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10 Years of SIMA: Esteban Calvo

By SIMA, 10/31/23, 9:45PM EDT


Read about SIMA Class of 2016's, Esteban Calvo and his journey as an international boarding student in the SIMA Program! 


As part of our 10 Year Celebration, we will be doing a feature article on a SIMA Alumnus from each graduating SIMA class to show the many different pathways that have been taken through the SIMA program. We now move into our third year in the program! 

Pura Vida

"Pure Life". A versatile phrase of the "Ticos" that could mean anything from a casual greeting to even just simply "life is good" . The saying has more than just a simple meaning to it, it's a way of life in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Along with this beautiful turn of phrase that represents the people of Costa Rica, a beautiful game rules across the country as its pastime: fútbol.

Esteban Calvo was no exception to this. In his hometown of San Jose, Costa Rica, Esteban grew up playing in various club environments from his primary school years to his his later secondary school years around the area and always felt that he wanted to do more with the beautiful game.  "I would wake up and train at 6am before school started," Calvo recalls, "In our countries, it's either school or soccer and I wanted to look at different options." Little did he know all that would change in a short time. 

From Pura Vida to the American Dream

In his Sophomore Year of High School while exploring different options, Esteban came upon a couple of mutual friends who mentioned a college preparatory school just outside of Orlando named Montverde Academy. Back home in Costa Rica, he always saw it as having to choose between school and soccer but now he found an option that offered both.  "At first, I had no idea what it was", but through a positive word of mouth and great feedback from close family friends, Esteban took a chance and traveled to the US. Upon arrival he was quite surprised with the level and the facilities that he saw. "I was used to playing in fields that had dirt and rocks at the club level" Esteban recalls. In his first year, SIMA was not yet official. He joined the program as a player in JV with aspirations to move into the Varsity team as soon as he could. After just a little over a week, the first goal was achieved.

In his first few weeks he did feel a bit of a football culture shock.  While Esteban considered himself an all around player both in the technical side and physical side he did feel a difference in the American style of play. "Coming from a Latin American country where the game is more technical,  I felt that I had to adjust to the American athleticism". Through his favorite SIMA Value of Perseverance, Esteban began to "get comfortable with the uncomfortable" and polished his game to a whole new level on and off the field. As a 3.4 GPA Student-Athlete, Esteban began hearing rumbles of offers to many strong programs going into his senior year and he did not disappoint. After three years with the program, along with winning two national HS Championships, Calvo earned the 2016 MAST MVP and the 2016 Florida Gatorade Player of the Year. "I felt that I was ready to take my next step and Montverde and SIMA prepared me for it".

Esteban Calvo... the Captain.

After a great senior year, Esteban had many important offers to continue his journey as a student athlete at the collegiate level. The 2016 Florida Gatorade Player of the Year decided to take his talents down to Miami to join the Florida International University (FIU) Panthers. At FIU, Esteban played 29 games as a defensive midfielder where he was an important role player in the Panthers first undefeated regular season in the program's history in 2017 with over 940 minutes played. Due to his great play and leadership on the field Esteban was also called up to play with the Costa Rican U-20 National Team!

After two years with the program, Esteban's performances on the field did not go unnoticed . As he was coming to his final years of collegiate soccer, Calvo felt that he needed to show not only how well he could perform on the field but how well he could do leading a team. A familiar program with many familiar faces knew what Calvo was looking for and what he was capable of and the West Coast Conference Powerhouse,  the University of Portland Pilots welcomed him with open arms. 

At the University of Portland, Calvo joined fellow SIMA Alums, Jabari Newton, Benji Michel and Caua Soares. Calvo played the 2018 and 2019 seasons and straight away was able to prove what he was looking for as  he was named the team's captain. Esteban's leadership played a big role for the Pilots in the their 2018 Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament run where he earned all-WCC Honorable Mentions and started in all 17 games he appeared in. In 2019, he started in 11 of the 16 matches he played while also earning a WCC Men's Soccer All-Academic Honorable Mention. In his stint with the Pilots, Calvo racked up a total of 2 goals and 3 assists as a Defensive Midfielder turned Right Back.

As his play improved and his time in college football had finished there was one more step in his journey that he felt the need to take: Professional Soccer. 

A Different Level

After a successful college career both on and off the field, Esteban received much interest from Professional teams in the United States. The choice of destination was FC Tucson of USL League One. In his first year in the league for the 2020 season, Calvo featured in 14 matches getting 13 starts in the process featuring as he did back in college as a Right Back and a Defensive Midfielder playing over 1190 minutes for the Cactus Pricks. Not only did he perform on the field but he also achieved greatness off the field. Due to his transfer from FIU to Portland, Esteban was just a couple of credits shy from his Bachelor's in Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Portland. Calvo didn't let the pro game keep him from finishing his degree and he graduated during his rookie season!  

After a strong showing in his first professional season, fellow USL League One side Richmond Kickers coming off of a very successful season offered him a one year deal, where the head coach just so happened to be a University of Portland alum . With the Kickers, he started and played in all 23 matches and helped his team reach the USL League One Playoffs. After playing such a pivotal role for the Kickers, his contract was set to be extended another year. Esteban made a trip back to his home country to renew documents but had to deal with the harsh reality of the time: Covid. 

From Pro Football to Helping the World

After facing travel restrictions to return back to Richmond to continue his promising Professional Football career,  fate brought Esteban back in his home country that he had left to pursue his dream. "I knew that if I had to stay too long back home that it would be it for me in soccer".  As he waited for the paperwork to push through for his Visa, he continued training on his own but began working for his father's company, Industrial Fire and Rescue Equipment. An organization that works with global health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Pan American Health Organization in providing safety equipment throughout all of North, South and Central America including the Caribbean . Esteban began working in sales and continued to do a little bit of everything. As time went by he began to move his way up in the company and is now the C.O.O of Industrial Fire and Safety Rescue Equipment. "I couldn't leave the country because of the pandemic and now I work in a company that helps in the aid of it" Calvo states. 

Closing Statements from the C.O.O

When asked about how did SIMA Program helped prep him for everything after, Esteban stated "it didn't only prepare us fútbol wise, but for life itself." He hopes that all the current and future players of the SIMA Program don't compare themselves with others and work hard to push themselves to be better. "Work humbly and do your thing"