Balls And Brains: How I Got A Football ScholarshipAugust, 01, 2016
A new country, new friends, new adventures: the perks of pursuing a passion to play football State-side – all while picking up a degree as well!
At five, I scored my first goal. I remember feeling euphoric, and although it was probably more luck than skill, I was well and truly hooked!
Football became an essential part of my life. I’d spend hours practising kick-ups in the garden and playing footy in the park with my friends. I’d discovered a way to express and challenge myself; an art form that I was actually pretty good at.
At 12 though, Osgood-Schlatters arrived with my growth spurts. One of the most common causes of knee pain in active adolescents, it cost me two-years’ fitness, and recovering was slow. But I outgrew it, regained my fitness and felt stronger than ever.
I never gave up on football. Even at 19, when it looked like I’d slipped under the radar, I still hoped for a break. Then, one evening, something fantastic leapt at me from my Facebook news feed. Soccer Assist were offering soccer scholarships in the USA for young, talented players aged 16 to 23. Immediately my interest spiralled, and I had to find out more.
“I’ve never been so fired up about being a success on and off the field, with the added benefit of keeping my parents happy too!”
After applying online, I was invited to a trial. I travelled from Liverpool to London alongside a group of other players to compete for a scholarship place. Drills comparing players’ close control skills, passing and movement were carried out, followed by an 11-aside match to showcase our abilities. We were told that stronger candidates would be contacted and signed onto the programme. A couple of weeks later, I received ‘the call’… and I’ve never looked back!
When offers started coming through a couple of months later, Soccer Assist helped me select the best starting point for my journey: Mercyhurst North East, majoring in Business Administration Social Media. The whole process was quite simple, considering it’s such a big decision to make.
In August, I boarded the plane at Heathrow, bursting with nervous excitement. I couldn’t believe that I was about to fly thousands of miles in pursuit of my dreams. I was totally committed to making something of myself; to seizing the day and making every moment count!
As soon as I landed in America, ‘Football’ became ‘soccer,’ and the Pennsylvanian heat hit me right between the eyes. Four months later however, campus was covered in three feet of snow. North American seasonal weather extremes was a phenomenon I’d soon get used to!
My new home was an on-campus town house, shared with other international students: a ready-made bunch of friends from Australia, Canada and England – all great lads sharing the same goals. We found it easy to meet and get talking to other students just by just walking around campus, going to classes, training and watching other sports teams play.
Although recent ACL (ligament) surgery ruled me out of pre-season training, a strong sense of team spirit made me feel welcome. Thanks to the excellent rehab programme, my recovery period was accelerated and I was able to play in the off-season friendlies – a real bonus.
Education-wise, ‘pleasantly surprised’ is an understatement. The teaching is energetic, personal and engaging. I’ve never been so fired up about being a success both on and off the field, with the added benefit of keeping parents happy too!
From an average UK student who needed coaxing out of bed each morning, to an early-rising US Grade Point Average (GPA) 3.4 student (UK B+), I’ve come a long way this year. I’m working to keep my grades up into the second year of my Associate Degree before progressing on to a full Bachelor degree. I’m now fitter than ever before and eager to make a real impact in the approaching soccer season.
I can’t wait to get on the pitch and start scoring some goals!
Hear more about Daniel’s experience in the video below!
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