“We’re healthy, we have jobs.”
Such a simple statement that many no longer get to say. It is these blessings we’ve often taken for granted that Jake Nerwinski chooses to focus on as the year draws to a close.
It is a time that he describes ‘the most challenging year’ of his life. A bit of a surprise if you look at his production this past season – a new career-high in goals, top three on the team in interceptions, blocks, and recoveries, all while taking on more of a leadership role in the locker room and in the community.
“I know a lot of people have gone through way more struggles than I have, with losing jobs, losing family members. It's just been such a hard year for everyone and everyone's feeling that kind of pain,” Nerwinski acknowledges.
“This year has really brought out an anxiety in myself that I never thought I had. I had days where I just felt very nervous, very on edge, fuzzy and lightheaded feelings,” shares Nerwinski. “I had never understood what people meant by anxiety and mental health and this year has helped me understand that, and helped me understand a little bit more about myself.”
The 26-year old New Jersey product credits his family for helping him navigate through the year. His sister, a psychology major, gave him someone he could talk to about his emotions. His extended family – cousins and aunts – gave him a respite via their fun weekly Zoom calls where they review a new Netflix movie every Tuesday.
And most importantly, his wife Allie, has been the rock by his side throughout a year that was far from ordinary for newlyweds.
Allie moved to Vancouver over two years ago to join Jake – taking a leap fresh out of college to be by Nerwinski’s side, as the right back was then only in his second year in Vancouver.
“She really left everything behind. At first, I felt bad that I was making her come over to a different country,” Nerwinski says. “We were about 3500 miles away from her home and her parents, and back then, she couldn't get a job yet because she didn't have a work permit. She was really making this sacrifice for me, for our relationship.”
In time, the two settled into their new home in Vancouver, eventually getting engaged in 2019.
Plans were made for a wedding… in 2020.
When the city first went on lockdown in March, Jake and Allie quarantined together in a 500 square foot apartment, spending every minute of every day together.
“A lot of people say it a test of your relationship. We got so much closer and that really brought us together and made us closer. Now, I don't think of it as, ‘Oh I want my alone time, I need it, I miss it,’” says Nerwinski.
The summer came and play was resumed, requiring the ‘Caps to spend close to a month in Central Florida for the MLS is Back Tournament. The team exceeded expectations despite a roster depleted with injuries and absences, but when they arrived back home in Vancouver, a massive wrench was thrown into Jake and Allie’s wedding plans.
Allie, who went home to her family in the US while Jake was away in Orlando, could not re-enter Canada due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions. The wedding had already been scheduled for later in the year but the groom was in Canada and the bride was in the US.
“We decided to do the ceremony at Peace Arch Park (along the US-Canada border). My parents flew out, her mom and her sister, and my dad actually performed the ceremony,” shared Nerwinski. “We weren't allowed to kiss, or be together. The two days that I was here in Vancouver after the ceremony, she stayed in our apartment and I stayed in a hotel because we had to social distance. We really didn't even get any time to actually spend together as a married couple.”
League play once again put some distance in between the two, as Jake flew out east for games in Toronto and Montreal, then back to Vancouver for a couple of weeks in September, before spending the last two months of the season based in Portland. In the meantime, Allie returned home to New Jersey.
Now that the 2020 season is over, the two are finally together in New Jersey, and earlier this month, they went through with their original plan of having a church wedding.
“It’s been nice being back home but I haven’t had much time off because putting together a COVID wedding is not easy,” says Nerwinski. “We were just kind of looking forward to seeing each other again and just being together.”
It’s been a long year for all, including the Nerwinskis.
But through everything, this year is a reminder to cherish what we have and where we’re at.
“It’s been nice to come home to Allie and my family,” says Nerwinski. “We’ve been talking about how we need to look at the positives. I'm comfortable with where we're at right now.”