The life of a professional athlete isn’t for the faint of heart.
Whether it’s dealing with the pressure of deciding the match with the ball at your feet while 35,000 fans waiting with bated breath, or enduring the daily grind to claim your place within the squad, the pressure of expectations can be crippling. Few are built to withstand the pressures that come along with the craft, but Jordan Hamilton has been preparing for his moment for nearly his entire life.
Growing up in Scarborough, the Ontario native was never short on physical ability. Even at a young age, Hamilton had aspirations of going pro via multiple avenues.
“I was involved with a lot of sports growing up,” he says. “It was just my way of staying out of trouble and developing my skills as a well-rounded athlete. I believe I could have gone the professional route in many sports, but I had a love for soccer.”
That love was cultivated at a young age, where a young Hamilton spent his afternoons on the blacktop of St. Bede’s Catholic School. There wasn’t a goalpost or net to be found, but that did little to deter Hamilton’s passion for the game.
“Me and my best friend would just run wild out there,” he recounts with a smile. “We’d pretend to be Wayne Rooney and Ronaldinho. Those were some of the best times of my life.”
Once again standing on the very ground where he fell in love with the game, the emotions and memories begin to flood back. But they weren’t all as rosy.
You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else does. I never doubt myself. I’m proof that you can come from nothing and make it.
Despite his status as a multi-sport standout, Hamilton recalls the frustration he felt as a young kid that had been cast aside. Yearning for more, that frustration only served to fuel him throughout his journey to the top.
“I like to come back here because a lot of the teachers in this school counted me out,” he says. “I like to come back here and remember how far I’ve come as a kid who a lot of people didn’t think would be anything.”
Entering the sixth grade, a reluctant Hamilton made the switch to St. Dominic Savio, a move that his family felt would give him the best chance to pursue his dreams. Needless to say, there was a fair amount of apprehension involved with the move.
“All my friends were here [at St. Bede] and when you’re a little kid, you don’t want to switch to anything that you’re unfamiliar with,” he explains. “But at the end of the day, it was just a good decision that my mom made. I owe a lot to her because I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to leave my best friends behind.”
Hamilton began to blossom as an athlete at St. Dominic Savio, seeing his potential realized.
“[At St. Bede] I only played soccer, basketball and track, but [at St. Dominic Savio] they put me in everything: football, volleyball, soccer, everything. I remember in my first year, I didn’t know how to spike a volleyball and by eighth grade I was lethal and just killing it.”
From there, his career aspirations began to take shape. Taking advantage of his newfound platform, Hamilton saw his stock begin to rise.
“That’s where I really burst on the athletic scene. I think I made almost every city final in my two years there. It’s pretty funny to go to that gym, you’ll see only a couple of banners from 1996 to 2006, then from 2007 to 2010 it’s just stacked with banners.
“Not just from me but other good athletes, too,” he grins.
The early adversity played an integral part in his journey, shaping his entire outlook on life. It’s why Hamilton ventures back to St. Bede’s every so often, providing the 21-year-old with a newfound perspective on where he currently stands.
“I just have that Scarborough mentality; I never doubt myself. Even if you talk to Julian De Guzman or [Dwayne De Rosario], they’ll tell you the same thing.
“Other people may doubt me, but I love to prove them wrong.”
And prove them wrong he has. Signing for Toronto FC in 2014, Hamilton saw his dreams become a reality, moving from the blacktop of St. Bede’s to BMO Field.
“Playing for TFC, it means everything to me,” he says. “I want to be someone that kids today look up to. I’m proof that you can come from having nothing really and having no opportunities to making it.”
Perseverance has been key, and Hamilton hopes his journey can serve as a guiding light to Canadians who share his same childhood dream, even if they don’t follow his path.
“For Canadians, you’ll always have to take a different road. Look at Ashtone [Morgan] and I who went through the academy. Then you have [Jonathan] Osorio who went to Uruguay, came back, played in the CSL for FC Toronto and then after killing it there, came to TFC, killed it, got his contract. Raheem [Edwards] went to college at Sheridan which no one would be expecting him to come from there, played two seasons for TFC II, got his contract, played really well. Then you see Tosaint [Ricketts] who went through the ringer, went all around Eastern Europe – not great living conditions but grinded it out and now he’s here enjoying life in a great city.
“It just goes to show that there are plenty of ways to get here. It’s not all roses and sunshine—it’s going to be tough—but if you really believe in yourself, it can happen.”