For many, living, studying, and playing sport in the USA is the ultimate dream. This week, we got Keegan Lazarus, one of Aspire Atlantic's Student Success Coaches, to tell us about his experience playing soccer on a scholarship at an American University.
If you have ever watched Friday Night Lights, you may be familiar with the phrase, “Clear minds, full hearts, can’t lose”. As a high school student in South Africa, the dream of going to the USA always seemed like it would remain just that: a dream. But this phrase held an incredibly deep meaning to me and pushed me to pursue my dream. “Clear eyes” - to me, this means dream big, have a vision, know what you want and don’t stop until you get it. “Full Hearts” - this means that you should hold the right intentions for everything you do and commit to. If you do these things, you "can't lose."
Coming to America
I was awarded a university soccer scholarship to the USA in 2010. It was the most exciting and nerve-wracking time of my life. I wanted to take my soccer career to the next level. I knew that America would provide me with the tools to pursue my dream. Living, studying, and playing in the USA was about to become a reality.
There is no better feeling than getting a scholarship offer and committing to a USA university. The culmination of your hard work in the classroom and on the sports field finally leads you to this point. The point where your American Dream becomes a reality!
Leaving your home, your country, and your family and friends can be scary and very daunting. However, at the same time, traveling to a new country to meet new people is very exciting! At the same time, you can pursue your dream and a university degree.
Looking back on my time in the USA, I can honestly say it was the most amazing 4 years of my life. The States will give you the opportunity to pursue your athletic career, and very quickly you will learn that you will get out of it what you put into it.
Playing Soccer in the USA
I went from playing soccer twice a week at my club in South Africa to 3 practice sessions a day during pre-season. And then, we practiced everyday during the regular season. Within a month, I noticed I was fitter than I had ever been. Not only that, but I was playing the best soccer of my career. Being surrounded by players who share the same dream as you, and who are equally (if not more so) committed to being a student athlete is a great environment for you to grow and develop in.
One of the best experiences of being a student-athlete is traveling across the country playing against other universities. We would meet and play against students from Brazil, England, Jamaica, Germany, and Spain, to name a few. You don't realize how much you can learn from players who play with a different approach to the game than you do. Having a film session to identify what weaknesses you need to work on was something I had always wanted to do. We also identified weaknesses in our opponents and came up with strategies on how to beat them. This soon became one of my favourite parts of being a collegiate athlete.
I have always wanted to be a professional player. Being a student-athlete in the USA was the closest thing I could imagine to experiencing that level. From practice sessions to film studies, being a student-athlete is so rewarding and challenging. Playing at that level pushed me to want to improve. As a result, I wanted to be in the best shape I could be for my team.
What's It Like Being a Student?
I learned the hard way that no one is going to look after you once you're at University. Mom and dad are not there to wake you up in the morning, pack your bags, or make you supper. I had to grow up and learn to be responsible very quickly. The professors at University are sympathetic and are willing to help, especially when you are traveling out of state to a game or tournament. However, you still need to make sure that essay or business report is handed in on time!
A sports scholarship is a huge commitment of time and effort. Your studies and education are just as important as your sports ability. My advice would be: if you have the ability and the grades to be offered a scholarship, you should most certainly take it. The life skills, friends, education, and sports experience will only positively impact your life in the future. Living, studying, and playing in the USA is the greatest opportunity a sportsperson can hope for!
Remember, it's always the perfect time to begin your journey towards studying at the university of your dreams. Sign up here for a free consultation with one of our recruitment experts. You could join over 300 student-athletes already placed in the USA, competing at the highest level and earning a world-class degree!