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Athlete Spotlight: Jasper Yang

Jasper Yang ’21 fighting off two Illinois Wesleyan players on Sept. 15.

On Sept. 22, Jasper Yang ’21 scored a total of four goals against Beloit College, the the best figure for Grinnell since Antonio DiMarco’s ’18 four-goal accomplishment in 2015 and the ninth-best figure in the history of the Pioneer soccer program. Only three months into the season, Yang has already positioned himself as a valuable player after scoring a whopping seven goals for Grinnell’s Pioneers.

Though soccer is in the forefront of Yang’s athletic career now, this has not always been the case.

“I think I started playing soccer when I was younger because my parents made me. I used to hate it when I started because I liked baseball more,” said Yang. However, his talent for soccer in his formative years overrode Yang’s preference for baseball. “I think I was a little bit better at soccer,” Yang said, when recounting his decision to commit to the sport.   

After playing soccer for 15 years, the distance between Yang’s natural ability for the sport and his enjoyment of the sport is virtually nonexistent.

“I’ve always had a lot of energy, I’ve been that guy who has a lot of energy, and I still do now. So being able to play soccer every day, being able to run around outside, that’s something I love. And I’ve realized that I need that,” Yang said.

Just as he needs soccer to burn off energy, Grinnell’s Pioneers need Yang for their team’s success. The reciprocal nature of Yang’s relationship with soccer is evidenced by the flurry of praise and respect garnered from his coaches and fellow teammates.

“He’s been on fire and is essential to our success as a team,” said Evan Sorenson ‘19, one of the soccer team captains. 

Head Coach Brian Jaworski, or “Jaws” to members of the men’s soccer team, echoed Sorenson’s sentiments and added, “Jasper, in my opinion, is someone we rally around.” 

Speaking on Yang’s character, co-captain Noah Fluharty ’19 stated that “…most important to me is the type of person he is. I have never heard Jasper be frustrated on the field, and his verbal contributions are always positive. Not only this, but he is an outstanding student who is popular not only on our team, but across campus. Jasper is a very special player.”

Co-captain Thomas J. Pflipsen ‘19 predicted that Yang will “undoubtedly” emerge as a team leader in the future.

In Yang’s perspective, the athleticism and physical strength he has gained from playing soccer are just a fraction of the overall benefits of the game. Yang said that soccer has allowed him not only take criticism but to “be able to work with it [criticism] to improve myself and those around me.”

Yang added that Grinnell’s friendly and supportive team atmosphere allows for a culture in which each team member “holds each other accountable for their mistakes” while being understanding, recognizing that mistakes are an inevitable part of the development process.

This positive environment has considerably influenced Yang’s experience not only as a soccer player, but also as a Grinnellian. “My experience with the Grinnell soccer team has been incredible — most importantly the people that I’ve met doing it, but also the memories that I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, both in practices and in games. I’m really grateful for them,” Yang said.

Outside of the realm of soccer, Yang is an aspiring biology major and hopes to work with biostatistics in the future. He doesn’t intend on quitting soccer anytime soon. “I know some people can get burnt out [playing soccer], but I can’t see that happening to me,” Yang said.

Jasper Yang ’21 fighting off two Illinois Wesleyan players on Sept. 15.
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