NORTH ANDOVER — Aydin Jay, like any kid growing up in North Andover, fiddled around with his buddies on the basketball court and baseball diamond.
But as far back as when he was 6-years-old, those popular American pastimes never went beyond the “hobby” stage.
Soccer was always his game. His dad’s, too.
“There were little nuances, like him having the ball, looking up, and knowing where his teammate is going, rather than kicking the ball to where he is,” said Aydin’s dad, Phil Jay, owner of Perfecto’s Caffe in North Andover at Butcher Boy Plaza.
“His soccer IQ was higher than the other kids. He had the vision to see the field. That motivated me as a dad to try and put him in position to succeed in the sport, playing on better club teams, finding ways to push.”
Aydin, 17, has committed to one of the country’s up-and-coming programs and defending Ivy League champion, Yale University, for the fall of 2021.
“It’s been a pretty stressful two years of uncertainty, trying to figure out where I’d be going,” said Aydin, a rising senior at Milton Academy, now living with his family in Boxford. “At Milton I have that perfect balance of great soccer and great education. I wanted that for college, too. I’m beyond happy with my decision.”
As for his passion for the sport, it starts and ends with his dad, who was born in Italy and moved to Morocco at age 5.
“I played soccer 24/7 as a kid,” recalled Phil, who moved to America in 1988 at age 20. “In Italy, everything revolves around soccer. It was similar in Morocco.”
Two years after moving here, attending school and working a full-time job, Phil had a difficult time finding any place that televised the 1990 World Cup games.
“For us, the world stops when the World Cup is going on,” said Phil. “The matches weren’t on national TV here. I couldn’t find any bars or place that had the games on TV. I had to go to the North End when I had time.”
Growing up in the sport, Aydin always felt he had an extra coach looking out for him.
“My dad was able to analyze my game as well as anybody did,” said Aydin. “We are very close. We talk a lot about a lot of things. He and my mom have given up a lot for me to chase my dreams. I realize I’m very lucky.”
Moving up the ladder, Aydin played in the elite Revolution Academy before attending Milton Academy, where he made an impact immediately, despite his minute size as a freshman.
“Aydin’s a hard-working kid dedicated to academic and athletic goals and he’s always been a technically skilled and smart player,” said Milton Academy soccer coach Chris Kane. “Every year, he added something to his game and in the last 12 months he became a more complete defensive player as well.”
Aydin still has another year of high school to prepare for Yale. He doesn’t intend to coast despite the fact his college commitment is made.
“I have a lot of work to do to prepare for college and the college game,” said Aydin. “Yale will be an incredible opportunity. I can’t wait.”
AYDIN CAN DANCE
It might not appear “cool” on the outside, but Aydin Jay said his dance competitions have helped his cause in soccer.
Like his talented sisters — Selma, a rising senior at Boston University, and Meena, a rising sophomore at Manhattan University — Aydin has been involved in the sport of dance for most of his childhood.
In fact, he has been involved in dance in a few Milton Academy shows.
“It’s definitely been good for my footwork,” said Aydin.
SEE HIS STORY
For a video interview with soccer star Aydin Jay, visit eagletribune.com.
Aydin Jay’s parents, Phil and Joanne Jay, have owned the North Andover Perfecto’s Caffe since before he was born.
Over a decade ago, they opened another coffee house, under the same name, near Peabody High on Lowell Street.
What is his go-to drink and snack?
“I love the strawberry smoothies and chicken pesto panini,” Aydin said. “Both of them are a good balance and not too filling. And I especially like having them in the summer time.”