Division I athlete dedicates life to soccer, son

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Division I athlete dedicates life to soccer, son

Paulo Pita and son Brody stand in line before the start of the game.

Paulo Pita and son Brody stand in line before the start of the game.

Adam Gue - Herd Zone

Paulo Pita and son Brody stand in line before the start of the game.

Adam Gue - Herd Zone

Adam Gue - Herd Zone

Paulo Pita and son Brody stand in line before the start of the game.

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As a native of Santos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Marshall men’s soccer redshirt senior goalkeeper Paulo Pita has had the dream of playing professional soccer turned into reality.

Prior to playing collegiate soccer for the Herd, Pita played for the Golden Eagles at the University of Charleston in Charleston, West Virginia from 2016-2017, which included his freshman season with current Herd men’s soccer Head Coach Chris Grassie. While playing for the Golden Eagles, he was the main starting goalkeeper in the game where the team was crowned the NCAA Division II National Champions in 2017 with a record of 20-1-2.

Following his last season with UC, Pita said he decided to transfer from a Division II school to a Division I, having Marshall University in mind.

“I always had that thought that Marshall is a big-time Division I school,” Pita said. “Actually, I committed to Coastal Carolina University before I committed to Marshall. I think that one of the main reasons was because of Chris (Grassie) because he was the one that brought me to Charleston. I knew that transferring to Marshall that I wouldn’t have to adapt my life and style of play because I played with Chris two years before and I knew I was going to find a family environment.”

Pita said that being a student athlete takes a lot of dedication and focus to keep up with school work and playing soccer, from managing practice to attending classes. He praised Marshall for his successes.

“Being a student athlete, it’s definitely hard, especially when you need to make sure to keep your grades up,” Pita said. “You really need to be motivated to keep things going and make sure you’re not only going to be outstanding on the field but also off the field. It’s a combination of grinding on and off the field.”

Having transferred to Marshall, Pita said he has had the continuous mindset to become a professional soccer player once he graduates from college.

“When I won the national championship for (University of) Charleston, my goal is to be pro,” Pita said. “I knew I had to transfer to a Division I school to be seen.”

Adapting from one style to another in soccer comes with changes and responsibilities. When Pita found out he was going to become a father, there were some people and schools that turned away from him.

“I talked to a few other schools and two or three schools; I noticed that they turned their back to me when I said I was about to be a father because they thought it was going to be a problem,” Pita said.

When he discussed his decision about attending Marshall with Grassie, he felt the support that would influence his choice to join the Herd.

“Chris, he hugged me, and he was like, ‘come to Marshall and we’re going to take care of it.’ It was definitely hard,” Pita said.

Pita also admired the full encouragement and praised the support from his wife, Christina.

“I couldn’t do everything without the support of my wife. She is a big-time mom,” he said. “She helps me a lot off the field. In the end of the day, it’s not only hard to be a student-athlete when you go to practice in the morning and go to class in the afternoon and you’re exhausted, but by the time I get home and see my son, I feel like I could do this over and over and over every day.”

Pita said the relationship that he has with his son, Brody, is like no other bond.

“The way he interacts with me, and the way he shows his love, even though he is just a baby, it’s worth it at the end of the day,” Pita said.

Pita said the lifestyle of being a father has changed him in the sense of being more responsible and looking to care for Brody after classes and games.

“It definitely made me grow a lot. It’s tough some days. Like two years ago, I was just like ‘Yeah boys, let’s go grab a beer’ or something like that, but now it’s different,” Pita said. “I got to go home and take care of my son. It shaped me into a better man.”

Every day brings new tasks, but for Pita, he said the task is to always be a father and a husband.

“I have this challenge every day, and it makes me a better person in the end of the day,” he said. “When you have the support from your father and your mom, and those people who raised you, it’s easier when you’re not having a good day and you’re just like ‘hey dad can we have a conversation?’ and I don’t have it here.”

Pita said that he will want to look back on bad days and know how to be a good father for Brody when he is unable to talk to his own dad.

“It’s not about talking to my father; it’s about being the father,” he said.

Brody was born before Pita came to Marshall, and it was a new sighting for some of his teammates and other people.

“I think it was a shock for a few of the guys here,” Pita said. “I’ve heard a lot of people say like ‘oh, how do you have a son, a wife? You’re 24 and you’re in college.’ People don’t understand my background. I was 21 and a freshman. It wasn’t because I was lazy or I dropped out of high school, it was because I was playing in Brazil and I never thought I was going to come to the United States and go to school and play in college.”

Nowadays, Pita will take Brody to his teammates houses and let them interact with each other.

“I feel like they support me,” Pita said. “Sometimes I get Brody and go to my friend’s house, to Pedro’s house because he’s my best friend, and they are happy when I bring Brody to play with them. From my teammates, I never feel they judge me.”

Pita commended Marshall and the men’s soccer team for their endless support throughout his new journey in life since arriving to Huntington.

“I wish I could, if one day in my life, I will write a book and have one chapter for Marshall,” Pita said.  “It’s what I tell my friends. I know there are really big-time schools out there, but Marshall, they don’t only take care of their players, they take care of their students. If you’re a student-athlete, they always make sure you are having a good experience. They always make sure you are comfortable.”

This is Pita’s final semester with the Herd, and he said it has been a memorable experience for him in his life from playing soccer to being a part of a family.

“I don’t have enough words to say how thankful I am for Marshall and I definitely could not have picked a better school to finish my degree,” Pita said.

Taylor Huddleston can be contacted at [email protected].

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