When going off to college, it is a common occurrence to become enthralled in the new, expansive social life and place the new degree of academy rigor on the back burner. However, upon entering the Oberlin community, I ended up doing the opposite. My primary focus was, and still is, to succeed academically, which would serve my ultimate goal of attending medical school. Going to medical school has been a dream of mine ever since entering high school, and when choosing the college to use as a launch pad for this dream, I felt that Oberlin would provide the rigorous, yet supportive environment to enable me to succeed.
During my first few weeks of classes, I would repeat to myself: “This is it. This is when it really matters,” referring to grades and academic achievements as a whole. This mindset led me to obsess over every assignment and exam, with anything but perfection not sufficing. With my new obsession, I found myself in the library on most nights, even on the weekends, unable to break away from the books for a night on the town with some of my friends. As a result, my college mindset led me to a very shallow social circle, but luckily for me, I found myself at home with the members of the men’s soccer team.
Before even arriving at Oberlin, I was welcomed by the entire soccer team and was able to make friends without having to painstakingly break out of my shell of shyness. On the first day of preseason, one of the captains of the team took me aside and asked if I was doing alright, presumably due to my extremely quiet demeanor. It was these small acts of thoughtfulness that led me to immediately feel welcomed within my new team.
However, even with the wonderful group of guys around me, I was unsure if it was for me. About a month into the school year, I soon became worried that soccer would take away from my academic goals. Practicing or playing games every day of the week left me little time to indulge in my academic obsession, and thoughts of quitting the team sprang into my head. This worry in the back of my mind, along with my constant feeling of inadequacy with regards to my soccer skill, left me with a very unpleasant feeling for the first half of the season. While having a conversation with a player in the grade above me, I asked him about my current state of mind. Upon hearing how I felt, he didn’t try to pressure me to change my mind, but simply just told me to “wait until the end of the season...the team will become your family.” Sure enough, as the season progressed, I slowly started to break out my shell, both on and off the soccer field.
That season, our team made Oberlin soccer history, qualifying for the NCAA tournament for the first time. In our first game of the tournament, the atmosphere was electric and fans, both from Oberlin and alumni in the surrounding area, came to support this step in the special journey. Throughout most of the game I sat at my usual place on end of the bench, gripping my neighbor with nervous hands. But, as the last leg of the game came around, I heard my name coming from my coach’s direction: “Galen, go warm up.” In our most important game of the year, I stepped on the field for only the second time that year, a moment that made me realize how important the team had become for me. During that year, my teammates became my brothers, and my team became my family.
At the conclusion of our magical season I knew that I could not go through college without being a part of the soccer team family. As dedicated as I was to academics, I knew that I would not be able to accomplish my goals by myself. On a daily basis, my teammates ask me how all of my classes are going or how the big exam went. It is these instances that remind me that I don’t have to take on all my academic goals by myself, but that I have 25 other guys that are there to help in whatever ways possible. The constant support of my teammates and coaches gave me the motivation to continue to strive in the classroom, but also take the time to enjoy, celebrate with, and cherish the people around me. The Oberlin men’s soccer team is one special bunch.