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joey-bhangdia-msoccer
Credit: Son Nguyen

The Daily Pennsylvanian asked Penn men's soccer's Joey Bhangdia 15 questions about his sport, his time at Penn, and his life overall. Here's what the senior midfielder had to say.

1) Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Joey Bhangdia. I’m from Central Pennsylvania, the town’s called Lewisburg. It’s about a three-hour drive from campus. I’m majoring in biology, minoring in environmental science, and I’m a senior.

2) What were you up to this summer?

This summer I was taking classes. I took a class first session and a class second session. And the goal with that was to try to get ahead in credits, just to make the eventual fall season that we would be having now a little bit easier academically, so I could focus on soccer more. But obviously that didn’t turn out like I was planning for, but that was pretty much what I was up to this summer, I was taking classes.

I was actually recovering from a couple surgeries that I had in the early spring as well. They were just some things that I picked up from last season that I eventually got fixed after we returned home for quarantine. So it was a good time, if there was any time, to get surgeries. That was a good time to do it.

3) What have you and the team done to stay active and in touch?

So if I take it back all the way to quarantine, obviously it was difficult because nobody’s been through anything like that before. So there was obviously some onus on guys to do stuff individually and keep up their fitness, keep up their sharpness, and keep a good mentality and attitude on their own. But also when it came to team stuff, we made sure that we had some team meetings, and our coaches were very good about keeping us on top of things and on track with academics and finishing out the school year well. And also just having some time to talk to each other and communicate how we were feeling about certain things. 

And then as we moved into the summer, it was a little bit more individual than it even was in quarantine because traditionally we’d be off doing our own things, playing with summer league teams. But most of the summer leagues were canceled anyway, so guys were just trying to find ways to stay in shape on their own, while still having limited communication with the coaching staff and with other guys. So summer was different, it was a little difficult for all of us. And then as we move into things now, with no fall season, some guys are here, some guys are home, so it’s still a little bit difficult and different. 

But we actually just recently started training together as a Penn team, with the guys who are on campus. We’re training at off-campus facilities, so that’s been going well, so we’re doing pretty much as much as we can to still maintain that team element and playing together and keeping that team culture that we had developed so well these past years. So those are some of the things that we’ve been doing as a team.

4) Were you originally supposed to play on a club team this summer?

Yeah, when I was finishing up my recoveries, I was planning on playing with a local team called West Chester here in Philly. But obviously that didn’t work out, but that was my plan, just to get ready for the fall.

5) Are you optimistic that there will be a spring season, and what are your plans if you are given an additional year of eligibility?

It’s a difficult one because we’re all hoping that we can play in the spring, however it might take shape. I’m optimistic that people in Philly are doing their part to curb the spread and doing their part to minimize any real threats of resurgences. But as far as soccer-wise and sports-wise for Penn Athletics, I’m very optimistic that something will happen in spring, and I know that the athletics department and a lot of other people are working really hard behind the scenes to make those sort of things happen. So I am very optimistic.

And as far as my plans, I am looking into doing a fifth year. That isn’t totally approved and sorted out yet, and I don’t really need to get into the details about that. But I am thinking about that.

6) What do you miss most about not being able to play this fall?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I definitely have come to realize the thing I miss most is the competition and those feelings that I get the day of a game, even the day before a game in training, knowing that the training before a game day is setting the tone for that next game day. And then even more so, just the hours and the minutes leading up to game day and the feeling of that experience because I know that later on in life, I’m not going to be able to replicate those.

And now more than ever, I really am missing that feeling of competition, and then even during a game, just giving everything I have. And really competing to the best of my ability is something that I really, really miss because that’s not something that you can replicate in training. You can train as hard as you want, but you can’t replicate a real, live, intense, meaningful game.

7) You led the team last year in goals, points, shots, and match-winners. What do you attribute your great season to?

I mean I’ve also thought about this a lot, and I attribute it a lot of things. One of the main things that comes to mind is the coaching staff really putting time and effort into me. I really do realize the work that they put into me and the potential they saw in me, and I really appreciate that. Mainly all the film sessions that they’re really getting on me about the little minute details, or the extra work that they’re putting in with me on the field, or the talks that they’re having with me to be more vocal, a more vocal sort of leader. Because I’ve always tried to lead by example, I’ve always tried to just work as hard as I possibly can, maybe leave some of my vocal ability on the field. 

And they really have dug into me that I can be a more vocal leader and a bigger vocal presence on the field, and even off the field in the locker room, too. And I really have taken that to heart, and I’ve really tried to implement that into my life as a soccer player, and I think that was a big step for me to take and one that really gave me more confidence on the field. And then another thing I think I attribute to my growth from sophomore year — and even freshman year — to last year was my relationships with other guys that I’m playing with, just even doing stuff outside of soccer with other guys. 

On-field relationships I really think got better for me last year, and that really, really helped me on the field. Because I remember Coach Gill telling me — I’m not sure when — but he told me that the things he thought that really helped me were some of the things that I said, like my relationships, my mentality, my confidence because I think I’ve gotten a lot more confident as a player. And just not thinking too much about mistakes that I make on the field, and just getting onto the next play. So I think some of those things really helped me.

