With finals wrapped up and summer break underway, I asked a well-known Division I attacking standout about her mindset and some of the habits that have led to her success. NCAA rules don't allow her name to be published in this post, but here are some highlights from her impressive resume: Before heading to college, this young woman was a record-setting track star at her high school, where she was inducted into four academic honor societies, graduated early and was ranked as a four-star recruit by Top Drawer Soccer. As a college player, she started all 35 matches during her freshman and sophomore seasons, and earned multiple honors as a freshman. The outstanding striker has racked up nine goals and eleven assists for her college so far, totaling 28 points in two seasons. She also led her team in assists in both her freshman and junior years and ranked top-three in goals and points both seasons. She has participated in nine U.S. Soccer camps, most recently competing at the U-23 camp in March of this year.
This fierce competitor first caught my eye at a match last year in South Florida, and again stood out when I watched her dominate the field last fall against Wake Forest. With such an impressive resume, I was interested to hear what keeps this young woman motivated, how she balances the pressures of being a student-athlete, and what she has in mind for her future. Not surprisingly, what I learned was that her success is no accident. The discipline, drive and resilience she describes below are exactly what’s needed to rise to the level she’s achieved and will certainly ensure her continued success both on and off the field in the future.
Tell me about your soccer journey. How did you get to where you are today?
I started playing soccer when I was 8 years old and have loved it ever since then. I played for many club teams during my career that helped me develop into the player that I am today. Training year round and playing in a competitive conference is helping me to evolve as a player and improve my game.
What has been the most challenging part of your soccer development?
The most challenging part of my soccer development would be working on the mentality aspect of the game. Getting out of my head and playing with instinct is what has been difficult for me to master.
How do you balance soccer, school, friends and family?
Being a student athlete is a wonderful, yet stressful experience. I am able to balance my life because I am very good at time management and make sure to allot enough time to study, train and relax with friends and family.
What goals do you have for yourself as a player? How are you working towards reaching them?
My goal is to be a professional soccer player and to be on the U.S. National team. I train day in and day out and always work my hardest to improve my game in any way possible.
How do you handle pressure and expectations, either from yourself, coaches or your family?
The pressure to always play at your highest level is tough, however, I tend to focus on being calm and thinking only about the game and my job in it. By doing so I can play free rather than worrying about other factors that won’t help me perform well.
How did you navigate the college recruiting process? What was the most surprising part of it?
I am currently a junior at a Division I school. My recruiting process was surprising in that I did not realize how much interaction with the coaching staffs there would be. For me it was difficult to get out of my comfort zone and talk to coaches, but once I did the whole process became easier for me.
How do you mentally prepare for big games or showcases?
To prepare for big games, I visualize a multitude of possible scenarios that I could encounter, such as scoring a goal or making a hard tackle, to make me feel prepared to handle the situation in the game. This is crucial in calming my nerves because I can feel that I am properly prepared and ready.
How do you handle times when you train or play poorly?
When I train or play poorly, I try to focus on doing the little things right and to just focus on having a positive attitude and high work rate. After the practice or game, I reflect on my performance and try working on the mistakes I made.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
My love of the game and goals for my future are what keep me motivated and working my hardest day in and day out.
What are your biggest strengths as a player?
I would say my biggest strengths as a player are my vision on the field and ability to take players on.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.