Here at the Hub, one of our favorite movies is Goal! The Dream Begins. It is a story about Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) who is a Mexican teenager living with his father Hernan Munez (Tony Plana-Pain & Gain, Law & Order, Blue Bloods) and Grandmother (Miriam Colon-Scarface—another Hub favorite, One Life To Live, Guiding Light) in Los Angeles. Santiago dreams of becoming a professional soccer player some day and his father Hernan is a very stern, taskmaster who thinks that his son’s dream is ridiculous.
In the movie, Santiago is discovered by a scout for the English club Newcastle United by a former scout Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane- Zero Dark Thirty, Game of Thrones, King Arthur). Long story short, Santiago goes from Los Angeles to Newcastle for a trial with the club. (We won’t ruin the movie and give away the ending!)
What does any of this have to do with NCAA Division III college soccer?
When student-athletes go from high school to college soccer it is a change for them. First and foremost it is a change in the level of play for many players and one that they find more challenging. In the movie, Santiago was used to being the best player on his team and the best player on the field all the time. When he got to Newcastle United, that was not the case and he had plenty of other players competing for his spot on the team and doing what they could to make him fail.
This was a paradigm shift both from a soccer standpoint as well as a mental standpoint. At one point in movie it has Santiago asking why his one teammate McGowan is trying to hurt him in practice. The answer that Glen gives is basically that McGowan is envious of Santiago’s abilities. Do you think this happens on NCAA Division III college teams?
Second, Santiago experiences a huge environmental shift going over 5000 miles from Los Angeles to Newcastle. After a poor performance by Santiago, Glen explains to the team’s manager that Santiago has probably never ever played a game in the rain! Much less a torrential downpour. And when student-athletes move across the country or from warmer to colder climates (or vice versa), this can certainly impact their abilities. At one point Santiago asks Glen “Is it always this cold in Newcastle?” Do you think that is going to affect how you perform?
Lastly is the overall culture shock that a student-athlete can experience when going away from home. Imagine yourself going 5,000 miles away from home to a place that is totally foreign to you and your support system is only available to you on the phone and many time zones away. That in itself is hard for a student-athlete to overcome psychologically.
When Santiago first arrives in Newcastle, Glen and Santiago have this conversation:
Glen- “Welcome to the Toon!”
Santiago- “What’s the Toon?”
Glen-“It’s where the Geordies live.”
At another point Santiago is going to go out with one of his teammates to a bar for a night out. He asks what the drinking age is in Newcastle. His teammate responds “Eleven?” While these cultural nuances may seem minor, without having a good support system it can be extremely challenging for a student-athlete who is not mentally strong.
The bottom line is this—like Santiago experienced, jumping from one soccer program to another, higher level program is a difficult thing for many student-athletes. This change in itself a difficult enough challenge for some players that they find it hard to be successful. However, more often it is the psychological adjustment that is the most demanding part of the transition for student-athletes.
PS- Goal! The Dream Begins is a must-see movie for all of you soccer passionate people out there. Plus it is a very positive, uplifting movie!
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