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College Insights from Yael Averbuch

As a nine year old, I decided that I wanted to be a professional soccer player and go to the University of North Carolina (UNC). I wrote it in my journal, along with lists of goals, players I admired, and anything that has inspired me over the years. It's hard to have perspective at that age, or at any age as a youth player striving to make it to the highest level. Although I am constantly learning, as a seven-year professional player and member of the USWNT pool, I feel that I have gained a lot of perspective on the process. And it is just that-a process.

What I've learned more than anything along the way is that there is no one way, or "right" way, to go about this journey. The college decision can be daunting. It is one of the first of many big choices you will make in life that will begin to shape your journey as a soccer player and human being.

I always had my sights set on playing at UNC. As I entered high school, though, I became interested in a lot of the top programs. After visits, discussions, and a lot of thought, I didn't feel that there was a clear answer for me. All I knew was this: if I went to any other school besides UNC I would likely have a great experience but I would always wonder "what if?"

It is common knowledge that you should not choose a school based solely on soccer. But I did exactly that. I already had the mindset of a professional player. I wanted the soccer program that would best prepare me to achieve my dreams. I cared about nothing else.

The truth is, I lucked out. I went to college a shy, somewhat anti-social, obsessed and uptight athlete. But I ended up learning so much more off the field that I could have possibly learned on it.

Yes, on the field I developed in all the ways I had hoped. The level of intensity in the college game was an adjustment. I was forced to be the fittest I had ever been, improve my speed, agility and strength. My speed of play went up. I gained the mentality and toughness necessary to play at the highest level. Everything that the soccer program at UNC offers, I took advantage of and added to my game.

But off the field I developed even more. Being away at college makes you really consider who you choose to be, as opposed to who you are by default. All of a sudden I had the freedom to decide about my personal morals, beliefs, spirituality, religion. I could eat what I wanted, sleep when I wanted, choose what I wanted to study. I also learned a lot about leadership and relationships. For the first time, my teammates were all very much like me-equally as driven and motivated to be their best. I learned to strive to be a champion but to never lose sight of first being a good and classy person and friend.

College soccer was a very important stepping-stone in my career. But I have seen players who dominated at top colleges and then never played a day after. I have also seen players from small schools I had never heard of, now starting on professional teams. College soccer isn't everything. But the college experience as a whole is. The coach and players at the college you choose could change a lot over your four years there. But you will always have the education you receive, friends you make, and lessons you learn about yourself. And this is coming from someone who is more obsessed with soccer than anyone!

College soccer is one step along your journey, it is not a destination. My best advice is to choose a college with the experience that feels most true to who you are and who you want to be. That includes the soccer team, location, educational opportunities, feel of the campus-the whole package. The college decision is not an easy one, but what matters more than what you decide is what you do with your time there. It is four years of your personal journey when all the tools to become who you want are right at your fingertips (or your feet!).

Pursue your goals with every ounce of your being, but above all, love the journey!

Written by Yael Averbuch for the players and families of Crossfire United

Yael Averbuch grew up in Upper Montclair, NJ where she was the only girl on an all boys' team for several years as a youth player. She was a two-time NCAA National Champion at the University of North Carolina and has her number 17 jersey retired. She has gone on to play professionally all across the country and the world - in the W.P.S., N.W.S.L., and for teams in Russia, Sweden, and Cyprus. Yael was also a member of every level of the Youth National Team program and currently, at age 27, has 26 caps and one goal for the U.S. Women's National Team.

Connect w/ Yael | Website | YouTube