana, my hometown, I quickly settled down and became more comfortable being on campus. Carmel had told me what to expect in terms of the campus, but it was up to me to become familiar with everything once I got there. With the help of Coach Graves, I had little difficulty and two weeks was all I needed to become familiar with the classes and professors. Most of my classes were small, which I preferred, but I also had two lecture classes. Being a student athlete, I had a lot of responsibilities on and off the field so I made sure I stayed on track with each one of my classes. Knowing that I would be traveling to and from games, I made sure I did my work ahead of time in case I had to miss a class or two during the season. Time management was vital and I believe I managed my time well.
Education has always been the main focus but what kept me going was the game I love to play. Getting the opportunity to play soccer in college inspired me to work harder on and off the field. The most important thing was working hard during my first pre-season and getting into a better shape. Since it was a very short preseason, a lot of work had to be done in a short period of time. It was definitely a struggle but I pushed through every practice. Hard work got me into the starting line-up my freshman year, and I never looked back. Day in and day out I worked hard to become better knowing there was always room for improvement. That year, for the first time since joining the North East Athletic Conference (NEAC), we made it to the conference tournament championship game.
My second year was not very different but more competition joined in the team. Another member from SBU, Philemon Appiah was a great addition to the squad. During the 2013 season, I improved on my game compared to the year before. All four of us worked hard and once again made it to the tournament championship game for the second year in a row. This time we fell short to SUNY Institute of Technology who had two of my former SBU teammates, Bazo Coulibaly and Christstely Mbongou. Losing on penalty kicks was not easy to handle but as the saying goes: You win some and you lose some.
In the summer of 2014, I dedicated time to go to the gym to stay in shape. South Bronx United’s summer mini-league helped me improve on the attacking aspect of my game. We practiced tactics, having in mind that our formation was going to change that upcoming season to a 4 back system instead of the regular 3 we played the first two years. Though I still played as a defensive midfielder, I was going to have two great center backs/brothers that have played together all their lives and were outstanding at the back playing behind me. I decided to add a little bit more attacking to my game.
As a result, 2014 was my most successful year since I came to Morrisville. On the soccer field, I accomplished a lot individually and the team as a whole had our best season, despite a 1-0 loss in the NCAA tournament to powerhouse Messiah College, the defending NCAA champion who had only lost four games in six years. I was named to the all-conference first team for the first time. As a team, we made it to our third consecutive conference tournament final. This time we ended up winning, bouncing back from the painful defeat a year earlier. We were fortunate to host the NCAA Division III tournament competition for the first time ever and went on to win our first round match.
Another special part of the season was having four other SBU members join the team. Together we created more memories on and off the field and worked really hard for the team. Two of the new freshman, Julian Rodriguez and Jamieson McKoy earned well-deserved Second Team All-Conference recognition, while Jamieson went on to be recognized as the Most Valuable Player in the NEAC tournament. The three of us received numerous other players of the week honors as well. A third freshman, Yusuf Saunders had the game winning penalty kick to send us through to the second round of NCAA. To add to this, fellow junior and SBU Alum Karim Ouedraogo received a coach’s award for being a monster at the left of defense. Michael “Femi” Oyenuga, Carmel Addae and Philemon Appiah also were important contributors throughout the whole season.
Next year will be my last season playing for Morrisville State College and it will be another bitter sweet moment once again. Five key players will not be returning next year but I still believe we will be strong enough to compete with the best in the conference. Our freshman class from 2014 is a special group that contributed greatly to our success and through hard work, will help us continue to dominate the league. Already with my associate’s degree in business administration, I am now pursuing a bachelor’s degree which will be completed in 2016. I plan on interning this summer with hopes of preparing for a full time job after graduation. After that, I plan to complete a Masters Degree in Business Administration. But I still only have much of my journey in front of me.
Jeffrey Hado is a Junior at Morrisville State College. He was a member of South Bronx United and the SBU 93 Sonics from 2009-2012.