NCAA Division III / The College Experience

The College Experience: Being one of the new guys

Photo courtesy the Reider family

Editor’s note: “The College Experience” is a weekly first-person series about what it’s really like to be a college soccer player. 

Whether you’re attending college as a student-athlete or just as a student, you’ll probably feel jitters leading up to the first day on campus without your family and for a couple days after classes begin.

You’re suddenly thrown into a brand new environment with a lot more responsibilities and tons of new people and places around you. It takes a while to get used to everything and become fully comfortable. Eventually that feeling goes away and you’ll be acclimated quite nicely.

When I was a freshman, I was put into a new environment two weeks before classes were even set to begin — for the soccer team’s preseason. All of the fall sports teams had to arrive early to begin preparations for the coming season. Without knowing any of my teammates and being two hours away from home in a new area, it was a little bit daunting. Luckily, my teammates and the coaching staff were very welcoming and helped all freshman players get integrated quickly. After a few meetings, team meals, and practices, I knew a lot more and began to feel a lot more comfortable. Just like that, preseason training began and the trials to make the team were underway.

The high level of play was immediately evident. Mostly everyone came into preseason pretty fit, according to our two fitness tests on day one and two, and everyone was ready to play from the get-go. During preseason, there may be a scrimmage or two, but it is mostly everyone competing among themselves to earn a spot on the roster and later to earn a starting spot for the first game of the season.

There is no time to relax and take a break — and as a new guy on the team you have to prove yourself to the returning guys and coaching staff. There are a lot of nerves when cuts are involved and some people, including myself, may have tried to be too safe with the ball. Sometimes, the coaching staff is looking to see who is willing to take risks instead of play the safe pass lateral or backwards. Sometimes, they’re looking to see who is willing to make the run in behind even if they may not receive the ball, or who is willing to put their body on the line to block a shot — even when its just at practice against teammates. This is something that I wish I had known coming in and is something I learned over time.

After a long, hot, and exhausting preseason, I had learned that I had made the team and that it was time to be prepared for the actual season. My first year at Widener was not the best as an individual nor for the team, but it had a lot of learning experiences for everyone.

For example, I found out that there are no easy games. Even if we had beaten a team in the past by a lot or lost by a lot, there was no guarantee the result would be anywhere similar the next year. Also, as mentioned above — do not be afraid to take chances. Sometimes the reward can outweigh the risk and turn a game in your favor. Finally, when you get into your first game, there will be jitters. Use it to your advantage and turn the nervousness into excitement and give it everything.

On a personal level during my freshman year, I made 13 appearances and tallied first collegiate point by setting up the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Albright on October 11. I also was placed on the MAC Academic Honor Roll, which is obtained by keeping a good GPA during season. Time management is important when being a student-athlete and school is the most important thing at the Division III level.

Even considering those good moments, it was a disappointing freshman year. Despite that disappointment, I knew what to expect for the next three years and made sure to do my best to prepare and learn from mistakes made in the past. I had to come into my sophomore season more fit, ready to take risks, and to give everything I could to win games. Sophomore season was a lot different from my freshman season for a couple of reasons that I’ll go over next time.

While four years seems like a lot, they go by super quickly and there isn’t time to think too much about the past. Live in the moments and enjoy what you can while giving your all.

Take risks.

One Comment

  1. Nice! My son plays at Washington College and when he was a freshman the seniors took really good care of him. They became best friends. Was good to see these ex-seniors come last weekend to a game to see my son (who is now a senior) play. WAC will play Eastern on Saturday at Eastern. Should be a good game since Eastern is ranked 15th in DIII and WAC has a very good team this year.

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