If you want to know the difference between athletes that are able to succeed at a high level and those who gradually fall away, Dynamo Academy midfielder Juan Lopez has the answer: take care of the little things.
For Lopez, those little things have added up to some pretty big things in his life, including winning a $10,000 college scholarship from Statoil, lead sponsor of the Dynamo Academy.
The scholarship, in its inaugural year, is given to one senior within the Academy for a 500-1,000 word essay answering one of three topics offered to them. A panel of judges selected Lopez as the first recipient of this award.
“I wrote about leadership and what it means on and off the field,” Lopez said. “You have to be mature and take care of yourself and do the little things to be with the Academy. Being in the Academy makes you realize what leadership is all about.”
Lopez admits that he has not always been as detail-oriented as he should have been. His time in the Academy, though, has helped him realize what he has to do to become the man and player that he wants to be.
“I didn’t work hard at first,” he said. “But I realized that everything gets easier the harder you work. That, and doing the little things; like not going to sleep late or drinking plenty of water, have helped me grow as a player and a man.”
Those around Lopez have taken notice of both his soccer skills and his leadership, which has resulted in him committing to Purdue University Calumet to play soccer.
“Juan is a phenomenal midfielder,” said Purdue University Calumet men’s soccer coach James Drzewiecki in a team statement. “I’ve had the chance to watch him play several times and have always come away impressed. He makes quick, high quality decisions with the ball and he treats the game, his teammates and his opponents with great respect.”
Thanks to the Statoil scholarship, Lopez’s transition from Chavez High School in south Houston to Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Indiana, will be a little bit easier, despite the weather differences.
“[This scholarship] will help cover tuition, books and housing,” Lopez said. “It makes things a lot easier. It’s exciting to just go and play with a new team, new teammates and to move to a new state. Even though here in Houston, it’s really hot, and up there it can get pretty cold.”
But his dreams hardly stop at college. Lopez will major in business management, and hopes to one day manage his own soccer training facility here in Houston.
“I want to hopefully offer the same opportunities that I have been given to other kids,” he said.
Lopez hopes that those plans can wait until after his playing days are over, however. He has been impressive in his time with the Dynamo Academy team, playing in 64 U.S. Academy League games as well as being a part of the team that traveled to El Salvador in 2009 and beat their U-16 national team.
“[Juan] is a fantastic kid who has worked really hard on and off the field,” said James Clarkson, director of youth development for the Houston Dynamo. “He fully deserves the scholarship and it will have a real impact on his life. We are all very proud that he is going to college and of the man he has become.”