My Soccer Career

When I was 5 years old my life changed. The World Cup in South Korea/Japan was going on, and this was my first time watching soccer (that I can remember). What made it special was that my father would wake me up at 2 a.m. to watch U.S play, because of the time difference. I still remember climbing out of bed to watch my nation play. I remember so much about that tournament - from Ronaldo’s crazy haircut, to Oliver Kahn’s superman saves. This tournament started my life on a journey towards a crazy, big dream - To be a professional soccer player.

The next 13 years of my life was dedicated primarily to fulfilling that dream. I was blessed with supportive parents who believed in my dream, and coaches who impacted my life in ways I still can't fully fathom.

  • How my skills in soccer translate to other ventures.
  • How my mentors/coaches significantly impacted my life.
  • How my perspective on culture shifted
How my skills translate
  • Tim Ferriss in his book ‘4 Hour Work Week’ poses this question - What excites me? What would I wake up every day excited to do? Between the ages 5-18 soccer was my passion. Just the sight of a soccer ball would throw me into a different reality; a reality where I was King. It was just me and the ball; everything else followed. When a ball was at my feet, I felt untouchable. My imagination soared to the heights of the legends of my sport - At age 8 I was playing side by side in the rain with Ronaldinho, at age 11 I was captain of the American National team playing alongside my hero Landon Donovan. My imagination kept me sane. No one could touch the world I was creating. Thus, my imagination inspired me to play. It was not for physical exercise. It was not to impress anyone. It was not because anyone wanted me to... The ball became my best friend, and often times my only friend. This ball was the only thing I loved who had never let me down. Together, what could we not accomplish?
How my skills translate

That little boy’s dream at age 9 never left me. Yes, the specifics changed - Where should I play? College vs. Europe? Nevertheless, the fundamental philosophy remained intact. Regardless of where I was playing, or for what organization I was playing for, I played for me.

I played to create my own world. I was in my own world. When I played a long ball I was the Italian Maestro Pirlo. When I dribbled I was the untouchable iniesta. When I tackled I was Sergio Ramos. My imagination carried me to new heights. My success was an accident. That is not saying that I did not work hard... but was it work if I did it for pure enjoyment? Yes, I spent hours and hours training. However, what was the end goal? Professional soccer? The best in the world? My goals were a by product of my dream. My dream was to create. At age 9 I realized the reality I created was far more interesting than the one defined by others. 

How Mentors Impacted me

I will begin with a story; when I was 14 I traveled to France to compete against top clubs from around the country. Leading up to the trip, we spent many hours training and getting to know each other. My coach, Matt Badi, was harsh but fair. Discipline was key. So, he after training one day he gave us a homework assignment - attach 1 word to the back of our training shirts to describe our relationship to soccer. Everyone chose something that was special - I chose “Dedicated”. This pressed on me every time I trained the following - Today I must be resolute in doing everything I possibly can to get one step closer to my goals.

This story is one of many that have affected my life in ways that are extremely difficult to describe. Thankfully, I was blessed with some incredible coaches. My coaches pushed me in ways that were at times uncomfortable. My coaches forced me to develop my weaknesses, and capitalize on my strengths. They were encouraging when I was disappointed with myself, and hard on me when I wasn't giving it my all.

The last thing about my coaches that I would like to say is this - if you don't enjoy what you do, why do it? Life is way too short to spend time doing things that are not in pursuit of your end goal. Now, the journey will not always be pleasant, but joy is a choice, and it can be found in the most unexpected of circumstances. Every coach I had carried a unique philosophy on life and soccer. Yet, each echoed the same core concept - do what you are passionate about, and be passionate while doing it.

Culture changed my perspective

Soccer is the world's most popular sport. Every year, millions tune in to watch their favorite teams and stars play; the excitement that these fans exuberate is shocking. A man from Ghana, and a woman from Laos are united by a love of the sport. There is no discrimination, anyone can fall in love with the game.

People are different. Each nation represents a unique culture and identity, or rather many identities, and each nation’s philosophy is different. No two snowflakes are the same. But, and that is a resound BUT, there are fundamental things that all cultures share. One fundamental concept that every nation shares, although not all its citizens, is a love of the game of soccer. It looks different, yes, but where there are men and women, there is some form of soccer

Why is that important? Let me explain by a quick story. In the hot summer of 2013 I find myself getting off a plane, listening to island in the sun by weezer, in a new land. I was in the Cayman Islands. I knew nothing about the culture, only assumptions about the caribbean from books and movies, yet I felt at home. I was here to play “football”. Everything else comes into place after that. Long story short, my adventure in the Caribbean was enlightening. This culture was so fascinating; the people mesmerizing. The accents, the food, the nightlife, the clear ocean, and the many perspectives that I had never heard.. I was in awe. With all the amazing unique facets though, I still felt at home. Why? The pitch. That was my home. No matter where, no matter when, the field was my stage.

Every culture brings a new perspective on life. Learn from that.. But, some things remain firm across oceans. Core concepts regarding our experiences as humans DO NOT change. Thus, discover the truths that all men and woman share, and you immediately relate. The idea is simple; travel to experience different cultures, but remain devout to core principles.

In conclusion, the many dedicated hours to this sport taught me that persistence, patience, and self belief are the keys to achieving the desired outcome. If it wasn't for my coaches, I would not have grown; stagnation is a step backwards when the competition is pushing towards excellence. My soccer career is over. However, my journey towards accomplishing my dreams and aspirations is just beginning.

Created By
Tyler Hochstetler
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