A Conversation with Josh Calderon
If tomorrow you were told you could never play the game again, what would be your reaction? Your reaction should tell you a lot about who you are and in Josh Calderon’s words, you are “still a soccer player.” Each one of us will go through a time in our lives when something is taken away. Sometimes it is because we have matured past a point and sometimes things are taken abruptly, without warning. At that point, will you be ready to mature with the situation? For every player, the future will come. In this week’s Legacy Spotlight, we have sat down with Legacy Alum- Josh Calderon and talked to him about what life is like for a motivated student athlete.
Josh Calderon played with the Virginia Legacy from age 15 to 18. Josh’s parents made their way to Virginia by way of California where they started out in a new country and with little means to succeed. While in Virginia, Josh graduated from York High School and was recruited to play for Longwood University, Air Force and a few other schools. Josh was admitted to Longwood, Liberty, VCU, and JMU but admittedly didn’t have the SAT scores to be accepted into the highly competitive Air Force. As he was deciding what path to take, it was suggested to him to visit Greystone Prep. It was evident to him that the path to success should not be an immediate one so he was willing to take a longer path. For the next two years Josh attended Greystone and chose not to play for the school, as he knew playing for them would have reduced his NCAA eligibility.
While in prep school, Josh refocused himself as new challenges came his way. He knew that he was at prep school to improve his SAT scores and earn honors that would increase the likelihood of his acceptance into a service academy. His prep school life started at 5:30 in the morning with physical training and it ended at 11 at night. It still seemed like there wasn’t enough time in the day. Because Josh wasn’t playing for the team at this point, he found his own time to train individually. With all of the mandatory physical training Josh was put through, going out to the field and touching the ball was the part he missed most.
Josh elevated his GPA to a 4.0, earned a spot on the President’s list, became class Vice President, and raised his SAT scores to levels that were acceptable by academy standards. All of these were achieved in his freshman year at Greystone and Josh was still denied entry into every Academy. Josh was forced to evaluate his decisions. At what point does an individual admit defeat and move on? He had choices to make, transfer to another university and be with his friends, live a normal college life, or continue his pursuit. Through all the hardship the Academies had placed on him by not accepting him, there was still opportunity. The Naval Academy offered Josh a Foundation scholarship. This scholarship, a merit in itself as there are 40 recruits a year to receive it nationally, was offered to him out of financial need with the promise that if Josh maintained his GPA, passed the physical tests in his sophomore year at any prep school, and then earned a nomination, there would be a guaranteed admittance into the Naval Academy.
So now Josh’s decision became harder. He understood that neither path meant certain success but he had to decide which one would serve him better.Josh reflected on his principles that were instilled in him by his parent. He wanted something big for himself. The idea that he would have an automatic job out of the academy after attending was a large factor, but he had already been operating in a train of thought that only allowed a high standard for himself. Staring adversity in the face, Josh had already evaluated that 17,000 students apply to the academy and only 1,100 get in, a battle he had already been fighting. He chose to accept the scholarship and attend a second year of prep school.
In order to earn his nomination, Josh had to be interviewed regularly. He was asked questions that challenged his commitment. Each member of the Naval Academy has at least one of the following types of nominations: Congressional (They are allowed to nominate 10, only one or two will be admitted), Senatorial (Same as Congressional), Vice-Presidential (Usually athletically inclined and thus rarely given), and finally a Presidential nomination (one of your parents must be retired military, so josh was ineligible.) Through the entire process, Josh finally received a Congressional nomination and his path to acceptance into the Naval Academy was complete. To this date, Josh says: “It was the best day of his life.”
At this point he had made it to where he wanted to be, he achieved his immediate goals. What he really achieved was much more than acceptance into a academy, he had trained his mind into a pedigree that saw adversity, no matter what the scale, as just a small hurdle. As teams train, individuals overcome, and we all take on new adventures, every time we overcome adversity our concept of failure becomes insignificant, we begin to fear it less and less. Josh had trained his mind beyond small thinking comfortable situations. Josh’s comfort zone became his drive and his focus. Something he would later say, he had wished he developed earlier.
