It’s a cold Tuesday evening on Cal State Fullerton’s athletic fields. Yet instead of bundling up in blankets, students are running and jumping, breaking a sweat as they kick a ball around.
On one side of the field, Alan Landa is throwing his body left and right, blocking shots as goalie. His opponents are doing their best to get the ball through him. On the other side, Pablo Garcia Alvarez is also sweating as he maneuvers around a number of defenders in order to get closer to the goal. He kicks the ball to the Bryan Valcarcel, team captain, who takes it even closer.
For the members of Lightning FC, CSUF men’s intramural soccer team, these are their Tuesday evenings. Despite work and school obligations, they manage to carve out time in the week to do something they love.
“I work and go to school, so this works perfectly for my schedule, since it’s at night and we only play twice a week,” said Valcarcel, a civil engineering major. “I make sure that we have at least one practice a week besides the game where everyone can meet.”
Other players share Valcarcel’s struggle. Landa, a kinesiology major, would like to get more time on the field, but his schedule between work and school won’t allow it. Alvarez, who is majoring in sociology and psychology, puts in 30 or more hours of work a week, on top of school and soccer practice.
“There’s times I put five to six (hours of workout time) and then there’s times I put one.” Alvarez said. “It’s hard balancing school and balancing work.”
Despite other commitments, Valcarcel said the team’s resolve on the field is unified.
“I’ve always asked the players, ‘Hey, do you guys just want to have fun and relax or do you want to be competitive?’” Valcarcel said. “Every single time it’s, ‘We’re going to be competitive.’ So, we’re always trying to get first place.”
Landa shares the same opinion.
“We’re hungry for the wins. We want first place and to win because it’s the effort we put into it; it’s earning the title that we really want,” he said.
“I think that’s the mentality of all of us,” Alvarez said. “We have the mentality of having fun. You enjoy what you’re doing, but we also want to compete. I think it’s in all of us to compete.”
Despite Valcarcel’s motto of “always go for first,” being in first place is not everything for the team.
“I don’t think it’s really, how do you say it, the endpoint that you always want. It’s just the process that you enjoy, so I enjoy the process even if we don’t get first,” Alvarez said.
The players revel in the physical activity on and off the field. Landa tries “to get an hour of working out in the gym every day,” and Alvarez shares his commitment.
“I always run,” Alvarez said. “If I can’t practice because of class or work, I just jog, keep in condition. I also go to the Student Rec Center to get my workouts in once a week.”
With the official CSUF men’s soccer team having entered the Big West Tournament, the success of the intramural team might not seem as impactful. Valcarcel disagrees.
“I think we could give them a run for their money if we were to practice as much as they did,” he said. “So, if we had equal amount of practice time, I think we could hold our own against them.”
Landa, Alvarez and Valcarcel have been playing since they were kids and each of of them has plans to continue playing soccer after graduation.
“I’ve been playing soccer all my life,” Valcarcel said. “It doesn’t matter what shape or form, whether it’s indoor or outdoor … I’m going to be playing somehow, some way.”
“Seriously, I think I’ll be playing soccer for the rest of my life,” Landa said.