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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Student athletes look toward professional players to improve their game

Derek Liang
Sophomores Aiden Chen (left) and Langdon Huynh (right) playing their respective sports.

Like many young athletes,  soccer player Langdon Huynh, draws inspiration from professional athletes who serve as role models.  In Huynh’s case, Lionel Messi — forward for Paris Saint-Germain F.C (PSG) — and winger Kaoru Mitoma, who plays for Brighton & Hove Albion F.C., have influenced the way he plays the sport above all others.

Huynh started playing soccer at age 5 when he joined the competitive soccer club, De Anza Force. He started off playing bronze, the lowest level of competitive play, and worked his way up to becoming the starting forward on the 07B Force’s ECNL (Elite Clubs National League) team. He hopes to further advance in his soccer career and play in MLS (Major League sSoccer), the most competitive youth league in the country.

Huynh takes inspiration from the way Messi and Mitoma speed past defenders with their highly skilled playmaking and field reading abilities. When Huynh first started watching professional soccer, Messi drew his attention immediately.

Being the all-time leading scorer in the La Liga (the top professional Spanish soccer league) with 474 career goals and an all time playmaker in the game, Messi is arguably the greatest soccer player of all time. He is also one of the most decorated players in soccer, with 40 major honors to his name. He was awarded the Ballon d’Or — the world player of the year award — seven times throughout his career.

“Messi has a small stature, but still performs so well at the highest level,” Huynh said. “As a smaller player myself, he’s someone I really admire and try to model my game after.”

Mitoma has provided a different type of inspiration for Huynh. As one of the starting players in the Premier League for Brighton, arguably the strongest professional league in European soccer, Mitoma’s high speeds and dribbling skills make him a vital asset to his team. He was named the Japan Pro-Footballers Association (JPFA) player of the year in 2022 and scored the only two goals of the game in a World Cup qualification win against Australia in the same year.

“Mitoma is one of the few Asian players in the Premier League, inspiring a lot of Asian soccer players like myself,” Huynh said. “I really like his playstyle and our similarities cause me to naturally look up to him.”

Betts serves as inspiration for baseball player

For sophomore Aiden Chen, a standout pitcher and outfielder for the varsity team, his love of baseball came from growing up as a Boston Red Sox fan. 

One of Chen’s favorite players is former Red Sox outfielder, Mookie Betts, a current outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Betts was on both the 2018 (Boston Red Sox) and 2020 (Los Angeles Dodgers) World Series-winning teams, becoming the first player in history to win two World Series titles and be named MVP under the age of 30. Additionally, he has won many notable awards, including the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards.

“[Standing] at 5 foot 9 inches, he’s a relatively shorter athlete, but he still does everything well,” Chen said “He hits incredibly well, runs well, plays fantastic defense and has a cannon for an arm. I just love the way he plays the game.”

Chen likes that baseball is a sport that can be played well without impressive athleticism, but in his opinion, Betts is a top tier athlete possessing the physical tools and athleticism that he aspires to have.

In addition to Betts, two other players that Chen takes inspiration from are pitchers Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels and Jacob deGrom of the Texas Rangers. Chen loves the speed and accuracy of their pitches and as a pitcher himself, takes into account the way they train and play, modeling his own practices after their training.

“Baseball is a sport that I love playing, and constantly seeing these professionals play shows me how much work is put into being great,” Chen said. “It puts me into perspective that I’m not there yet, but I want to be able to take inspiration from them and elevate myself to that level, with the end goal being to play in the MLB.”

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