Four Brigham Young University men’s soccer players hung up their BYU men’s soccer jerseys as they prepare to graduate school.
Jake Ence, Ben Jenson, Kaden Nielsen and MJ Affleck, who all won the national title last year, said the team prepared them well with key life lessons.
“It is really about fighting hard for something you want. Work hard personally but also as a unit. Just keep going even when things get tough. Just focus mainly on what you can control,” they all said.
Jake Ence said motivation to score goals was a critical element that made him perform better.
“I remember growing up, I would always check the leading scorers on the website of the state, and I’d always try to make sure I was at the top,” he said.
Ben Jenson, who played as a center mid, said teamwork played a big role in all the achievements that they had together.
“So we kind of, like, build off each other, and we’d see each other working harder than we were, and that would push us to go even harder,” he said.
They said that other lessons included learning to overcome challenges that came their way, such as injuries or not getting on the first team.
Nielsen, a full back, said he had to work really hard to get some playing time after he finally made it on the squad.
“Actually, my senior year of high school, I was hoping to get an offer on the team, and I ended up getting hurt and didn’t get that offer, and I flew in for the January tryouts, and I was told that I was the last person cut,” he said.
Affleck, who played as a holding midfielder, was unlucky because of injuries.
“I had a hole in my femur in my knee kind of, and they tried to fix it, so I went back after 18 months,” he said.
He later realized that his knee had bigger problems than he thought. Three weeks after winning a slot on the team, that news was heartbreaking.
“I had to call then-Coach Watkins, because they found out that my knee hadn’t been fixed, and if I kept on playing I will need a knee replacement pretty in the next few years,” MJ said.
But he never gave up.
“That was a huge challenge; I didn’t think I’d be able to play soccer ever again, and then I ended up playing on the team,” he said.
Jenson, Affleck and Nielsen said they will be focusing on their professional lives after school, while Ence is preparing to go to graduate school next year.