During the admission process Josh had reached out to Coach Brandt, Head Men’s Varsity Coach at the Naval Academy, and asked about his chances of becoming a member of the team. Coach Brandt’s response was very blunt, but appreciated by Josh. He said that he hadn’t taken a walk on in over 5 years. Josh still invited the Coach to come watch him play. In that process Coach Brandt saw something he liked and continued to communicate with Josh about what he needed to do in order to make the squad. Over the summer, where he trained with the Legacy 76 Reserve team, Josh earned the right to attend Preseason and then from there all he needed was a good showing. In about as short of a time as you could make it, he was the first walk on the Naval Academy has seen in over 5 years. Josh’s form he needed to succeed academically followed him onto the field.
Now on the team, Josh has already played in the first two games of the 2014 season and recently Navy upset #10 Maryland 2-1 in front of 2,500 fans. The process of making it into the Academy, making the team, and competing at a D1 level has made Josh incredibly humble. After following Josh for years and now learning about his recent feats, the Legacy was able to sit down with him and ask him a few questions.
Question: Hind-sight is 20/20, if you could have done anything different during your high school years that would have better prepared you and made the transition to college easier, what would it have been?
"Looking back, I definitely would have taken my academics more seriously. I was by no means a bad student (I made A’s and B’s), but I would have strived for straight A’s and taken more AP classes as all of those things not only look better on your resume, but they also challenge you a lot more than just taking the easy way by taking easy classes. I don’t think a lot of students realize how important their junior and senior year are – colleges really pay attention to what classes you take, how you do on your SAT’s, and how active you are in your community/school clubs during those 2 years. I definitely would have been more proactive in all of those areas as I was very complacent in high school and didn’t really think too much about my future until the winter of my senior year, which by then it was already too late to improve on anything. As far as soccer goes, I definitely would have trained on my own a lot more. My parents and coaches always stressed how important it was to do extra training whenever you had the chance so that you could improve in all areas of your game. I didn’t listen to this advice in high school and that really stunted my growth as a player. I went to practice 3 times a week for Legacy and kind of just went through the motions and used the practice time more as just a time to have fun instead of improving every opportunity possible. Another thing I would do is enjoy the beautiful game. It’s really easy as a player to take advantage of all the soccer you’re able to play on a daily basis. With club in the fall and high school in the spring, you’re playing soccer every day and it’s so easy to just let yourself go through the motions at practice and not really enjoy the game anymore. I can tell you that now that I’ve been out of high school for 3 years, I miss club and high school ball so much. The old phrase “you don’t know what you have till it’s gone” is very true because as soon as I was just a regular college student and not playing soccer anymore, I craved it. I was mad at myself for not taking my soccer more seriously as I could have not only enjoyed it more, but it could have also gotten me recruited to a school where I could continue to play at a higher level.”
Question: Who has been your greatest inspiration in your journey?
“My parents have always been an inspiration for me and they’re also my biggest supporters. Both of them have overcome adversity their whole lives as they are both immigrants – my mom immigrated from El Salvador when she was 19 and my dad from the Philippines when he was 18. They both started out with less than $500 in their pockets and lived in one of the worst areas of the country in Downtown Los Angeles. Their incredible work ethic and ability to overcome the hardest of challenges is something that humbles me every day and definitely what I respect the most about them. They are both so grateful to this country because it has given them freedom and opportunities they wouldn’t have in their own countries. One of the reasons why I wanted to join the military is because I feel like I have an obligation to give back to the country for all it’s done for my parents. Throughout this entire journey, my parents have been there every step of the way. It’s not easy to accept that your child is risking their life for the defense of the country, but they are both so supportive of my decision and have been there for me through all the highs and lows.”
Question: Can you describe what your day-to-day schedule like being a student-Athlete?
“Being a student-Athlete at the Naval Academy is very difficult. Most of my friends at regular universities are taking 14-15 credits but at the Academy we take on average 17-20 credits a semester. Our day-to-day schedule goes like this: We have reveille (wake-up call) at 6:30 AM, which is followed by chow calls (freshman at the Academy have to do these before every meal where we stand in the hallways and yell out what is going on during the day and what the meal is for all the upper classmen). After that, we have morning formation at 7AM where everyone in the company (there are 30 companies at the Academy with about 250 freshman-seniors in each company) forms up and accountability is taken. After that, we have breakfast, followed by morning classes which usually go from 8AM – noon. I’ll usually go to lunch and eat quickly to make it to the soccer locker room in time to either go lift with the team or get some individual training in. Afternoon classes start at 1:30PM, which last until 3:20PM. Immediately after, I’ll go back to the locker room and get ready for practice at 3:45PM, which ends at around 6PM. After that, I’ll usually head down with the team to evening meal or I’ll eat with my company. Following evening meal, I’ll usually have to do some other of my plebe (freshman) duties like get signatures from all my upper class (it’s a mandatory assignment where you have to get signatures from all your upper class and get to know them), or work on one of our company boards (each company has posters hanging up in the hallway particular to their company and plebes are the ones who work on them). After that, everyone in the school has mandatory study period from 8-10PM where everyone can focus on their academics and not be bothered by anything/anyone else. After 10 PM, I’ll usually have to continue my studying as 2 hours is never enough for 18 credits before our mandatory lights out (bed time) at 11PM.”
