Trusting the process
by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
There was a time when coaches would come out and recruit the player. Now, it’s the other way around.
That’s what happens with technology. High School coaches, back in the day, used to get game film together and send it out to other colleges coaches - hoping to get their players looked at. Now, it’s up the players to do the recruiting.
High school coaches will still help out, but the players are the ones that are doing most of the dirty work. They are gathering film and putting it on recruiting sites, or YouTube. They are the ones that are doing their research and emailing coaches all this information to see if they might be interested.
It’s a very tedious process, one that can get frustrating at times.
Lancaster High School soccer playerJulia Benham has first-hand knowledge of the recruiting process. Since her freshman year, she has been gathering information on schools and sending them personalized emails.
Every time she would go to a showcase with her club team, Benham would send out 50-100 emails stating her interest.
“I first started emailing coaches my freshman year. Before every showcase I would find the list of colleges attending, research each one individually and send emails to those that interested me. I was sending 50-100 emails per showcase. Researching every school and customizing each email to make them personal would take me hours,” explained Benham. “It was frustrating to take that much time knowing full well that most of the coaches would never respond or come watch me play. The recruiting process requires a lot of faith and perseverance. My biggest advice for anyone going through the process is to focus on your own path and do the work. I got caught up comparing my journey to others so much that it started to make going to showcases more stressful than fun. If you do your research, take the time to visit schools, and fully dedicate yourself to the process you will find the school that is best for you academically, athletically and socially.”
Every athlete that goes through the process looks for something different in a school. Some athletes will go because of location, others for the sports aspect. Some will tie in their academics and sports. It’s enough that can make your head spin from time to time, and have you go crazy.
When Benham was able to sit down and research Trine University, a private university in Angola, Indians, it checked off all the boxes. The biggest draw was the fact Trine had so many different majors.
It also didn’t hurt that the coach is a Lancaster graduate, and a big Buffalo Bills fan.
The biggest thing about Trine that separated it from other schools for me was the variety of majors it offers. I want to go into healthcare and Trine allows me to major in biology while pursuing a pre-health track focus like pre-Physical Therapy, pre-Physician Assistant or pre-Med. It also offers all the other majors I considered at one point or another such as engineering, finance or business,” stated Benham. “The variety makes Trine a safer option in case I decide biology is not right for me. Soccer wise, the overnight ID Clinic at Trine was a game changer. I had the opportunity to stay in a dorm, meet other recruits and current players as well as work directly with the coaches. I felt so comfortable there and could see myself playing for Coach Boughton and learning a lot from him and the rest of the staff. It’s definitely cool to have a fellow Lancaster alumni and Buffalo Bills fan for a coach but I loved Trine for so many other reasons that it is more of a bonus to have a coach from Buffalo, not a deciding factor in my decision.”
While the recruiting process is over the work has just begun, Benham knows she can’t just rest on the fact she picked a college to continue her academic, and athletic, career. Now, she needs to get ready to compete with some of the best players in the country.
It’s one thing to commit, It’s another thing to be able to crack the starting lineup and play meaningful minutes.
“I spent the summer training with WNY Flash alumni and current collegiate players three days a week with Coach Matt Waddington. The biggest thing I took away from it is their speed of play and fitness levels. They made decisions much faster than me,” stated Benham. “As the summer went on I began to close that gap but I still have a lot more work to do before I’m college ready. At the camp, we would do fitness first thing every session. It was the most intense running I’ve ever done and I was often towards the back of the group. I know that one of the best ways to make a good first impression freshman year is to come in fit. I am taking what I learned from Coach Matt and using it when I train on my own to get myself fit for next fall.”
On the pitch, Benham has been a mainstay in the midfield for a Legends team that has high expectations every season. She is the leader at the center midfield position, a position she doesn’t take lightly.
Benham knows what it takes to be a very good center mid. She has to have the ability to pick out a teammate with a good pass, or be gritty and fight for those 50/50 balls in the center of the pitch.
Playing this role has made her a well-rounded player.
“Center mid is a tough position but I have always loved it because it allows me to be a part of every play. Being a well rounded player has made me a solid midfielder,” stated Benham. “My ability to play long range passes to beat multiple defenders in one play has been a strength of mine. My leadership and refuse to lose mentality has given me the ability to conduct play from my position in the middle of the field.”
While at Lancaster, Benham has been counted on to play a more defensive game. However, this year, she was asked to score a few more goals. To show what kind of player she is, Benham took that as a challenge, and chipped in with nine goals, while adding two assists.
Her goals weren’t of the cheap kind, either, When Benham was scoring, she was scoring from distance. Most of her goals were from beyond the 18 yard range, showing off the type of leg, and accuracy, she has.
“I have bounced back and forth between defensive and attacking mid over the years but for the most part, my coaches have put it on me to lead the midfield from a more defensive role. This year however, I was looked upon to be a goal scorer as well,” stated Benham. “Decision making and patience has been important in balancing my defensive and attacking responsibilities. I have to know when it’s time to push the ball forward and attack space or sit back and help lock it down. Most of my goals have come from long range shots outside the 18 yard box. Being able to shoot from distance makes me a scoring threat from anywhere.”
Benham just isn’t a great soccer player, but a leader as well. For the past two seasons Benham has been one of the captains on the team. She takes the role of captain seriously.
It’s just not a title to her.
One of the big things is building trust in her teammates, and not knocking them down if they do something wrong. It’s easy to point fingers, but Benham doesn’t do that. She is there to encourage her teammates when things are going poorly.
“I have been wearing the captain’s armband for the past two seasons now and it is an honor that I do not take lightly. I try to build trust in my teammates first by encouraging them at practice and making them feel comfortable, especially when they are new to the team. Building trust is the first step in earning the respect of my teammates. Leading by example has also been huge for me,” explained Bedham. “As a senior captain, I set the bar for how hard we should be working. If I went easy at practice, nobody else would see a point in trying. To be the best team we need to go all out in practice so I make it my goal everyday to be the hardest worker on the field, and hope my teammates follow. Taking on a leadership role has helped me come out of my shell. I learned that my voice is a powerful tool and I should not be afraid to use it.”
As her high school career comes to an end, Benham will look back fondly on the time she spent on and off the pitch. She will always be remembered as a player who was part of the team that brought home the school’s first sectional title.
Those are the type of memories that will last a lifetime.
“I’ve made so many memories playing high school soccer. I am going to miss the little things like seeing my teammates in school and our annual halloween practice,” stated Benham. “I’ve loved being able to represent my school and bring home two section championships in my time at Lancaster including the first in girls soccer history.”