Chimdum Mez: Find Your Beat
From time to time we share long form personal accounts by various professional athletes at different stages in their career. There are many principles that a frugal athlete holds outside of being prudent financially. In some cases, being a frugal athlete can be about steps you made in order to increase your personal brand or even side hustles you did to help build your portfolio and stability. Below is a personal account on the trials and tribulations of Chimdum Mez. Chimdum was gracious enough to share his story and experiences with us.
My name is Chimdum Mez and I’m currently playing professional soccer in Segunda División de Costa Rica (Costa Rica 2nd Divison) with Ezcazuceña. As I take a look back on this journey of mine, I feel very blessed to still be playing. I didn’t even know I wanted to play college soccer, until after a high school playoff game against Jesuit my junior season. Jesuit had a number of guys who already earned scholarships to colleges all over the country. Although we lost that game, I thought I played really well against all of those future college athletes. That moment was when I realized that I wanted to play college soccer. I started emailing coaches later on that year right before the summer just trying to create opportunities for myself. I went to several ID camps that summer and never showed well. My goal was to play for a Division 1 college program, so I felt discouraged one day when this one coach told me I’d be lucky if I got a chance to play Division 2 ball. I got a little interest from University of San Francisco after they saw me play in a tournament, but ended up playing so poorly at their invitation camp, that I knew they lost all interest me. It didn’t help that immediately after high school soccer season, I would go directly into basketball season, and focus strictly on basketball for the 3 month season.
I eventually realized I wanted to go to Sac State because they had a good Division 1 soccer program that won the MPSF conference the previous season and it was my hometown college. I was fortunate enough to have one of my old club coaches, Ismael Echeverria, introduce me to the coaching staff at Sac State. I was devastated when I went on Sac State’s Soccer website a few weeks later to find out they just finished up their 2010 recruiting class, but I still went to the ID camp and played well enough for the coaches to invite me into pre-season camp. In my eyes, the pre-season camp invitation meant I was already on the team. I worked my ass off the entire summer to make sure I was prepared as possible for camp because I knew that was my absolute last chance of becoming a college soccer player. I was scared because I just let go of a guaranteed opportunity to play college basketball at Sonoma State University, so if I didn’t show well in preseason camp, my dreams of being a collegiate athlete that year were over. I worked my ass off during preseason camp and showed I wanted to be on that team, so it meant the world to me when the coaches told me I made the team.
I was living out my dream of playing college soccer, but I still felt inferior to not just my teammates, but other college athletes on campus because I was a walk-on. It sucked hearing everybody talk about their scholarships. I always felt embarrassed when people would ask me “How much scholarship are you on?” or “Where else did you get recruited to?” I had to take out loans to cover my school and dorm fees, but I was fortunate enough to be born with a hustler’s mentality. I was trying to make money every way I could. I was working with Vector Marketing and would demo Cutco cutlery, and would get a percentage of everything I sell. My barber, Chuka Torres, taught me how to cut hair toward the end of my junior year of high school because I had a predetermined plan to make a lot of money cutting hair in the dorms once i moved to college. I left my dorm room open whenever I was cutting hair, and would blast my music obnoxiously loud to attract attention to “Cuts by Chim”. Word of mouth spread that the new black dude on the soccer team can cut hair well, and eventually became one of the main barbers on campus.
I ended up getting a lot of playing time my first year for a walk-on freshman. We won the MPSF for a second year in a row too. We also had two seniors that season get picked up in the MLS Supplemental Draft. Watching my teammates get picked up in the draft gave me hope that one day I could get picked up in the MLS draft. The transition from club ball to D1 college soccer was tough, but overall I had a great first year experience and I wouldn't change it for anything.
