Hey guys and welcome back to In Depth with Ross where I give you my insights on soccer-related topics. Today I wanted to share with everyone my experience as a soccer player at The University of Virginia. For those of you who aren't familiar with College Soccer, UVa is one of the prestigious college soccer programs in the nation. Currently ranking 3rd all-time with 7 National Championships, and has the longest current streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances at 31. UVa is known for producing high caliber players like Jeff Agoos, Tony Meola, John Harkes, and most notably Claudio Reyna. My four years there were great, and my teammates and I were successful and won trophies. During my 4th year at UVa, we won the ACC tournament and went on to win the NCAA National Championship too. This experience was one I’m thankful for and want to share with those who have dreams of playing college soccer. With that being said, let me give you the three things I learned playing college soccer at the University of Virginia.
1. The learning curve of College soccer.
Whenever you are taking the next step in anything, whether it be sports, a hobby, a new job, etc. there will always be a learning curve period. This period has no definite time, but be prepared to go through a transition that isn’t comfortable. Arriving at UVa, I knew I was a good player from my area and felt confident going into my 1st year. Man was I in for a wake-up call the first practice of the preseason. I’m now playing against people four years older than me who are more skillful, bigger, stronger, and faster. I’m now starting from the bottom and having to prove myself every day that I belong on the team first, and secondly, to be able to get on the field and contribute. The learning curve was huge, but I didn’t allow that to overwhelm me and take me out of my game completely. I worked hard, was a good teammate, and did what I was told for the betterment of the team. The learning curve eventually disappears because you’re embracing the challenge and learning from the older guys on the team and the coaching staff.
2. The struggles of becoming a Student-Athlete
This is an exceptional time in your life because, for many, this is the first time you’re away from home and have to fend for yourself. You’re now in an environment where they expect you to excel in both school and sport. You have to learn how to make your schedule around practice, finding time to eat, going into the training room if you need treatment, going to professors office hours, study hall. This is going to be difficult at times, but it will get more comfortable with the right mindset. Coaches want players who can handle the rigor of both, so if to this point you haven’t been the best, academically, in high school, I suggest you start changing those habits. Coaches want kids with a good character too because the program is a reflection on them. Coaches won't take a risk on kids they don’t feel will represent the school and program in the highest light. This part of the Student-Athlete experience requires discipline, accountability and tremendous hard work and effort.
3. Winning Mindset / Winning Culture / Training like a pro.
My club soccer team produced three professional soccer players, which is unheard of, so it is safe to say we were a pretty good team. We won state cups, regionals, etc. so we had a taste of what winning felt like. It wasn’t until my first day at practice did I realize what a genuinely winning mindset, culture, and mentality were. We were treated like professional players and trained as professionals. Everything had to be sharp and sweet, and high expectations were always there. Like I told you all in the beginning, UVa is a storied program, so when you go there, it is expected to compete for National Championships. Knowing this made you hungry and wanted to be a part of history. Every day we gave it our all. Everyday everyone knew what was expected of them and what is necessary to be successful. Those who didn’t buy in and wanted to do there own thing find themselves quitting the team, or getting kicked off the team. Wherever you decide to play college ball, remember that is is a possibility if you’re not willing to subscribe to what the coaches are saying. Don’t waste the opportunity, because you never know when you’ll get another one. Do everything in your power to stand out in a crowd and show whoever that you are a player worth their time!
My experiences at The University of Virginia helped me become the person I am today. Playing College soccer was a humbling experience that made soccer enjoyable. I understood before I got to The University of Virginia what I wanted to achieve in soccer, so it was up to me to make my dreams become a reality. I was fortunate and found success in the game, and that was because of the work that was put in. Make sure you all are focused and have a clear understanding of you want to do, good luck!