Friday, October 28, 2011

One on One with Jay Demerit

Recently I was given the privilege of viewing “Rise and Shine: The Jay Demerit Story”. I knew the basic premise of the story; however once I saw the film I was that much more in awe. Perhaps what I found most impressive is that it’s one that is not over. Demerit continues to work hard and persevere. His story touches many around him and gives a fantastic testament of what hard work and motivation can do.  

After reviewing the film, I knew the next step had to be to talk to Jay. My positive impression of Jay rang true in speaking with him. We talked about the film, Vancouver and his plans for the future.

MLS Reserves: Can you start off by talking a bit about how “Rise and Shine” started? It’s origins and what it’s been like to see that process bear fruit…

Jay Demerit: “It started with me being approached roughly six to eight months before the World Cup by Nick and Ranko, who I played with at UIC for two years. Nick was his friend from college. Neither are filmmakers but they had a producer friend in mind that was going to direct it. About two months before the World Cup he decided he couldn’t do it… So there we were, Nick and Rocko had to hire a cameraman and do it themselves.”

Nick Lewis and Ranko Tutulugdzija were two of Demerit’s most dedicated friends. Ranko attended college with Jay and even slept on his floor for a time. Nick is an attorney who made his producing and directorial debut with Rise and Shine. Both were quintessential in getting the film done. The two sought out cinematographer Zach Salsman whose talents truly helped the finished product come together.

“When approached with the idea I had to think about it for a little while… Whether you want those types of things documented but ultimately the message that these guys kept telling me was that this was a soccer story that needs to be told. The more people I asked, the more people agreed that it should happen. So I got on board and here we are.”

“We called up family, friends, ex-teammates and ex-coaches. We had to ask if they’d be interested in appearing on film. Also we had to contend with trying to get Zach, our camera man, to the World Cup. Then we had to talk to US Soccer about bringing my own camera and if that was ok to be filming things with friends and family while at the World Cup…so all of those things going into play before these projects even start. They have to be systems go before it can even take shape.”

MLS Reserves: When you look back at your story, do you ever wonder “how did I do that? How did I come this far?”
Jay Demerit: “Not really, because if I was a person who reflected a lot instead of moving forward then these types of things would have never happened. I think at some point I would have gotten comfortable and said ‘this is good enough, I cant believe I’m here’. I suppose because I’m not that type of person, the next step was always possible. I think that in itself says something.”

MLS Reserves: In the film, you mention that there were times where you nearly packed it all up and returned home. How did you persevere through those times?

Jay Demerit: “I always had positive signs pointing me in the right directions. Not only that but an attitude to try and keep a positive energy about the journey. I think the best part about it is enjoying the struggle and not taking it as a negative. In those types of situations you’re going to have struggle. For me it was something I felt I should be going through and it didn’t get met down. It actually inspired me to keep going… You have to take the hits at times to do the unthinkable. I think it’s that formula that is the reason why it happened.”

MLS Reserves: You’ve played in the nearly every level of soccer. Looking back over those times, what would you say your proudest moment as a professional has been?

Jay Demerit: “Probably standing in the tunnel to play against England in the World Cup. Not only because I plied my trade in England but standing next to those guys and superstars…I saw those guys on TV in the Premiership and in World Cups previously. All the sudden five or six years later I’m standing next to them. Then having the people who supported me to be there and enjoy that moment was the pinnacle of it all.”

MLS Reserves: The film culminates with your exploits on the US National Team. What was it like to represent your country? Particularly after dining on beans and toast only a few years earlier…

Jay Demerit: “Representing your country is the ultimate goal of any professional, particularly in soccer. You can’t get better than that. Especially in the World Cup; to be among the 11 to represent your country to the world it’s something that no one can take away from you. It’s not only looking back to see where you’ve come from to get there, but it’s when you feel most proud.”

MLS Reserves: Switching over to Whitecaps territory, looking back on Vancouver’s first season, what are your thoughts?