Question: How did you evaluate your ability from when you decided to walk on, to when you stepped onto the field with them, to when you started fighting for a starting role? Have you changed through it all?
“When I decided to walk on, I knew that I wasn’t going to be as talented or strong as most of the players. However, one thing that I’ve gotten from my parents and something that I’ve always tried to set apart about myself is my work ethic. I may not be the best at something but I work hard at it until I get it right. I was able to display my talent and work ethic over the summer and that certainly helped me make it onto the team.When I stepped on the field, I was surprised by the high level of play, but also how well I was able to keep up with everything and everyone. I had no idea what to expect as it was Division 1 soccer and I hadn’t played competitively since 2012, but all of the extra training and fitness I did leading up to that point really helped. Now that I’ve made the team and gotten into the Academy, I’ve set new goals for myself. I want to keep on getting better every day, enjoy every moment of this awesome opportunity, and do my best to earn minutes as a freshman and contribute to the team in any way possible. I would say that I’ve definitely changed my mentality from more of a timid and questionable one where I wasn’t sure if I would be able to compete at this level to a more confident and encouraging mentality where I train hard and have fun, try my best, and let the rest take care of itself. “
Question: Do you have any advice for Legacy players trying to make it to the next level?
“If playing soccer at the next level is really something you want to achieve, don’t let anything get in your way. Furthermore, don’t be complacent with where you are as a player. You can always improve on an aspect of your game. Also, listen to your coaches and take the criticism they give you positively instead of ignoring it or thinking you’re above it all. Contact coaches early and be proactive with the recruitment process by videotaping your games and contacting all the schools that interest you during your junior year of high school. Lastly, enjoy every opportunity you have to play soccer. If you find yourself not enjoying or loving the game anymore, then you’re not really a soccer player anymore. Enjoy every small drill in practice, as pointless as it may seem, because it’s only going to make you a better player in the long run. If you decide not to play soccer at the next level, I can guarantee you’re going to miss it, so enjoy every practice and game now because it’ll be gone before you know it.”
Question: What are some foundations the Legacy have given you that have served you the most during this time in your life?
“Legacy has definitely laid down the foundations for how I approach leadership and teamwork. As a future military officer, I’ll be leading enlisted men and women and be held responsible for their actions and ultimately, their lives. A lot of what I embody as a leader and a teammate I take from my experiences on the soccer field. The coaches have taught me how to properly give criticism and be there for each member of the team when they are going through a tough time. My teammates at Legacy have taught me how to come together as a family to achieve a goal (winning a tournament or the league) and how to be a good listener/follower. All of these things have helped me get to where I am today and will help me be the best officer possible once I graduate from here. All of the coaches and staff at Legacy have been instrumental in my development not only as a player, but also as a better all-around individual, which I am very grateful for.”
Question: What are some things that you have had to overcome that the Legacy Soccer Club has helped you with?
“VA Legacy has also been instrumental in helping me face many of the hardships and obstacles I’ve had to overcome. A lot of my perseverance and confidence in my ability has been thanks to VA Legacy. A lot of people doubted whether I had what it took to get into the Academy and play Division 1 soccer, but that only pushed me to be better and prove them wrong. A lot of what I learned as a Legacy player, such as never giving up on a play and working harder than the other team even though they may have been better than us is what’s helped me get to where I am today. A lot of the time management skills I learned when we traveled to tournaments has helped me manage my crazy schedule as a student-athlete here at the Naval Academy. Furthermore, just the mentality that all of the coaches instilled in us to keep on improving is something I wish I would have taken more seriously then, but definitely something I apply to my everyday life here now. Legacy has taught me to not be complacent and to keep striving for bigger things just like they are with expanding the club. For all these qualities, I will be eternally grateful to them.”