8) What does it mean to you to have been named first team All-Ivy in 2019?

It really does mean a lot. I’m glad that you say that because I remember what I was doing when I saw the Twitter notification that Penn released. I was studying with a buddy of mine, it was a teammate, and I just remember seeing that, and I was blown away because I wasn’t expecting anything like that, even with some of the things I accomplished during the season. I was not expecting to be recognized like that within the Ivy League, so I was pretty shocked, but then I was just very humbled and appreciative to be among players of that caliber. 

Yeah, I was really humbled by that, so that was something I really enjoyed. But I attribute that a lot to teammates of mine, the coaching staff. Obviously, when those things happen, it’s not solely the recipient, it’s also a lot of people behind the scenes, players on the field, coaching staff. And I’m very appreciative of everybody who helped me.

9) In terms of the team’s play, how would you assess the way last season went?

Last year was a big step for us, especially from the year prior, getting I think it was second to last in the League, and then following it up with a second-place finish was huge for us. We had a lot of talks because we started off really well. I think we were — I don’t know what we were in the beginning of the season — but we started off with a lot of wins, getting some big results against ranked teams, and just big results in the front half of our season. I remember having a lot of talks with our coaches about not being complacent, not being satisfied with starting off strong, we need to really finish well. 

And I think one of the things that we struggled with the prior season — when we got second to last, I believe it was — was some of our middle of the season games, where we kind of let up toward the end of the games. And I think we really stepped that up last season, and to come out with a winning record and to be 3-1-3 in the Ivy League and beat Yale, who won the League, was really a big step for us. We really defined our culture, we were very resilient in the locker room. I know guys formed a lot of relationships with each other within and among the team. 

And obviously, no one’s satisfied with getting second place, we all want to get first place, we all want to work toward that goal of playing in meaningful NCAA Championship games. But last season was definitely a step in the right direction for us, and when we all get the chance to play together again for something similar to that, then I know we’ll be ready because we’re doing all the right things that we need to be doing now. We’re playing together, we’re still staying connected, so I think last year was really good for us as a team.

10) What do you want to see from both yourself and the team that will allow you to get over the hump to winning an Ivy title?

I think just staying consistent throughout the slate of games that we have in the regular season, however that season looks when it comes. I think staying consistent with always giving ourselves a chance in a game, and even if we think we’re out of it, then fighting until the end. But really staying in a game because a lot of our games, and just soccer in general, they’re close games, and especially in college, any team can beat any team, and we need to realize that we need to be getting up for every game like it matters because it does. 

Every game matters for a season to have that ultimate goal of playing meaningful NCAA Championship games. So I think just staying consistent with our mentality about getting up for each and every game — Ivy League game, out-of-conference game — and really giving ourselves a fighting chance in every game I think will really help us moving forward.

11) Do you have a pregame routine?

A little bit. I would say my routine isn’t as drastic as some other people. When we get into the locker room, I put in my headphones, I have a playlist that I like to listen to. I just sort of sift through those songs, try to hype myself up a little bit. I usually drink an iced coffee a little bit before the game, and then just when we get on the field, I try to hype myself up even more and then get into it.

Bonus Question: What music is on the pregame playlist?

I’d say my favorite artist is Juice WRLD. I listen to a lot of his music.

12) Any new hobbies or things you’ve picked up that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do during the season?

Not really, I mean right now I’m cooking a lot more, and I really enjoy doing that. But I wouldn’t say I’ve really picked up any hobbies.

13) What’re some positives that you’ve been able to take from this whole situation?

The first thing that comes to mind is definitely spending time with family and realizing that that’s not always a guaranteed thing. A lot of people got the chance to go home for quarantine and spend time with their family and eat meals at dinner together as a family. And I think — not that people take those things for granted because I don’t think they really do — but people I think don’t really get that chance as much as they want. And I know for me, I really enjoyed and appreciated getting those types of chances to be with family during quarantine.

14) If you weren’t playing soccer, what other sport would you be playing?

I feel like if I didn’t play soccer, I’d take up CrossFit as my main focus. I feel like CrossFit would be number one that I would like to get into, and then a spinoff of that, like doing obstacle courses, but with a CrossFit sort of spin. And then my second thing would probably be skiing. I really enjoy skiing. I haven’t been skiing in a while, just because of all the soccer that’s been happening, but I really like skiing, too. In high school, I did ski club, and we went to Snow Mountain, but my favorite place is probably New York. I’ve been out west a couple times, too.

15) What’re your plans for after you graduate?

My main focus right now, my main plan, is to keep playing soccer as long as I can. I really fortified that decision during quarantine as what I wanted to do. And I pretty much live out every day of my life like I’m a professional athlete because that’s what I want to be one day. I really want to do this for a living and try to give everything that I have to a professional team.

So I would say that’s sort of my plan, if you can call that a plan, because I don’t know if it’s going to be what happens, but that’s my plan after I graduate. So play for as long as I can, and then after that, I would like to go to medical school at some point, whenever that comes.

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