Still A Teenager, Soccer Standout Jaiya Anderson Is Already A Big Winner Story by Y.A. Teitelbaum • Photos by Jack Lowenstein
Jaiya Anderson’s first name means “victory” in Sanskrit, and the 16-year-old is a big winner, having overcome leukemia to become a strong, stabilizing force for both the Wellington High School girls soccer team and the Wellington Wave travel soccer team. Anderson plays sweeper on both teams, providing tough defense, leadership and victories. Although the Wolverines lost to rival Boca Raton 3-2 in double overtime in the Class 5A regional semifinals, the team finished with a superb 22-2-1 record. Anderson spearheaded the defense that allowed just nine goals all season. She was named to first-team All-County by both the Palm Beach Post and the SunSentinel. She also scored six goals and added five assists. Anderson made the high school varsity team as a freshman and started at right midfield. “I was surprised; there were a lot of really good players,” she said of her ninth-grade accomplishments. Now finishing up her sophomore year at WHS, Anderson has played for the Wave travel program for the past four years, always at sweeper, although she moves to forward if the offense needs a spark. “I like playing forward better, [and] I like to stop the other team from scoring,” Anderson said. Brazilian-born Marcone Oliveira is Anderson’s head coach for the Wave. The travel team plays in numerous tournaments and leagues throughout the spring and summer.
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“Jaiya is a very special player,” Oliveira said. “She is very dedicated and always works hard to get better. She improved her technique a lot, and her understanding of the game. She is a very important player on our team.” Anderson is a big fan of the U.S. Women’s National Team and attended a national team game at Florida Atlantic University several years ago. She also watched games of the short-lived MagicJack pro team, led by Abby Wambach, in Boca Raton during its only season in 2011. Her favorite players are Alex Morgan, Julie Johnston and Tobin Heath — a forward, a defender and a midfielder — all her positions. Anderson wants to play soccer in college but will have to add another skill to her repertoire. “I don’t head the ball; I’m too scared,” she said, remembering that her doctor warned against it because of possible concussions. Choosing a child’s name can be daunting. For Anderson, it was perfect foreshadowing. “My cousin suggested I name her Jai, but I wanted a ‘y’ and an ‘a’ at the end,” explained Anderson’s mother, Yulanda. Her mother didn’t realize the significance of her daughter’s name at the time. It has a secondary meaning.
“It also means bright people who bring smiles to people’s faces, and that’s the perfect name for her,” Yulanda said. “She’s always smiling; everybody loves her. So it fits.” Her daughter slightly disagreed, with a smile. “I think I’m shy,” Anderson said. Yulanda is a single parent, and Anderson is an only child. Yulanda is also an only child; her mother lives in Miami. The family is very close. Anderson and her mother both love watching horror movies together but won’t watch them in the dark. She also likes watching Pretty Little Liars and American Ninja Warriors. Anderson began playing soccer when she was 5 years old, playing in the Royal Palm Beach recreation league at Katz Field. Although she didn’t like to practice, she was a good player, and the sport came naturally. Tragedy struck when she was diagnosed with leukemia on June 21, 2011, about five months before her 11th birthday. “I remember lying in the bed, half asleep, and the doctor came in and talked to my mom and grandma,” Anderson recalled. “It changed my world. At the time, I asked ‘Why me?’ I was crying to my grandma… That’s the only breakdown I had.” What calmed her was the understanding that she wasn’t alone. “Seeing other kids in the hospital, I saw they
Published on Apr 26, 2017
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