Meeting A Dreamer

Meeting A Dreamer

Did you have big dreams growing up, but sort of forgot about them?

“Every week I will be writing about my lifestyle as a professional athlete and how I became the man and athlete I am today. I want my writings to help people understand that uniqueness and willingness go a long way in making someone successful. But today let me tell how I got to where I am..."

When we are in our younger years of life we constantly hear the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Some of us want to be police officers. Other want to be doctors or veterinarians, and there are those select few who fall in love with a sport and fantasize about becoming a professional athlete.

I was one of those little boys growing up who loved a ball more than anything else. I, Vincenzo Marco Antonio Nicola Constantino Candela Lopez (yes that is my real name, thanks dad), dreamed of kicking a soccer ball in a “hooligan” packed stadium.

Born in Colombia, to a passionate Italian father and a competitive Colombian mother you could pretty much say that soccer was in my blood from the get go. At age 4, my family was forced out of Colombia because of violence in the country and we relocated in search of the American dream in Sunny Isles, Florida. We spent our first three months in America living in a Best Western, praying that things would get better. I started school, and my parents noticed I was a bit weird and hyper so they put me on a soccer team. And boom, it was there on those torn up soccer fields of Highland Oaks Park on Ives Dairy Road where a young kindergartener would kick and scream for the first time opening the gateway to a dream of becoming a Professional Athlete.

As the years zoomed by the world was changing but my mentality and will to be great never altered. Age 10, "Vincenzo what do you want to be when you grow up?" Age 12, “Vincenzo what do you want to be when you grow up?” Age 15, same question and with the same answer every single time. Teachers and older individuals tortured me to pick another profession. But I simply could not envision myself doing anything else when I was older. I wanted to be a professional soccer player .

I always kept at it and trained every day of the week. My angelic mom drove me to the end of earth and back so I could get the best trainings. I would rather go out for a jog or find an empty field to find solace rather than go with friends to pick up girls or a party. I always remembered my parents repeating over and over “if you are going to do something be the best at it." And before every training, even to this day, I repeat that phrase in my head to get myself going. It was not easy but I found happiness in sacrifices and working hard.

Fast forward a couple of years now, August 2009, my first day of high school. I did not go to the massive public school that I was zoned for, like all of my friends. Two of my close friends (who also played soccer) and I choose to attend a very small private preparatory school who contacted us to play soccer for them. A preparatory school gets you prepared for college, and the ironic thing is I never wanted to go to college. The school counselors laughed more than once at me for telling them that. I laughed back; I didn’t know what was so funny to them. They, like many others before, tried to change my mindset about my future. Of course, they failed in trying to change me. I do not care what people think about me or the decisions I choose to take. I will do what pleases my heart because there is only one person who can judge my actions: God.

Now, this new school we choose to attend was a culture shock for us. We were three foreign kids who were thrown into a completely new world. We had each other and no one else in the beginning. We were always together, which led us to getting the nickname "The Three Musketeers." Every day, we would pray for the school days to end so we could leave the confinement that was forced upon to find happiness in football after school. High school did end up getting better (even though we talked about leaving every day) and in our second year at the school, we helped the school win its first ever state title in any sport.

That taste of success was a gateway for me. I wanted more, I was hungry for success. I felt for the first time that I was ready to take a leap of faith.

After my sophomore year in high school, I decided (with my parents blessing) to leave school and finish my courses online so that I would have more time to focus on my craft. What I was doing was unheard of where I grew up. I had people judge me hard for leaving school, being called a bum, an idiot , and a loser for chasing what people considered an unrealistic dream. My decision was very simple. I had already figured out what I wanted to be in life and felt that I needed to get ready for my future, and no school could get me prepared to be a soccer player. So I left.

I thought life was going to be a walk in the park without having to attend school, but boy was I wrong. Every day I would wake up at 6:15 a.m., a quick shower, have breakfast and drive 45 minutes to train. We would train for about two hours every morning, two more hours at the gym at noon, and another two hours in the evening. I would get home around 9 p.m. every night and do my school courses. It was brutal to say the least, but I loved every minute of the suffering. I did not miss school. I was happy I broke away from the stereotype that was associated with being a high schooler in South Florida.

