Everybody remembers their first love. It can start as early as middle school, or maybe in high school, or possibly college. You carry it for the rest of your live, no matter who it is. But Julian Anderson’s first love isn’t a who, but a what.
Anderson’s first love was, and still is, soccer.
“My first memory of playing soccer was in my backyard, playing with my older sister,” Anderson said. “My dad used to have us run around outside and get all of our energy out, and we’d have fun out there. That’s when it all started.”
Anderson gravitated to the ball, always having it at his feet. Anderson’s journey started with youth soccer in Ocean Township, N.J., and he always wanted to be the one with the ball and score. Naturally, at an age where sharing is regularly taught, Anderson’s affinity for being the star caused some slight problems.
“I was crazy, I always ran around,” Anderson said. “I loved to get the ball and score a lot of goals. I remember one time I got kicked out because I was so competitive. But I loved it.”
Throughout his time in youth soccer in New Jersey, Anderson and his family would take trips for games and tournaments across the East Coast. While most of them were in North or South Jersey, Anderson participated in tournaments in Pennsylvania, Maryland and even Connecticut. His dad mostly made the trip with him, as his mom stayed home with his sister. Anderson said he loved those trips in the car because it created bonding moments with his dad.
“My dad loves soccer, so he never minded driving me to the tournaments,” Anderson said. “He loved watching me play. We talked about all sorts of things on those trips, soccer related and other things too. I definitely think on those trips my dad and I formed a stronger bond.”
Anderson continued to grow and excel at the sport. He was always one of the best players out on the pitch, if not the best. And like every kid that grows up playing a sport, he wanted to be a professional soccer play. Eventually, both he and his family realized he had the potential to make that a reality.
In stepped the Union Youth Academy.
“I started looking at the Youth Academy when I realized it could take me to the next step,” Anderson said. “I’ve always dreamed of being a professional soccer player, and I think I have a better chance achieving that goal with the Union Academy.”
The Union Academy started recruiting Anderson in 2016, and eventually he came out to the Union Academy for a tryout. When he arrived, he saw the environment both on and off the field and was drawn to it. It took some convincing for Anderson to get his parents to approve of the move, but they agreed to have Anderson become a member of the Academy.
“I knew this was the right decision for me,” Anderson said. “When I came, I really loved it.”
Anderson’s journey continued as a member of the Union’s U-14 team, Anderson has made an impact on the field. He’s started in seven of the team’s nine games so far this season, and has scored four goals on the year. Clearly, his knack for scoring goals has followed him to the Union Academy. Anderson credits the coaching staff and the Union Academy culture to allowing him to succeed.
“I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot since joining the Academy,” Anderson said. “Being around these coaches is great. (The players) definitely create a brotherhood too. On the field, we fight for each other and work hard. We always have each other’s backs, and that’s a great feeling.”
Anderson’s success with the Union Academy led him to being called up to the U-15 US Boy’s National Team January camp. Anderson spent a week in California training with kids in his age group, while also playing a domestic friendly against Club Tijuana Xolos de Caliente’s U-17 team.
That U-15 USMNT camp has created a fire inside Anderson. Now more than ever, he wants to continue his journey and push toward becoming a professional soccer player. And for him, that first step includes making the Union’s U-16 team, and then hopefully a scholarship to a D-I school, or if he’s lucky, a professional contract.
“Time will tell where I’ll end up in a few years,” Anderson said. “If I could go to college, that would be great. My next goal is to make the U-16. It’s a big step up from U-14 to U-16. And then from there, college is the first look, because education is important. But opportunities come up, and if I get a professional contract, that would be great.”
Anderson first fell in love with soccer in his backyard. He dreamed of being a professional soccer player, stepping into stadiums to participate in the sport he loves for a living. The Union Academy has given him a chance to make that dream a reality, something Anderson appreciates. And he’s never let his love of the game waiver.
“It’s been an awesome journey,” Anderson said. “It started out just for fun, but slowly grew more serious. I’m more focused and I have to keep on working hard. There’s been some ups and downs, but my love for soccer has always lasted.”
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