Goal! A follower of dreams

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jose L. Hernandez
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
In childhood dreams the sky is the limit, but how often does it become a reality? Particularly when those around are doubtful of your chances of success?

For 19-year old John Wrona, son of Leonard Wrona, 91st Maintenance Operations Squadron maintenance instructor, signing with the Ohio-based Zanesville Athletic Soccer Club became the initiation of a dream come true. The professional-level team is part of the National Premier Soccer League, a stepping stone to top-tier soccer divisions.

Having lived in Minot the majority of his life, he struggled to fine tune his soccer skills in a location where the popularity of the sport is slim compared to other regions.

"Everybody doubted me," said John.

Throughout his childhood, he was told time and again that a career in soccer was not possible in North Dakota because of the level of competition that was needed compared to what was accessible around the area.

Even though he began playing soccer at age 6, he did not have the privilege of playing in competitive clubs and tournaments until the age of 16. Aside from being part of his high school soccer team, he was considered more of a lone wolf competitor.

The opportunity at moving up in the ranks first came during his sophomore year when his father came home one day and asked if he wanted to try out for the South Dakota Olympic Development Program, a national program which is designed to identify and develop talented youth soccer players to represent their state, region and country in soccer competitions.

He had heard many college soccer athletes have ties to the program. South Dakota United was the team with whom he would first prove his worth as a dedicated player.

"I would travel four and a half hours to practice with the team once a month," John said.
SD United was unique in that the team was comprised of players from all over South Dakota and North Dakota.

It proved to be truly a challenge for him to have to maintain a top-skill level of soccer because he did not have the privilege of practicing on a daily basis like any other team due to the distance.

Training 2 to 4 hours, five times a week at a minimum, and running up to 45 minutes non-stop at times, he never lost sight of his goals and aspirations. Not even the inclement weather stopped him, for he knew that in order to be a professional he had to know all aspects of playing soccer in any weather condition.

"Whenever it was freezing or pouring rain I made it a point to go out and train," John stated. "If I never trained in those conditions, I knew I would not be competitive."

On rainy days he would purposely wear all white and wouldn't finish until he was completely covered in mud.

With SD United, he had the opportunity to travel throughout the country facing off against rival teams in states like Montana, Massachusetts and South Carolina. In 2011, his team went to the regional's tournament and was recruited to play at the University of Detroit Mercy, a Division 1 team. Playing there for only one semester he transferred to North Dakota State University and soon after signed with Zanesville Athletic in February 2013.

John said he owes much of his success to his father for doing all the footwork promoting him to different clubs around the country. During one summer his father even drove him more than 35,000 miles across country showcasing him at tryouts with various top-level soccer teams.

"It was definitely a dream come true to make it to this level in the situation I was in," said John.

He currently stands as the second North Dakotan to play for a professional tier soccer club.