(ISN) – VANCOUVER, BC – Three months ago, Jay DeMerit hung up his boots after an improbable and inspirational 10-year professional career. On Saturday, he says goodbye.
DeMerit, Vancouver’s first signing and captain in Major League Soccer, will be honoured ahead of Whitecaps FC’s regular season finale at BC Place (7 p.m. kickoff – fans are encouraged to be in their seats early for the retirement ceremony).
“I’m really excited to kind of wrap it all up and have a time to thank the people that have always been there,” DeMerit told whitecapsfc.com.
That includes DeMerit’s friends and family – the former U.S. men’s national team star will have over 100 people at the game and his niece and nephew will walk out the tunnel with him.
But it also includes the fans of Vancouver.
“The fans we have in this city are as good as any in the world,” DeMerit said. “They appreciate the game, they understand the game, and they’ve shown their appreciation to me and that has to reciprocate. I’ve always said you can’t have one without the other. If the players and the club appreciate the fans as much as the fans appreciate us, then we’re going in the right direction.”
Since calling it a career three months ago, you’d think things would have slowed down a bit for the 34-year-old, but DeMerit said he’s as busy as ever. Not only has he stayed on with Whitecaps FC in the role of club ambassador, he’s also working on a few different side projects.
#ThxCaptain: An interactive look at DeMerit’s career
“Now I don’t have the excuse of training every Monday and Tuesday morning,” he joked.
Among his various projects on the go, DeMerit is starting a company that makes boomboxes out of vintage suitcases – something that’s getting his “creative juices” flowing again. He and his wife, Vancouver-born Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor, are also working on creating a multi-functional space in Pemberton that would host soccer camps, corporate retreats, weddings, and the like.
And DeMerit recently spoke in front of a crowd of about 3,000 at TEDx Vancouver.
“You never really know what it’s going to feel like until you walk onto that stage when the bright lights are on,” said DeMerit, whose main message was to put more energy into preparing for when things go right rather than just preparing for when things go wrong.
“That, for me, was a little bit more nerve-wracking I suppose than walking out in front of 100,000 people as the Azteca Stadium in Mexico, because you’re out there with 10 other guys and you’ve all planned for this. But it was an unbelievable experience.”
Then, of course, there’s everything DeMerit is doing with Whitecaps FC within his role as club ambassador. That involves a lot of speaking, whether it’s to young kids or even police officers – as was the case at the Surrey Police Awards earlier this month.
And for DeMerit, “Saturdays are very much still work days.”
“I come into the stadium now a little bit early and I’ll either meet and greet with kids that may have won certain contests or certain initiatives like the Make A Wish Foundation – things like that that I can now get more personally involved in on gamedays,” he said. “Otherwise, I’m in the boxes educating fans and out there in the mix. I really enjoy it. I’m realizing over the last four months that my role off the field is just as important as it was on it.”
READ: An open letter from Jay DeMerit
DeMerit says he’s enjoying life after soccer and is at peace with the decision he made to hang up his boots – just as he said at his retirement press conference three months ago.
But naturally, after living and breathing the game for so many years, there was a little bit of an adjustment period.
For one, DeMerit said it’s more stressful watching from the stands than it is playing since he isn’t able to control anything anymore.
“That transition has been a little bit strange,” he said. “I’ve never really been a good watcher.”
But does he miss life as a player?
“The only thing I miss is that big game,” said DeMerit, who pointed to Vancouver’s recent win over Seattle as an example. “Just going out and competing when it really matters. For me, that was always what I enjoyed most.”
In DeMerit’s words, one of the best parts about life is “enjoying moments.” And he’s looking forward to another one on Saturday.