It feels like almost everyone in America follows the same path growing up. Six years of elementary school, three of middle school, four of high school, go to college and get some job where you ultimately end up becoming an average Joe. I stepped off the basic assembly line and risked a comfortable life for a chance to be someone; for a chance to be heard. I hate mediocracy. I did not want to be an Average Joe with an average job. I was a dreamer and I would do anything to achieve it. I was told by many people that they had never seen such a determined young man who was so clear with what he wanted to do. “Forget girls and parties, sacrifice yourself for a couple years and when you get to the top they will be there waiting for you.” One of my coaches growing up told me that and it had a huge impact in my life because I truly believed every single word. And today I can confirm it is true.

After ten months of relentless three-a-days, I got the chance at age seventeen to go train with one of the best academies in Valencia, Spain. It was an opportunity and I grabbed it by the horns. I said goodbye to my friends, to my parents and just as a dreamed of doing, I set off to the Mecca of football. I was headed to Europe. I killed myself in trainings in Spain. I did not want to take anything for granted. I would always try to arrive early to training so that I could juggle a tennis ball to better my technique. And, I would stay after training to jog so that I could improve my fitness. There were days when I called home and just felt like saying that I wanted to come back and that it was too tough. But the support system I had with friends and family never let me even think about going back. I willed myself through, and it would pay off.

Just six months into my experience in Spain a huge sports agency contacted me and offered me to join a professional club in Portugal. I would play for their youth team and boy was I excited. I had cemented myself in European football. After playing one year of youth football in Portugal I was ready to make the jump to play with the big boys. I did not want any more youth soccer; I wanted to be on a professional roster.

In the summer of 2013, I had tryouts lined up to try to make a professional team. I was rejected by a team in Portugal and a first division and second division team in Italy. I was devastated. After being rejected the third time, I called my father and tears just started flowing. I thought it was the end. I thought I would have to go back to America, go to school and be what I feared the most, being average. I had one more tryout left with a team in Germany. It was Germany or bust. And that pressure brought out the best in me and was offered a one-year contract. I made it, I was a professional footballer. I had people tell me I would never make it. They told me I was too small, too weak. But, they never measured my heart. Everyone I see I tell them to risk what they have to follow a dream. If you believe in yourself and have the will and determination you can achieve anything. Your mind can move walls, so do not ever think you are too weak to accomplish greatness.

Cover Image Credit: Vincenzo Candela

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.

Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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6 Best Feelings You Get When Playing Volleyball

While you're avoiding getting hit in the face, you just might gain something in return.


Volleyball can be intimidating to get into, especially if you have had zero experience before. From the extremely bruised forearms to knee burns, it's understandable why people try to avoid this sport as much as possible sometimes. However, after the initial few weeks of struggle, the bruises will disappear, and the knee pains will feel much less terrible. In fact, after experiencing these six feelings, you will get hooked onto the sport.

1. When you get the perfect set

Every team needs a good setter, because without good sets, it is incredibly hard to get good hits. Every once in a while, when you do get that perfect set, you don't have to worry about repositioning closer or further away from the net or where to hit the ball. Instead, all you have to do is swing your arms and hear that satisfying bounce of the ball hitting the floor on the other side of the court.

2. When you dive for a ball and actually save it

Sacrifices to the knees are a must in volleyball, but a lot of times, they're sacrifices in vain. When a dive actually turns into a save, it can be one of the best feelings in the world. Not just because your knees didn't just take another bruise in vain, but because your reflexes have actually improved and you just saved your team a lost point.

3. When you get your first ace

Whether it was your serve that was too fast or the other team that just made a mistake, there's just something extremely satisfying about being able to serve a ball that others cannot return. It may also be due to the fact that you wouldn't have to run back onto the court or spend extra energy on this point, but nevertheless, the pride you feel when you get that ace is priceless.

4. When you find a good team

Some people work better with certain people than others, and when people on your team somehow naturally know how high you liked your sets or covers the areas that you can't at certain moments, as a team you will play much better. This can be attained through training and practice, but when you meet those people who naturally work well with you, you know the game is going to be good.

5. When you get a good rally going

When the ball is going back and forth for five or six times with 3 hits on each side, you have a good rally going on. At the end of it, even if your team loses the point, you'll feel an intense satisfaction from all the adrenaline still coursing through your veins. It's not every day that you can get everyone on the team on their feet, passing, hitting and making great plays!

6. When your teammates become some of your closest friends

This is probably the best reward that you can ever get from playing any sport. Whether it's a group trek to the local donut shop or just walking home together, you could end up meeting some of your closest friends. Volleyball is a team sport, and that bond established through numerous games is something that is irreplaceable. You'll naturally gravitate those who you work well with and find out that honestly, you guys get along pretty well off the court too.

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