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Valencia's Jesus Fernandez: Always forward thinking

A little bit of tough love over the years has helped transform Valencia senior into dynamic player

Posted: January 14, 2013 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 14, 2013 1:55 a.m.

Valencia senior forward Jesus Fernandez, a fourth-year varsity player is one of the best players in the Foothill League at his position.

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When he was a freshman, Jesus Fernandez remembers his coach yelling at him for passing the soccer ball backward.

“Always move forward,” Fernandez recalls his coach saying. “Never look back.”

In reality, he was being given a simple instruction. In a way, though, the Valencia senior forward can look back and use those simple words of advice as a theme for his development across the past four years.

Fernandez, a fourth-year varsity player, says he can draw a parallel in the building up of his soccer skills and, at the same time, his character.

He gives a lot of credit to Valencia head coach Tony Scalercio.

“I was a weaker player before I came to Tony,” Fernandez says. “I’ve grown up with Tony and I’ve become more mature as a player with Tony. And being more mature as a soccer player develops your skill.”

It was less than five years ago when Fernandez decided to play soccer on a club team. As an eighth grader, it was the first time he’d played any competitive sport in his life.

But it was clear from the beginning he was gifted.

“He’s always been a talented, athletic player, but I’ve worked with him on his mental outlook on the team,” Scalercio says. “So in other words, he’s developed and become mentally strong to become the player that he is.”

His raw talent made him a Jack of all trades on his Valley United Soccer Club U13 team.

By his freshman year at Valencia, his skills immediately elevated him to the varsity level. But with such little experience in the sport, there was something missing from his game.

Originally, Fernandez was encouraged to join a soccer team when a friend saw him playing at a park.

Prior to that, he had no experience whatsoever in team sports.

“People ask me how long since I’ve played soccer and obviously it’s been four or five years and they don’t believe it,” Fernandez says. “I don’t know. It just comes naturally to me. I like sports and I like soccer.”

He may have known how to play from a physical standpoint, but he admitted he was new to the idea of buying into a team cause.

“I wouldn’t say I was a selfish player, but just learning the game more,” Fernandez says.

Considering his relatively late start to soccer, he learned quickly.

His quickness, ball skills and outright passion for the game make him a threat to score on every possession.

“I’ve seen him come from the little guy he was to what he’s become now,” says senior teammate Jake Veiga. “He just turned into one of the most aggressive players on the field like a lot of Valencia guys who graduated.”

Fernandez has scored four goals this season and he had five last year in Foothill League play alone.

He was an All-Santa Clarita Valley first team selection last year.

Those who’ve played with him over the years have suspected this kind of potential all along.

“Even in ninth, 10th grade, he was one of the best players at the school, and to only have a few years to do that is pretty impressive,” says junior teammate Lukas Scalercio, who has also played on the same club team as Fernandez for the past three years.

But with as much natural talent as he had, Fernandez had work to do.

That development included learning how to play within a system — check. He had to get bigger and stronger — check. He had to realize how to utilize his skills in an effective way — and check.

“Even when he plays well, I’m still asking him to give more,” Tony Scalercio says. “And from a mental standpoint, he stands up to that and he doesn’t disappoint.”

That’s another important characteristic Fernandez has learned — coachability.

He prides himself in being able to take criticism and convert it into a positive change.

It’s a big reason why he’s gotten so much better, and why he’ll continue doing so in years to come.

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