If Clinton High’s soccer team could be compared to the human body, then Jose Andrade would be its heart. Last year he was given the Darkness Award for team spirit and when you ask him what sports he plays, his answer is simply, “I just play soccer. It’s a tradition in my family. My dad played and I grew up watching soccer with him, and all my friends play soccer. It’s an environment I grew up in and now I can’t live without it.”
A rising senior, Andrade is an honors student at Clinton, but gave up his seat in the Beta Club because of his devotion to soccer. He also works at Butler’s Pharmacy behind the soda fountain.
Like most of the other players on the Dark Horse team, Andrade has been playing since he was 5 years old, and is a member of the travel team Clinton United. They won the Wrangler soccer tournament in Greensboro at the beginning of summer.
Full of Heart
The teen said he has learned to play all the positions on the field, but his favorite is mid-field or defense. “You get to see more of the ball. If you get people with better skills up front, they can score the goals for you,” he explained.
In talking about his training and his abilities on the soccer field, Andrade had a lot to say.
“I know the game well enough to use my weaknesses as my strengths, too. You’ve got to be strong and I’m kind of bigger than most soccer players, so I’ve got a little bit of strength,” he said, adding, “plus the shot accuracy that I have. Knowing that I can use my right foot and put the ball exactly where I want it.”
But being able to play is not all you need to be a good player, according to the teenager.
“You go out there and give it your all. You leave every ounce of energy you have out on the field and when you look back you have no regrets. That sets you for the player you’re going to be. How hard you work. I’m not the quickest player out there, but I’ll run you down. I don’t give up at all. I always keep going,” he said enthusiastically.
“That’s how our whole soccer team is,” he continued. “We just don’t give up. We may not have the biggest skills, but we have the biggest heart out there on the field. There’s no team that will outplay us as long as we keep trying,” he asserted.
Winning and losing
In speaking of the team, Andrade said his best memory from last season was getting past the third round of the State 2A tournament by defeating Richlands in overtime.
“We beat a school record that night, because that’s the fartherest a Clinton soccer team has ever gotten in the playoffs. That has to be the best moment ever. Just feeling great afterwards, knowing you did it,” he recalled with a smile.
In recounting that game, Andrade said the Dark Horses were losing 0-1 when they tied it up with eight minutes left in the game. Thirty seconds into overtime, Clinton scored the winning goal.
“The feeling was great. Ryan Taylor took it down the line and he made a great kick down the center and Luis Aguilar was there to finish it. He just tapped it in for the winning goal. That was a nice, easy finish, just like they taught us when we were small. It worked. That gave us the win to go on in the playoffs,” he said.
He described the next round like this: “We faced East Duplin next, and we lost that game in sudden death. That was a terrible feeling. There was 23 seconds left in overtime and they snuck one in. It was an awesome game and both teams gave it their all. They just had that lucky kick.”
A new season
With the new season just around the corner, the team has been in workout mode all summer, meeting around 7 a.m. each morning and running until 8:30 a.m.
The week of this interview was “Hell Week” at Darkness Stadium, according to Andrade, which is when the athletes try out for the team.
They work out from 5:50 a.m. - 8 a.m. and then come back in the afternoons for skill building exercises.
“If you ask any player what they remember most about the season it will be Hell Week. They won’t remember any goals scored, nothing. They’ll just say, ‘Yeah, I remember running those 90 miles that morning during Hell Week,’” he joked.
Then added more seriously, “Coach (Brad) Spell pushes you to your limit. You find out how much those workouts during the summer have helped you to be mentally and physically strong. At the end of the week he tells you if you’re strong enough to be on the team.”
Spell has taught Andrade more than just how to be a good soccer player, though. He said his coach has tried to instill in the players a way to respond when bad things happen, and not just on the soccer field. He named it Darkness.
In trying to describe Darkness, Andrade said, “It’s how you are going to react when adversity hits you. And that’s something you carry all your life, just knowing the meaning of Darkness. When someone punches you in the mouth, how are you going to get up and react. That carries on to all the players that have been on Coach Spell’s team.”
So how do you react?
“Turn around. Keep playing. Go on to the next play. Stay cool - 98.6. Keep your emotions in check. Never back off, but know how to do the right thing at the right time. That’s the meaning of darkness,” Andrade replied.
Andrade said Darkness has become a way of life for him. “If something happens and you can’t help it, you’ve just got to keep going with it, and not lose your cool. I’ve been fortunate that nothing really bad has happened to me in a long while,” he said with a smile.
Besides Spell, Andrade speaks of his family as being a big influence on his life. His parents, Juan and Carmen, go to his games and push him to be the best he can be, he said. “I want to make them proud,” he stated.
His older brother, Juan, has also been a good influence. “He never played during school, but he knows enough about the game to be a coach. When Juan was in high school, he had to take care of me and my sister Bernice. I appreciate him. He had to hold back so much because he was always taking care of us,” Andrade said.
Bernice, who is 15, is on the Clinton girls soccer team.
The teen credits his travel coach, Dr. Ken Yang, with giving him his first opportunity to play and the determination to still be on the team 12 years later.
“He gave me the opportunity that most coaches didn’t give me. I’ve always been a big boy, and they really never trusted my skills. Coach Yang was the first coach that did, and I appreciate that so much,” Andrade asserted.
At one point during high school, the young man’s parents wanted him to quit the team because it was taking up so much of his free time. “They said I had to stop playing soccer, and they were going to make me quit the team. They missed me at home,” he recalled with a rueful smile.
“I had already told Coach Spell I was quitting. Several coaches called me that night, but Coach Yang convinced me to explain to my parents just how much soccer meant to me. If it hadn’t been for Coach Yang and Coach Spell, I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” Andrade said seriously.
Was there anyone else who has been a major influence on his life?
“Certain people have made me what I am today, and I thank them all. My brother, my parents, my coaches, and teachers, too. I thank every one of them,” the young man declared sincerely.
With soccer in the forefront of Andrade’s life right now, can you guess what he plans to major in when he goes to college after graduation next year?
“I would like to go to N.C. State University. I plan to go into sports management and sports medicine. I want to coach a soccer team later on in life. That’s my big time goal,” he admitted.