As Kevin Wu PO ’23 strides up to the penalty kick line, he looks the goalie straight in the eye. Aiming for the top right corner, Wu strikes a banger that sends ripples through the net, winning the penalty kick shootout for his team.
Along with fellow co-president Jan Charatan PO ’23, Wu recently restored the men’s club soccer team after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. During this time off, he mostly missed the sense of building community and tight-knit bonds with the team.
“I feel like soccer teaches you something about discipline: coming to the field every day, being prepared and working hard to achieve some goal,” Wu said. “I felt like [soccer] was something that would keep a sense of normalcy [during the pandemic], something everyone had gone through for the first time.”
Wu began playing soccer at a young age, long before becoming co-president of the Claremont men’s club soccer team.
“My dad signed me up for the local Christian Soccer League when I was four or five years old,” he said. “Peewee soccer kicked off my journey to become a soccer player.”
Through his adolescent years, Wu continued to play because he enjoyed creating practice routines for himself and improving all aspects of his game.
“It’s day in, day out, it’s one step at a time,” he said. “You may not get there in one day, or one week or one month, but with each training you work hard to just get better and better.”
Also involved in SagePost47, Claremont Poker Club and other extracurricular activities, Wu knew continuing to play in college was a “no-brainer” because the sport provided an environment for him to become more sociable with those who shared his passion.
“I just love the game; it’s a beautiful game, the game of soccer,” he said. “I wanted to remake that community [my first year], where I found a lot of success making friends and being really close with different individuals throughout high school.”
Having had this experience in his past, Wu and Charatan revived the club and organized tryouts that featured “100 to 120” fierce competitors on the field.
“We ended up taking something like 35 [players] for the club team,” Wu said. “It was a really robust pack with a lot of talent; it was very difficult whittling the team down to what we have today.”
Following the tryouts, however, the team immediately faced hardship when Wu sustained an injury while biking. His knee contusion caused him to miss out on the first two weeks of the season.
“So really that fall off the bike was not only an injury to my knee, but was also an injury to the time that I could have spent playing soccer, improving and just being [around] some fantastic individuals on the team.” — Kevin Wu PO ’23
“I think the biggest [flaw] of being off the field is that I lost [the] community and camaraderie that you hope to be building up,” Wu said. “So really that fall off the bike was not only an injury to my knee, but was also an injury to the time that I could have spent playing soccer, improving and just being [around] some fantastic individuals on the team.”
Despite his absence, Wu said Charatan was the backbone behind keeping the team together.
“Jan did a lot of heavy lifting with the club,” Wu said. “He’s a very inspirational character with the way he stays organized, communicates and makes sure that everything runs smoothly. He was involved in the back end for coordinating how the club would be organized this year, how tryouts and training would go and where our coach would come from.”
While still piecing everything together, the team has been successful thus far, flashing an overall record of 2-0-1 within the first couple weeks of the season. After recovering from the knee contusion, Wu returned to the field more amped up than ever.
“Coming back from the injury was extraordinarily exciting for me because I was able to re-engage with some of the people that have made a pretty big impact on my career,” he said. “Just being able to talk with [my teammates], kicking around a ball, and rebuilding that disciplined, trained community of individuals was just wonderful.”
Looking ahead, Wu hopes his team reaches the ultimate goal of winning the league title.
“We’re really hopeful that in these next two matches, which are the last games of our season, that we could beat first-place Cal Poly Pomona and seize the title,” he said.