Most freshmen college students would find it difficult to balance a full schedule of classes with being a member of a competitive sports team, but 18-year-old Joel Pagan is standing up to the challenge.
Pagan, an administrative justice major, joined Pierce last fall after graduating from East Valley High School in 2015. Pagan said that he has always been a physically active guy and played football, basketball and volleyball throughout high school. Of the three sports, he enjoyed volleyball most and decided to continue playing it in college. Today he is part of Pierce’s competitive men’s volleyball team. Before he joined any school sports teams, Pagan took up breakdancing in sixth grade.
“I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and I moved here in sixth grade to live with my dad,” Pagan said. “Back then, all I would do was dance. I would do competitions and everything so that was my life.”
Pagan’s dad, who used to be a professional dancer, was the one who introduced him to breakdancing and taught him how to dance until he was able to teach himself. Pagan said that his dad is his biggest source of inspiration in that art. A year later, in seventh grade, Pagan moved back to Puerto Rico where breakdancing wasn’t as widely accepted.
“When I moved back to Puerto Rico, dancing wasn’t everywhere like it is here, so I kind of dropped it,” Pagan said. “It wasn’t as popular there then as it’s getting now.”
Pagan said that he really missed dancing in the three years that followed but he has continued pursuing it as a hobby ever since. Then, when he came back to Los Angeles in tenth grade, he started doing sports through school.
Today Pagan gets his volleyball team pumped before games by breakdancing in the middle of the team huddle. Lance Walker, who is currently coaching the men’s volleyball team at Pierce for his fourth consecutive year, said that he enjoys the good atmosphere Pagan brings to the team.
“Joel has a really good spirit and I think a lot of it comes from the island that he’s from, that Puerto Rican fire and the competitiveness that comes with it,” Walker said. “It’s contagious and I love having it.”
Walker is a former Brahma himself and graduated from Pierce with his associate’s degree in 2000. The team is in season right now and spends about 13 hours each week practicing and playing volleyball.
Mario Patrick, an 18 year old communications major who is also on the volleyball team, said that managing the rigorous schedule is difficult at times. Most of the team players maintain a part-time job in addition to being full-time students and athletes. Like Pagan, Patrick transferred to Pierce last fall straight after high school. Patrick and Pagan met at tryouts and have been close ever since.
“The whole team is close, really,” Patrick said. “I mean, they’re all such good guys and our coach makes sure of that when he’s recruiting. That way you’re always in good company and you’re always having a good time.”
The team has two home games coming up this week. One on Wednesday, March 9 against Long Beach, and one on Friday, March 11 against Santa Monica. The demanding hours don’t leave the volleyball players such as Pagan and Patrick with too much time for other activities, but Walker says he’s not worried.
“That’s what summer’s for,” Walker said.