With so much uncertainty surrounding the upcoming collegiate season for the fall of 2021, there are more and more student-athletes exploring the possibilities of a gap year.
Taking a gap year is not a new idea or one that has sprung up from the arrival of the corona-virus. Taking a gap year is a decision by a student-athlete to use a year prior to going into the college environment for some specific reason. It is a very personal decision but generally revolves around the desire to achieve two things - becoming a better person and a better player. Taking a gap year away from home is likely to see a much higher level of maturation as it will involve a young player being outside of their comfort zone and is excellent preparation for what college life looks like. Deciding to take a gap year with a soccer component will allow a player to work in a full-time, intense environment and will improve their game as they continue to prepare for their final college decision.
We recently sat down with Pol Monells to discuss how his GAP year in Spain impacted his playing opportunities in the United States. Pol had a dream of playing D1 soccer. He used a planned GAP year to fine tune his skills and is now playing for Upstate South Carolina University and is transferring to Virginia Tech University for the Fall 2021 season.
Pol started playing soccer at the youth level primarily out of a love for the game. Pol was always looking for ways to get better competition and this love quickly grew into a passion for finding the most competitive environment he could. As a winger Pol enjoyed being in a leadership role and taking responsibility in the offensive side of his team. He went on to have a successful high school career and also played for one of the top clubs in his area. This success only drove Pol to desire more, he wanted something more.
Pol considered his ultimate objective of playing college soccer and spent a lot of time visualizing the right school for him. He started to plan accordingly and by his junior year and mapped out 15-20 schools that met his academic business and athletic requirements. He wanted to find the right balance for his academic goals and for a standard of play that would provide the intensity and competitive level that he desired.
During senior year of high school, Pol realized that he wanted to have a better understanding of what challenges and sacrifices he would have to make in order for him to succeed at this level. He had never lived away from home and recognized that he was going to have to get outside of his comfort zone in order to make this a reality. Fortunately for Pol, his on the field talent had coaches noticing and he received offers from a variety of programs. Something didn't feel right and he did not feel prepared to accept any of them. At this point Pol decided to explore what a GAP year was and how he could better prepare for the future.
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Like all aspiring soccer players in the world, Pol had admired the idea of playing football in Spain. He supported Barcelona, loved watching La Liga and the skill of the young Spanish players coming through their club systems. He googled "opportunities to attend a residential soccer academy in the Spain" and put a lot of research into the options and opportunities that existed. He made the decision that he would use a gap year to “grow up” and “develop a greater understanding of what a professional environment would look like”, all while working towards his ultimate goal of playing at the D1 collegiate level.
During his year away from his home, Pol was organized and deliberate about using his time wisely. He immersed himself in soccer and made sure that he was fully committed to giving his best effort. He enjoyed the camaraderie and the constant pressure of having to be “on your game” against top competition. He was pushed well outside his comfort zone on and off the pitch and as a result he saw great success and leadership growth.
The experience was life-changing for Pol. Getting an opportunity to play at La Masia, the home of the FC Barcelona and being able to watch professional and international games on an almost weekly basis was mind blowing to this young boy. He was able to see the passion and professionalism on a regular basis by players just like him and who he wanted to become.
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Pol continued to grow his relationships with the colleges back home. He created a video highlight reel from the games he played in Spain and kept the coaches up to speed on his progress. His Advisor helped him narrow his focus. It became clear that Upstate South Carolina University in SC was the school that ticked all his boxes.
Now heading into his Senior year at USC University, Pol looks back at his experience and feels that the year away was crucial for his mental and physical preparation. He contributed consistently during his freshman year and now is heading to Virginia Tech University for his senior year.
Each player's journey is unique. Pol advice to younger athletes is to create your own path forward. It doesn't always have to be the path expected of you.
Start your journey today with FC Odisea Academy, contact FC Odisea Academy Director of Recruitment, David Moliner at firstname.lastname@example.org