Jay Demerit: “It was a tough year but in an expansion year it’s never going to be easy. I think we gave ourselves a bit of false hope by winning the first game.  Reality hits you pretty hard sometimes. Not only the team but personally as well with my injury. I was back and forth for the first five months of a season which stops you. You know, you sign up to play a role and given a captaincy but I couldn’t be out there with the guys.”

“I signed up for it and moved toward this challenge but to not be out there was hard at times. Then being at there was just as hard, I felt helpless. But that’s what you go through in order to see that light at the end of the tunnel. There’s no reason that it’s not in Vancouver. All of us believe that there are positive things in the future of the Vancouver Whitecaps. The way that the club is run, the fan support and the players we have… we’ve shown that we can compete with anyone in this league. Unfortunately we didn’t show that consistently this year. If we can do that next year then we’ll be able to hit the ground running.”

MLS Reserves: Martin Rennie is coming in to take over the team for the 2012 season. Prior to him being announced as head coach of Vancouver, had you ever met or heard of him? Heard of the Railhawks?

Jay Demerit: “I had heard of the Railhawks because we did a training camp with the US team there at the facilities. I knew they were successful in their league but I’d never heard of Martin before. But, I’m a guy that likes the unheard of and the unknown, particularly with managers. There’s no pressure or preconceived idea of what they’re supposed to be about. I’ve been in that situation before and we got promoted to the Premiership. It’s something I try to embrace and not be weary of.”

MLS Reserves: Looking ahead, has he talked to you guys about what the team’s goals are for the future. Specifically what are the Whitecaps looking to accomplish in 2012?

Jay Demerit: “We have our first mini-camp with him next week. So we’ll be able to see what he’s all and we’ll be able to get behind him. As of right now he hasn’t been able to be part of the team because he had to finish his season with the Railhawks.”

MLS Reserves: One of the things Vancouver has going for them is the  residency program as well as new therapy techniques. How much do the residency program and new physical therapy approaches factor in to future success?

Jay Demerit: “Huge. The medical department in my opinion is one of the most important parts of a club. Not only in the way they care for the players to get them on the field, but having the trust between manager and physio is huge. I think they’re directly linked in the way a manager pushes his players but in having success on the field. You’re only going to get that by having guys that are fit and ready to go, not tired and carrying injuries. That relationship is huge moving forward.”

MLS Reserves: What’s next for Jay Demerit? How much is left in the tank and what would you like to do after you’re done playing?

Jay Demerit: “Well I’m not really someone that looks back. I look forward. I turn 32 in December and once I get to this age I take it one year at a time. I didn’t come to Vancouver to play one year, I came here to start something and build something. That continues into next year. The US team is of course in my mind but those things are not up to me. My job is to stay on the field and it’s up to others to choose me. That’s really all I can do is be confident and healthy, the rest takes care of itself. My first priority is to be on the field for the Whitecaps and to enjoy it.”

Demerit went on to describe his hopes of creating a scholarship fund and using soccer camps to help the community. It was obvious in talking to him that for all his successes, he’s adamant about giving back.

MLS Reserves: What is your message to the non-soccer fan to get them to see the film?

Jay Demerit: “This film is about soccer but ultimately it’s about belief and hard work can come along. To achieve your goals and dreams can happen to anybody as long as you get the formula right. Belief and positive energy is the idea across the board. You don’t have to be a soccer fan to appreciate that. We just want people to see the story and grasp on to the message.”

Perhaps Jay's story goes mainstream and perhaps not. Regardless, those who are able to see it will no doubt leave motivated to pursue their dreams. It's a testament to the fantastic power of self belief. I'd be lying if I wasn't that much more inspired after talking to him. Bottom line, when Jay Demerit's playing days are over, there is no doubt that he will continue influencing those around him in the most positive of ways. 

1 comment:

  1. Jay, you continue to be an inspiration and a positive role model. Keep up the good work.