Last week I posted a couple of sentences on NCAA DI signing day and what it means to us here at the Power House to work with such committed, talented and accomplished athletes. I have been putting together my thoughts about what it means to me as a coach to work with these athletes and also what I can do to recognize their awesome achievement of committing to play a NCAA DI sport.
I started by asking each of them what it meant to them to be making this committment. Since, Sam Forsgren, St. Paul Academy, class of 2014, is the athlete that I have known and worked with the longest, he is getting the first post here on the Power House blog. Here's what Sam had to say about his committment to play soccer at Northwestern University:
"It means everything to me to be committed to play soccer at Northwestern becuase I've worked non-stop since I was three years old for this. It feels great to be rewarded after years of sacrifice and commitment. I'm really excited to help Northwestern any way that I can. I love the culture and the people there and I really look forward to playing soccer there. I thank everyone who has helped me develop my skills, my fitness, and my mentality."
I love this quote because it reflects Sam's passion for the game, his work ethic, and his maturity. I love that Sam recognizes that he has come a long way from when he first started playing the game at age 3 to now, where he is signing to play at a major DI program. In the last 10 years, Northwestern has made the NCAA tournament 8 times, won the Big 10 conference championship and tournament several times, and has put numerous players into the MLS. Not bad for a program that isn't much more than 10 years old. Last year, Northwestern started their season ranked 3rd in the country! For some players, committing to play at a school with a program that is this competitive could be the highlight of their career in itself. In Sam's case, this is definitely a huge highlight but it also reflects Sam's much-deserved ambition in the game. I know that Sam plans to make a big contribution at Northwestern.
I met Sam when he was a freshman at SPA--I was Varsity Assistant Coach at the time. It was 2010, Sam's first year of high school soccer and his brother Nick was an All-State Senior fwd/mid and Captain of our team. Our soccer program at SPA has a long history of being very competitive and for a freshman to be considered for Varsity is a big deal. As a coaching staff, it was clear to us Sam would be starting in our first game because his skill set had so much to offer even though he was playing with much older players. Sam adapted to playing with older, bigger players quickly and there was nothing about being the youngest player on the field that diluted his skills.
Even at 15, Sam was the kind of player that approached the game of soccer like a future general going to battle. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours needed to master a craft in his book Outliers. Sam, I'm sure, had spent at least that many hours in his yard battling his brothers, friends and teammates in various iterations of the game: 2v2, 3v3, 1v1, World Cup, Horse...and in the process acquired a sense of the battle that reminds me of a passage from The Book of the Five Rings, by "famed duelist and undefeated Samurai" Miyamoto Musashi:
"The way to win in battle according to military science is to know the rhythms of the specific opponents, and use rhythms that your opponents do not expect, producing formless rhythms from rhythms of wisdom."
To encounter a 15 year old player who knows how to slow the game down when the opponent wants to play quickly, to play quickly when the opponent's concentration has lulled, and whose creativity with and without the ball flows from a resevoir of trial by fire was a great opportunity for me as a coach. Sam didn't need me to tell him what to do with the ball or off the ball most of the time. Occassionally, I had some feedback for him in that regard. Mostly, Sam and I worked on his patience with the things that he couldn't control--like referees and teammates--and his athletic development and fitness.
In his two years with me as a high school player, Sam accomplished a great deal. Those accomplishments are listed below. In the two years since, he has accomplished a great deal with his club team the Minnesota Thunder Academy under head coach Rob Zahl, and in the classroom at SPA. Sam's decision to attend Northwestern, I'm sure, is also motivated by his desire to continue his excellence in the classroom.
-First Honor Roll (3.5<)
-Senior Seminar Spanish class
-Awards for academic proficiency on National Spanish Exams
-All Conference Honorable Mention
-First team All State
-State leader in goals
-State leader in goals+assists
-2 State cup championships
-4 MYSA League championships
-3 Year Club Captain
-Club Leading Scorer in 2011/12
-Started Every Game (Including Call Ups with the U18 Academy)