Earthquakes under-16 Academy Team goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski has a mantra that could propel one to success in soccer and in life:
“Chasing my dream one day at a time; my goal for today is being better than I was yesterday,” he shared on Twitter.
The young man with the broad shoulders, James T. Marcinkowski, manages all his success like a mature adult, and he’s 15 years old. The sophomore at De La Salle High in Concord carries a 3.65 GPA and turns heads with his prowess in the penalty area.
He’s spent the past two years on the Quakes’ U16 team, but has also been seen on the sidelines in uniform for the U18s.
Moreover, the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder has played with the U14 and U15 U.S. national youth teams and recently had an opportunity to take part in a residency program with the U17s.
“I went to try out camp in late July and it was mainly older players, so it was a great opportunity to continue my growth,” Marcinkowski said. “But after a week of talking it over with my family, we felt that it was better for me, academically and socially, to stay home and continue to work with the Quakes.”
This kind of level headedness and good decision making has helped to mold him into the goalkeeper and leader that he is today.
He had the opportunity to play with his older brother on the De La Salle varsity team, but chose to play with the Academy.
“It was a tough decision to make,” he said, “but I just felt that the Quakes gave me more opportunities for my future in the game.”
As he has matured, so too has his game. He’s tried to model his play after that of Dutch-born Edwin van der Sar, formerly the goalkeeper for Manchester United, among other top European clubs.
It was another keeper, however, one more Marcinkowski’s size, that he has come to idolize.
“Iker Casillas of Real Madrid is more the style I try to play,” said Marcinkowski of the Spaniard. “He’s not a big guy, either, but he’s a great goalkeeper.”
The European game is something that Marcinkowski has always had an affinity for. “They just love the game over there,” he said. “No matter what age level, they come out and support you.”
Earlier this year, Marcinkowski, an Alamo native, was selected to play in the International Marveld Tournament in Groenlo, Holland, as a member of the U15 National Team. Quakes academy ace Amir Bashti of Cupertino is also on the U.S. U15 squad.
Marcinkowski was thrilled to help the Americans to a fifth-place finish in a competition filled with European powers. It’s an experience he won’t soon forget.
“Playing with the best players from our country, as well as the best in the world, was an amazing opportunity,” he said. “There was so much talent on the pitch. No matter where you played the ball, you could trust that your teammates were going to make the right play. They always had your back.”
In a perfect world, Marcinkoswki would like to play professionally in Europe, after college, of course.
“Playing in Europe would be a dream come true,” he said, “but playing here would be amazing, also. The American game is starting to catch up a little bit.”
He recently returned from an unofficial visit to UCLA and couldn’t have been more excited about it.
“It was my first visit anywhere, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” he said, “but it would truly be a blessing to be able to play my collegiate soccer there.”
When asked if that was his first option, he was hesitant, saying, “I’ll have to wait it out and see what other options I have before I make my decision.”
As for his immediate future, Marcinkowski intends to stick with the Quakes for the remainder of his high school days.
And the honors keep coming. Marcinkowski and Bashti were ranked as the No. 11 and No. 18 prospects in the nation by Topdrawersoccer.com. They were two of just four West Coast players in the top 18 in the 2015 Boys Top 150.
Marcinkowski has had two shutouts in this young academy season and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any match. The U16s currently have 11 points and are sitting in 4th place in the Northwest Division.
Wherever the game takes him, Marcinkowski remains humble and gracious for what the game has already done for him.
“I just feel blessed to have the chance to play with these guys everyday, and the chance to continue to play the game I love,” he said.