Experiences of a high performance soccer athlete
At the age of three, I started playing soccer in a house league. Growing up, I had a lot of exposure to the sport, which made me more advanced than other children my age. My Dad was always watching “The English Premier League” on television every weekend, and to pass time, my older siblings and I would play soccer in the basement for hours. Since they were so much older than myself, I was able to pickup key fundamentals fairly quickly. Soon after, my Dad noticed that I had outgrown the house league and was ready for more competition. That is when my career began in Competitive Rep Soccer at age of six.
Throughout my life, I had a lot of great coaches. All who taught me valuable lessons that I still use today. If I had to choose a favourite, l would say it was Patrice Gheisar. He was my coach at Power FC. I transitioned to this team after playing in my own age group for 3 years. It was time to look for a team that would challenge me. At Power FC the players were 2-3 years my senior. After completing a couple of try outs Patrice mentioned that the guys had taken a liking to me, and the way I played. That was when he asked me to join the team. I realized then, the type of coach he was. He would take the teams feelings into consideration, and make sure that there was chemistry between the players. In retrospect, I understand how important that is. A team is made up of bunch of different personalties and everyone is motivated in their own way. Patrice knew exactly how to get a rise out of every player to motivate them to do their best.
One of my most memorable tournaments was when I played for the Ajax Venom. We were competing in the Ontario Cup, and came third in the tournament. It took place at the same time as the Ontario Games, so the athletes were housed in a dorm for a couple of days. All the players on my team were close, but spending this time together really helped us bond. We also got closer to some of the guys on the other teams that were participating in the tournament. It was a tournament that was hard to forget. After battling through and making it to the semi finals, we lost. It was against our rival team, who we always seemed to have trouble beating. The game was so tight that we ended up going to penalties. Each of the players had a chance to shoot. Still tied, it was my turn up. This was my opportunity to bring this critical win home. Then it happened- my attempt was saved by the goalkeeper, and we lost. I was completely devastated. At the time I had never really lost like that before. It took everything in me to face the loss, be resilient and bounce back. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a very important lesson to learn that things sometimes don’t go your way.
In 2015, I was fortunate enough to be asked to trial with Toronto FC. After a week of training, the U-18 Canadian National Team invited me to a training camp in Europe. It was all so fast, and overwhelming, but I was excited to take my athleticism to the next level. We first arrived in Vienna, Austria for some training sessions. The players on the National team were from all across Canada. We needed to develop chemistry and showcase case our skills, so the coaches took us through a lot of small scrimmages. Next up was a three-game tournament in Slovakia. This tournament was very different from any other I played before. Not only was I on another continent, but the atmosphere at the games were very foreign to me. The stands were filled with supporters from the host country. Hearing the roars of the crowds cheering was a big adjustment, especially knowing that none of it was for us.
At this next-level performance, required that I trained with my team 3 times a week. However, to be the best version of myself, it meant spending hours alone in my basement or at a local park working and improving drills. I also incorporated track and field training with Fabian Prince, a specialized coach. It helped improve my speed, endurance, and reflexes on the field. I was never slow, but this training really accelerated my overall speed.
Looking back at all my experiences, my biggest win was making the assist for the winning goal against Slovakia. This helped the National Team advance to the next round in the tournament. I knew then that, I had made a big contribution to the team that day. It gave me the confidence to continue doing my best in such a high-level tournament.
With all of this training and experiences, playing soccer has developed me as a person in some very significant ways. Teamwork, discipline, hard work and dedication are only a few of the characteristics that I gained from soccer. I learned that sports are like life. You learn from your losses and appreciate and feel fulfillment in your wins.
The advice I would give to someone who just made it onto a competitive team is work hard, exhibit discipline in training, and never give up.