October 10, 2012
|Dennis Chin ’10. Photo by Orlando City Soccer.
17 years ago, Dennis Chin ’10 stepped out of his Kingston, Jamaica home to join a dusty game of street soccer with neighborhood kids. Hardly a prodigy, the seven year old held his own against kids bigger and older than him and by the time the streetlights dimmed, Chin was hooked.
“I wasn’t very good, but I loved it and I wanted to play all the time,” said Chin, who soon had his own ball and big dreams of playing for Jamaica’s national team. “In the U.S., people worship football players, but in Jamaica, professional soccer players are just as big. Every kid has the dream of being a professional athlete.”
Chin was definitely one of those kids.
By the time he arrived at Rollins in 2006, he was a seasoned player with plenty of talent. Chin played throughout his college career, including during the 2009 season when his skills helped the Rollins men’s soccer team become the most winning team in the College’s history.
As college graduation approached, the economics major and Rollins men’s soccer forward started to think, “Why not make a career out of it?”
“Some people play for accolades or for a scholarship; I always played because I really enjoy it,” Chin said. “I realized that if I didn’t pursue it after college, I would always miss it. I would always regret not trying.”
In the spring before graduation, Chin was invited to train in South Carolina where a number of coaches for major U.S. soccer teams would be scouting new talent. If selected, he would join a professional team within weeks of graduating.
“This is when all the recent college grads get picked up,” Chin said. “This is the most critical opportunity in your soccer career.”
A week before he was to leave for South Carolina, Chin was sprinting across Sandspur Field during a casual scrimmage when he pulled his quad muscle. He remembers crumbling to the ground and screaming in agony—and disappointment.
“I knew immediately what I had done. I knew immediately that everything was over for me,” said Chin. “It was painful but at the time, I felt like my opportunity to play professional soccer was gone.”
Chin had no choice but to sit out for two months until Orlando’s semi-pro league started up again in the summer.
“I was so let down, but I got better, kept training.”
Not long after, Chin was asked if he was interested in joining Orlando City Soccer for the team’s pre season.
“For my rookie year, I focused on spending my time learning, adjusting to the style of play and the much faster game,” Chin said. By the end of the season, the Jamaican native had proven himself worthy of field time in the play off-season. He scored in every play-off game and in September 2011, Orlando City Soccer won the USL PRO Championship game between the Harrisburg City Islanders.
“That was huge for my confidence and for showing people what I was capable of,” Chin said.
In his second season, Chin was out on the field far more. He had another great season, which ran from February to September. Now in the off-season, Chin has been invited to train with several Major League Soccer clubs across the country, including Chicago Fire and D.C. United.
He’s still signed with Orlando City Soccer, but the dream of playing overseas or one day playing in the World Cup still lingers in the back of his mind. “That would be the biggest thing that could ever happen to me in my career. That seems like such a huge mountain. There are so many things that need to happen for that dream to come true,” Chin said. “For now, I just want to be somewhere I can continue to improve my game.”
Most days, you can still find Chin working with his sports performance trainers, practicing with teammates, or coaching for the Orlando City Youth Soccer Club. Turns out he likes coaching as well, which might turn out to be another career prospect down the road. For now, the best part of coaching is seeing the development in the kids and the possibility of being part of someone else’s professional soccer dream at the same time he is joyfully pursuing his.By Kristen Manieri