Balancing academics and athletics is a struggle for a lot of college student-athletes. Not only does the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Jodabeni Dondeli have to fit soccer and school into his schedule, but he also has to make time for his YouTube channel, JodabeniTV.
He told BGN, “Balancing is definitely tough, but when classes get easy, I upload more, but as we head over towards finals and the ending of the soccer season, I cut down on the youtube end and focus in. Because, currently, my education and soccer career are my two priorities right now, and YouTube comes into third place.”
There are a lot of great vlogs across YouTube these days and each one has a unique perspective and journey. While Jodabeni’s channel is soccer-centric, his passion for videos was born with dance steps rather than stepovers. “Primarily I enjoy recording videos, I used to make videos of me and my friends break dancing, and also we did some skits when we were in middle school,” he recalled. “One of those old videos actually ended up getting over 20,000 views and ever since I’ve had a heart for filmmaking!”
Then, the connection between his love of videos and soccer came together. “A few years into my soccer journey, I knew I was late to the soccer world and I had no contacts. I believed that if I could get my YouTube (channel) big enough, it would allow me to expose the talents that I have,” he explained.
His channel is definitely showcasing his skills on the pitch and behind the camera, surpassing 6,800 subscribers and 500,000 views. He’s had the chance to feature his teammates, professional players like RGVFC’s Robert Castellanos, and other athletes. That has allowed the Houston native to learn a lot of lessons along the way. “What pleases me the most is knowing that every single professional or high-level player I have talked to, they all carry the same formula, and that formula is extreme dedication attached to hard work,” he said. “And as long as we don’t quit, new opportunities would always present themselves.”
“And even some more personal things they share off-camera, to help motivate me is a really grateful thing to me. Not a lot of people get to experience this first hand!”
With the close-knit family of a soccer team, Jodabeni has made sure to respect the boundaries of his Vaqueros teammates. He said, “A lot of my teammates think it’s cool, but some people are really shy so they ask not to be on camera, and we respect that aspect. But for everyone that wants to show up, we let them.”
One of his teammates is actually following in his footsteps as UTRGV forward William Akio has started his own YouTube channel. “It’s actually pretty awesome,” Jodabeni said. “Someone sharing similar dreams with me! Not only are we playing soccer together, but we are also helping others on the internet, giving kids things we didn’t have when we wanted to come to these D1 teams or USL2 teams. This way they can believe it’s actually possible and it’s not just a dream.”
While the vlog has done well and looks like a great time, it’s not as easy as you might expect. “The vlog experience is actually pretty tough. You have to record parts of your day and try to remember to not forget,” he explained. “And at the end of your day, you have to try and fully edit it so you can be ready to upload it the next day. But, my channel started growing faster than I had expected!” He acknowledges that his first supporters were family members and some teammates and he had to ignore some teammates that mocked and doubted him.
If he wants to reach his goal of becoming a professional soccer player, he will need to defy some doubters again. “I will end up as a professional player,” the UTRGV center-back declared. “If God says I cannot, then I can’t overcome his decision for me. And I am more than sure he will guide me to a better path, because he will never forsake me. So I do not even have failure as an option in my mind. But my YouTube is here to stay for good. I will continue to move forward and see how far I go!”
He’s also doing his small part to help the country move towards equality. “I do what I can, When opportunities show up, I take them,” he said. “So far things have been moving in the right direction. The U.S governing bodies are starting to listen in certain areas.”
With his skills in soccer and video combined with the right mindset, Jodabeni Dondeli will make an impact on this world whether he is on the pitch or not.