Chapter 24: BIGGER POND, BIGGER FISH – ROOKIE: Surviving Your Freshman Year of College Soccer
My first college preseason was a long time ago, so most of the details have gone fuzzy. There is however, one moment that I recall vividly. It was the day we were handed our match schedule for the season. I don’t remember that schedule because of the new opponents I was about to face, or because of the dates and times and locations of the games. Everything that I remember about that piece of paper was typed right there on the first line: Men’s Soccer Schedule.
I had been playing soccer since the age of seven and playing for my school since the sixth grade, and in all those years, my greatest passion and the thing I could never get enough of was always referred to as Boys’ Soccer. And now, this piece of paper delivered the news that I would never again play a game of boys’ soccer. Now I was playing as a man.
When you were U-17, you played U-17 soccer. When you were U-18, you played U-18 soccer. The instant you step onto the college soccer field, you’ve just graduated to U-23 soccer. That’s a gigantic leap! Everything you know about soccer is about to get bigger and faster and more physical.
There’s a competitive pyramid of soccer. The bottom of the pyramid is based solely on participation and is crowded with very young, recreational players. As you got older, you moved up the pyramid and with each step of your climb, the pyramid got less crowded as fewer players kept climbing. Now, as you begin college soccer, you’re very close to the point of that pyramid. Not many players make it to this level. The ones that do have shown some gift of talent and athleticism and the ability to adapt to the new challenges offered at each new step of the climb. You are one of those players. So are your teammates. You didn’t get here by accident. And neither did they.
Meet your college soccer teammates. Every one of them was the best player at her high school or on her club. Yet some of them won’t even make the travel squad.
You were a big fish in your last pond, but your new pond is much bigger, and so are the fish. Now you get to swim with the man-eaters.
You’ll probably take some lumps in preseason. Things that worked really well for you against high school-aged players might not work as well against a 22-year-old senior. It’s okay. Don’t freak out and don’t keep banging your head against the same wall. The way to survive in your new pond is to simply keep doing your best and adapting to the new demands.
Your teammates won’t lie down for you. They aren’t there just to make you look good. They’re fighting to make a favorable impression on the coach… so are you! They’re fighting for playing time… so are you! This time the fight is just going to be a little more difficult.
Remember, you belong here. Do your best. Don’t ever quit. Fight like hell. This is your proving ground and everything you’ve ever done in your soccer life has led you to this moment. Stand up and make a case for yourself.
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