He started playing soccer with older boys, but now fifth-year centreback Jason Gill is the one encouraging the young bucks.
According to the UBC soccer captain, there were jitters before the men’s soccer team’s 4-0 season-opening win against Victoria.
“We had our young second-year centreback, and some other guys were antsy too,” he said. “I just told them, just look, it’s another game. Go out there, you can control what you can control.”
Gill, an Abbotsford native, started playing when he was nine. “As a kid, I went to play a year up with the older guys,” he said. “Playing with them, I wasn’t really interested in going to university or anything, I was just thinking, ‘I’ll play until high school’s over.’”
Coach Mike Mosher describes him as a reliable influence in the centre of UBC’s defence.
“Jason’s been a key piece in our defending corps last year and the last several years,” he said. “If you look at the statistics for the last couple of years, we’ve had a very low number of goals scored upon us.”
The captain’s armband fell to Gill following the 2009 season. “I was kind of surprised, but it was obviously something to be proud of and I’ve just kind of went with it and got the guys’ respect, and it’s mutual,” he said. “It’s been a good thing going.”
For Mosher, Gill’s attributes made him a clear choice.
“He has character, integrity and he’s got the respect of his teammates. He’s a calm individual and he’s a calming influence on his team,” he said.
“He’s a guy that I can trust and I can always go to as a coach. He’ll make the right decision at different times.”
Gill tries to take that approach to the field. “I’m more of a finesse centreback; I’m composed…Every game pretty much means everything, so go out, do what you do, keep it simple, and nothing that you’re not able to do, and things will fall for you.”
After university, Gill said he was unsure of his plans, citing a difficulty to make the professional leap as a Canadian player. “You’ve got to face adversity in those times,” he said. “You’ve gotta be lucky too, which is huge. Just keep battling through and hopefully something comes your way.”
But Gill, a political science student, thinks he’s picked up skills employers will want. “Employers will love that leadership role. Not only that, but I get the respect of my peers and I give them respect back. It’s just something nice to have.”
Gill is happy with his five years at UBC, but has one more goal to accomplish. “It’s exciting to be here for the last year, but at the same time it’s almost the end, so just wanting to win, coming away with things,” he said.
He was at the helm last year as the T-Birds lost 1-0 to York University in the national championship game, and there’s one word he uses to describe the experience: devastating.
“We still talk about that to this day. Pregame, postgame, everything…Coming so close, just this bitter feeling in your mouth, you just want to get back at it, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do all summer and this season.
“We just want to get back to nationals.”