The summer prior to my sophomore season I was back on my hustle. I was coaching kids at Sac State’s annual summer camps and I got another job at Nike Outlet. The 50 percent discount off all Nike products killed me that summer. My paychecks were basically going to my gas tank and every upcoming Air Jordan release. All of my time was going towards Nike, soccer camps for the kids, and cutting hair in my hot ass garage, to the point where I wasn’t putting enough focus on my main goal of being a successful soccer player. I didn't come into preseason camp with the same hunger I did my freshman season. I would have practice from 8-10AM and 2-4PM then I would work a shift at Nike from 6-11PM. I would also squeeze in haircuts any chance I could. I thought my spot on the team was guaranteed, but I found out the hard way that it wasn’t. The day before the preseason scrimmage against Stanford, I was cut from the squad. The coaches told me it would count as a redshirt year for me, and that I could try and prove myself during the spring season. I was crushed, just like that my dreams were over. It felt like a nightmare. I walked back into the team room and let all the guys know that I had just been released and cried my ass off in front of all of the guys. I went to the showers and punched out and broke all of the soap dispensers. On top of that I lost my job at Nike, but luckily my boy Nsima Inyang ended up getting me a job at Abercrombie and Fitch.The toughest part was telling my dad because he was so proud of how far I came. He loved telling everybody my story of becoming a collegiate athlete. He even had a bunch of my pictures and the upcoming schedule up at his job to let everybody know when my games were. The following day, I went to the game against Stanford and sat in the stands, and felt like everyone was looking at me wondering why I wasn’t on the field. I tried to keep my emotions under control, but ended up crying my ass off there too, and was comforted by the coach’s wife and a few close friends of mine on the women’s team. Prior to being cut from the team, I signed a new lease with 3 other teammates. It killed me always being around the team, but not being apart of it anymore. I felt like an outsider even though I still considered all of them my brothers. Everybody on campus was always asking me why I wasn’t playing anymore, and always felt embarrassed when I had to explain what happened. I’ve always been a positive dude, but that experience really took a toll on me mentally at the time. I could of easily called it quits on my career, but i used that negative experience as fuel to make a big comeback.
I ended up having a great spring season and made sure I was super focused the summer prior to the upcoming season. I got really interested in fitness and nutrition and became a Herbalife sales rep. That job was perfect for me. I worked on my own time, and it taught me the importance of self care and self improvement while also running my own personal business. Herbalife really helped set up a strong foundation of what it takes to be successful in anything. I ended up making the team and had a good comeback season. I also scored my first goal that season against UC Santa Barbara, which I will never forget. I ended up earning a partial scholarship by the end of the year, too. The big set back I had the previous fall was very much needed. It taught me a major life lesson about making sure to stay positive through tough times, and to never give up on my dreams.
After the semester, I knew I had to find a PDL team to play with for the summer, so I can stay sharp and come into my college preseason ready to make an impact. My old college teammate/roommate Andre Spencer connected me with a PDL team by the name of The Los Angeles Misioneros in Southern California. My college teammate Teddy Sampson and his family welcomed me to live with them at their home in Manhattan Beach, CA the entire summer. That was a game changer for me. I became a much better player that summer and came into preseason camp sharper than I ever was. I ended up scoring 2 game winning goals that season. I know that’s not great, but all that mattered to me was that I was improving. I moved back to LA again the following summer prior to my senior season to play with The Misioneros. I had one season left of collegiate soccer, so i knew I had to put my all into my game this year if I was going to have any shot of playing professionally after college. I ended up connecting with a personal trainer who saw me doing drills with Teddy one morning at Mira Costa High School, and he ended up doing striker-specific training with me the rest of the summer. I came into my senior year more determined then ever, and everybody noticed. I was scoring game winning goals left and right. I started to create a little buzz for myself around the Big West, and was known as a big threat around the conference. I finished the season with 7 goals and 3 assist and made the Big West All Conference 1st Team.
Although I had a great season, I didn’t get invited to the MLS combine. I was upset about that, but I knew a few pros personally that told me they weren’t invited to the combine either, so i still had faith. I ended up getting invited to the San Jose Earthquakes combine and showed really well. From the moment the combine ended, I felt I stood out the most and that they were going to pick me up in the draft. I didn’t hear any feedback, so I just thought they weren't interested. The dead period after college soccer is a terrifying time because you have no idea what’s going to happen. A lot of players have the dream of playing professionally, but that’s the time that a lot of them officially call it quits.
I remember the day I got drafted like it was yesterday. I was training with my personal trainer and a few other pros & college players. My old teammate, James Del Curto, answered my phone and he told me it was my agent. My agent asked me if i heard the news and obviously i didn't because I was at training. He told me the San Jose Earthquakes selected me No. 66 in the 4th round of The MLS Super Draft. I couldn’t believe it! I went from an un-recruited walk-on college athlete who got cut his sophomore season to a MLS draft pick. My phone was going crazy for weeks. The Good Day Sacramento news crew came to my house to do a story on me, and I was feeling on top of the world. I withdrew from my final semester at Sac State to join The Earthquakes the following week.
