Matt Medoruma isn't one to have good fortune handed to him – he understands he's had to work to gain his rewards.
It was a lesson he taught himself early in his university career, and now, after five years with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns men's soccer team, his reward has arrived.
Medoruma, an accounting major in the Faculty of Management, will represent Canada at the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia July 6-17. It will be the first time the 24-year-old midfielder has ever played at a national or international level.
"Honestly, I would never have thought I'd be in this position," says Medoruma. "I'm definitely honoured to be here and excited for the experience."
He essentially walked on to the U of L pitch in fall 2007, having talked to head coach Randy Bardock (who will also be on the Canadian squad as an assistant coach) about continuing to play soccer beyond the youth level. A Catholic Central High School graduate, Medoruma earned a spot with the Horns but after a year of Canada West soccer, stepped away from school.
"I don't think I was ready for university," he says bluntly. "I came in and I wasn't focused with my education and my grades weren't as good as I wanted them to be. So, I decided to take some time off and refocus."
Medoruma travelled to Australia, reassessed his major (finance, at the time) and returned in fall 2009 in a better frame of mind.
"I knew that once I took that break, when I came back it was for the right reasons," he says. "I wanted to play soccer and I was excited about school again. I definitely needed that, and once I came back I was refreshed and ready to go to school."
Taking the term student-athlete seriously, Medoruma took the discipline and diligence he uses so well on the field and applied it to his academics.
"It is a challenge to balance your academic life with the time it takes to be an athlete and that was one of the reasons I struggled in my first year," he says. "I couldn't really find that balance, so it was a struggle. It took me a while to find out I needed to put a lot of work into my education and that had to come first. Once I figured it out that I needed to put the time in, then I was fine."
He is five courses shy of completing his degree, after which he will decide if he wants to pursue an accounting designation. Of course, now that he's representing Canada on the international stage, opportunities to continue playing soccer may also present themselves.
"It might open some doors, we'll see what happens when I get out there," he says. "Before I went out for this tryout (Universiade selection camp), I figured it was the last real soccer I would try and play. I'll always keep playing but not to this kind of competitive level. Now that I've made this team, it's up in the air. If some opportunities come from this, then I'd definitely look into it."
Medoruma's strength as a midfielder is his ability to create offensive opportunities for his teammates. He distributes the ball well and fits seamlessly with other players, likely one of the reasons he impressed at camp. He credits Bardock and the Horns program for helping bring his game to this level.
"The program has been great for me, it's helped me so much in terms of my development. I wouldn't have this opportunity if not for how it has helped my game over the last five years," he says.
The Canadian team will have very little preparation time before the Universiade event. Their only training sessions will come in Russia, along with a pair of exhibition contests right before the tourney's start.
Medoruma has no worries though, he's just anticipating the first time he'll pull the Canadian jersey over his head.
"It'll be amazing, something I'd never imagine would happen," he says. "To be able to represent the country, I'll be so honoured to put that jersey on."
GET THE FACTS
· Medoruma has played for the Lethbridge Football Club in recent summers
· He had two goals and four assists for the Horns in 2012
· Lethbridge product and University of Alberta defender Niko Saler, who Medoruma played with in youth soccer, is also on the Canadian squad
· Medoruma will document his trip on Twitter under the handle @taylorgang_89
· Kazan is known as the Sports Capital of Russia and in addition to hosting the 2013 Summer Universiade, will also host the 2015 World Aquatics Championships and the 2018 FIFA World Cup
This story first appeared in the May 2013 edition of the Legend. For a look at the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.