This past Sunday, October 25th, I had the pleasure of attending the USC women’s soccer team play in a PAC12 match up against the Colorado Buffalos. It was the last home game of the regular season; thus, the seniors were being honored for their endless commitment and dedication of representing the soccer student-athletes at USC.
The starting goalkeeper, Sammy Jo Prudhomme, from Aliso Viejo had her family in attendance and I happened to sit 2 rows in front of her mother. Throughout the match, her mother spoke with fellow fans and I overheard her state that Sammy Jo started her soccer career in AYSO…
It had me thinking, growing up in Southern California, every soccer player starts their soccer career in AYSO. I am sure every parent remembers the first few years their child is able to join the high intensity team sport that resembles somewhat of a bee hive at first, when all the little 5 year olds are running after the same ball with no sense of direction and awareness of the field they are playing on. Fast forward to about 15 years later and that same little 5 year old is now playing collegiate soccer and possibly playing for a chance to be a National Champion.
Working with parents and youth athletes for the past 8 years, many parents do not think their 5 year old athlete will gain a college soccer scholarship. Parents are happy to see their child achieve good grades, stay out of trouble by participating in sports or other extracurricular activities, and make it into a 4-year college of their choice with at minimum a partial academic scholarship… So at what point, do you realize that being a soccer student-athlete is an option?
From countless hours of training youth soccer players across all ages of 8 to 18, the 3 biggest principles I have seen for all college bound soccer players are the following:
- If the soccer player is still learning from their soccer experience, then it is an option
- If the soccer player is still growing from their soccer experience, then it is an option
- And if they have the first 2 and still enjoy their soccer experience, then it is DEFINITELY an option.
Learning from soccer brings a multitude of life lessons: learning how to deal with teammates, deal with a coaches’ criticism, perform under high pressure, be punctual to practices and games, and be held accountable for your own actions. Soccer, like other team sports, provides an environment similar to the job environment they will encounter later in life.
Growing is one that can be viewed in many different ways. Growth can happen physically with ball skills and athleticism on the field, growth emotionally and socially with teammates and coaches, and personal growth with independence and confidence.
The last one sounds easy, if you’re having fun keep doing it. It is also the hardest one because soccer is not always fun. Playing soccer in college will not always be fun and the road to get there has heart ache, sacrifices, and criticism that can be difficult to view as positive life experiences for a hormonal teenager.
Professional, collegiate, and youth soccer players all have coaches to push them because on your own, you can only self motivate to a certain extent. With the bad and good days, it’s important to look at the entire soccer journey since the AYSO days, the most recent year of soccer, and reflect on the 3 principles:
- Am I still learning?
- Am I still growing?
- And do I enjoy it overall?
I’ll end with this, after the USC game yesterday, I drove an hour south to Orange County to watch UC Merced play SOKA in a conference match up. Coming from a large NCAA Division I soccer game to a small NAIA soccer game, you would think the atmosphere would be different. Quite the opposite was happening, every soccer player that played a minute in the game, gave their fullest effort and were elated to see their parents, friends, and fans support their performance. The parents were quite the same as well; proud to watch their child continue to play soccer and happy to see that their once little 5 year old AYSO soccer player was still able to play soccer and achieve an education at the same time.
So at what point do you realize that being a soccer student-athlete is a possibility? Until the moment you step on a college campus. Even at that point If you are not on the collegiate Varsity team, you may be able to play on the Club or Intramural team, check back next month to learn more about those soccer playing opportunities.
Tagged: AYSO, Brittany Gonzales, Cal South, Champion's QUEST, College Recruiting, college soccer, Colorado Buffalos, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Los Alamitos, Miranda Thomas, Moriah Brown, NAIA, NCAA, Pac12, Sammy Jo Prudhomme, SOKA, Southern California, UC Merced, USC, Women's Soccer, Youth soccer tips