I left for preseason camp with the San Jose Earthquakes, and was trying to get adjusted to the speed of the game. It was a really tough transition for me trying to adjust to the game speed and going against all of these experienced pros. Although I had a great experience with the Earthquakes, I ended up getting cut about 3 weeks into preseason. It reminded of when I was cut from my college team. It was a big deal in my hometown, so every time anybody saw me around Sacramento they would ask how it’s going with the Earthquakes, and i’d let them know I've just been cut. I’d have this same exact conversation over 50 times a day. It got to the point I was staying in the house a lot more just to avoid people from asking me that question over and over again. I went on a few USL trials and ended up not signing with any team. I ended up signing with the PDL side, The Kitsap Pumas. I thought I was going to have a great season with Kitsap, but I ended up not playing my best soccer while i was there and didn't get much playing time. That really took a toll on me mentally because I just went from getting drafted to getting cut and barely getting off the bench for a PDL team. After the PDL season, I ended up going back to school to finish my last semester of college. Going back to college after taking a break for a semester was really tough for me, but I finished and got my degree in Organizational Communications. Education is the most important thing to Nigerian parents, so finishing up my degree after taking some time off was a really big deal to them.
The following season I ended up going down another division and playing with The Sacramento Gold in the NPSL. I knew I was in a slump and that i’d eventually get out of it, but damn…it was a tough time for me. My agent at the time was a good friend of mine, but he wasn’t getting me any trial opportunities and I was going crazy. I had a real deep conversation with my personal trainer, Mike Johnson at Playmaker’s Elite which really helped me get my career back on track. He made me realize that this is business and if your agent isn’t getting the job done, then you need to let him go and find someone who will. I took his advice and fired my agent. I started contacting friends of mine who were currently playing professionally hoping one of them could connect me with an agent. I eventually got connected with an agent who was ready to get me back on track right way. He asked me if i’d be ready to move to Costa Rica in 10 days for a trial opportunity with a 2nd division professional club . I was terrified because everything was happening so fast, and I never thought that i’d be moving to another country, especially one where English wasn’t the first language. I was a little hesitant to make a decision at first, but I knew if i didn’t take this chance, it would of been like calling it quits on everything I worked so hard for.
Making the move to Costa Rica to risk it all for my dream is easily one of the best decisions I've ever made. All of the guys on the team were very welcoming even though most of them didn’t speak any English. I was fortunate enough to have my new teammate, George Freeman, translate for me. He made my move to Costa Rica super smooth, and I forever appreciate him for always helping me communicate with everybody. I can now speak more than enough Spanish to get by on my own. I struggled in the beginning trying to keep up technically with most of my teammates, but I was improving at such a rapid pace that I knew the future was going to be bright. About 3 weeks in, my agent told me that they would be willing to sign me in the next signing window if they see a lot of improvement in technical abilities, so that was more than enough motivation to put in the necessary extra work each day. Four months later, I officially signed my first professional soccer contract with A.D Escazuceña of the Costa Rican 2nd Division. The money isn’t great here, but I didn't move here for the money. The experience that I’m gaining; playing with and against these very skilled players is much more valuable to me. According to Robert Greene, author of The Book of Mastery, “All that should concern you in the early stages of your career is acquiring practical knowledge in the most efficient manner possible.”
Fortunately for myself, I never let go of my hustler’s mentality. While I'm over here focusing on my professional soccer career, I’m running a sneaker reselling operation back home in Sacramento that has been very good to me the past few years. I spend a lot of time reading books and listening to podcasts that are beneficial to my growth in all aspects of my life. I’ve also been working on my music production skills as well. I’ve always loved music, but when I started sitting in on my friend, Nick Taylor’s studio sessions, I started to develop a love for the production that was happening behind the scenes. I try to sit in on as many studio sessions as I can. I’ve spent countless hours on youtube watching music production tutorials, learning about music theory, and watching the creative workflows of producers/beatmakers that inspire me. My producer name is Chimchilla, and i’ll be releasing my beats through various outlets very soon.
I’m creating my life the way I want it to be, and I couldn’t be more excited for the future!
is a professional soccer player currently playing in Costa Rica. He spends his free time honing his crafts whether it is soccer, music, or other entrepreneurial endeavors.