Chapter 23: IT’S A JOB – ROOKIE: Surviving Your Freshman Year of College Soccer
“People don’t play sports because it’s fun. Ask any athlete; most of them hate it, but they couldn’t imagine their life without it. It’s part of them – the love/hate relationship. It’s what they live for. They live for the practices , parties, cheers, long bus rides, invitationals, countless pairs of different types of shoes, water, Gatorade, and coaches you hate but appreciate. They live for the way it feels when they beat the other team, and knowing those two extra sprints they ran in practice were worth it. They live for the way they be come a family with their team. They live for the countless songs they sing in their head while training all those hours. They live for the competition. They live for the friends, the practices, the memories, the pain. It’s who they are. It’s who we are.”
Make no mistake about it; college soccer is a job. That will never be more clear than at 6 A.M. on an early August morning when you hear the alarm you could swear you set just five minutes earlier. As you roll over to silence that alarm, you’ll feel a pain in your legs like nothing you’ve ever known, like a load of bricks has fallen upon them from three stories above. Your back and neck will be so stiff that you’ll hear the vertebrae snap into place like ice cubes being twisted from their tray. You’ll barely have the strength in your arm to reach that clock. You won’t want to get up. The voice in your head will try coaxing you back into that beautiful sleep. It will tell you how much happier you will be if you just stay in bed. It will say, “Just lay here for five more minutes. Trust me. You won’t fall back asleep.”
No, you won’t want to get up. But you will anyway. Why? Because this is your job now, and as painful as it might be, you know that it is the greatest job you’ll ever have and you refuse to give it up just to stay under the covers. Welcome to preseason. Day Two.
College soccer will be much more demanding of your time than club or high school soccer ever was. In addition to your field sessions, there are team meetings and video sessions and road trips that last four days. There are tutors and study halls. There are sessions in the weight room. When you sign up to play college soccer, you are making a tremendous commitment, and at times this commitment can feel downright overwhelming. More than anything, it is this time commitment that leads us to define college soccer as a job. And three days into preseason, you’ll understand the weight of that commitment.
How you position preseason is important. If you think of it as a week or two of physical and emotional misery, that’s exactly what it will be, so let me give you a more useful outlook. Preseason is the closest thing to professional soccer that you will ever experience, so embrace it! It’s the one time in your college life where you don’t have to worry about going to class or meeting with your tutors or getting to your part-time job. During preseason, you are a soccer player, period.
Think of preseason as your showcase. You’ve spent months preparing; pre- season is your chance to show everyone how hard you’ve worked while no one was watching. It’s your chance to announce yourself as someone who has made the physical investment and is committed to bringing success to the program. It is your chance to show your coaches that you are a player who deserves to be taken seriously!
Is that going to make it hurt any less? A little bit. Maybe. Okay, preseason is going to hurt either way, but as the saying goes, Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.
Do yourself a favor and have a plan for how you will approach each day of preseason physically and mentally. Predetermine the mentality you will bring to the field each day, even when your body is crying out for relief. It won’t hurt like this forever. Make a decision about the player and person you will be, even when it hurts. Make a plan to be your very best self and then remember to stick to it.