Each year Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer awards four scholarships worth $1000 a year to high school seniors involved in the state association as a player or referee. Now a sophomore on the women’s soccer team at Colby College, 2016 scholarship recipient Lindsay Ayers, who played youth soccer for North Union and PA Classics, shares her perspective on her development path and embracing the academic side of being a student-athlete.
This story first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Touchline. Applications for 2018 Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer college scholarships are due April 20. Find out more information on how to apply here.
How did you approach the scholarship application process and what sort of things did you want to emphasize in your personal statements?
Lindsay Ayers: When I was applying for scholarships my senior year, I would always stress over the personal statements and essays. What could possibly make me stand out in comparison to hundreds of other kids that are probably overall better candidates than me? I think the key to writing successful personal statements is identifying your strongest character traits and how your accolades demonstrate those. I always approach the application process by using my accolades to tell a story—my story. Yes, I was in the top 10 percent of my class. Yes, I was a Pennsylvania All-State Selection. But I didn’t achieve either of those things because I was naturally gifted. Every experience that you’ve had influences who you are. Make sure that when you’re writing these applications, that your voice comes through and that you are celebrating yourself and what you’ve achieved.
What lessons from your youth soccer career—both in club, high school and as a referee—have you applied in your first two years in college?
LA: If my youth soccer career taught me anything, it was the importance of dedication and sacrifice. I missed a lot of school events, family trips, and just hang outs with my friends. But I knew that the goals I was pursuing far outweighed the sacrifice. If you want to play in one of the top Division III conferences in the nation, you have to be committed, every day, to being the best athlete and the best student possible. The way to do it, and do it successfully, is not to view commitment to academics and athletics as a sacrifice, but seeing every class, every practice, every lift as an opportunity to get better.
As a ref, I can’t recall one game where my authority wasn’t challenged at some point. I’ve made controversial calls. I’ve made game-changing calls. I’ve been yelled at by parents and coaches. I’ve ejected parents and coaches. But I still put on my ref jersey the next weekend. Those moments of adversity really influenced my development as a person. Being a referee taught me to be confident in myself and my actions—to never shy away from criticism.
What’s your best advice for prospective college students for balancing academics & athletics?
LA: It’s something that I get asked about all the time by recruits. And the answer is yes, there are certainly times when it’s stressful and overwhelming. In those times, reach out to your teammates, parents, even your professors. In season, it’s a constant cycle of class to practice to dinner to the library. Stay on top of your work. Reach out to teammates who have taken your classes and get their notes. Take advantage of teaching assistant sessions and your professors’ office hours. Being a student-athlete is a privilege and one of the most amazing opportunities you could ever have. Represent your team and your school with pride. Don’t place the education that you have the privilege of receiving as second to your athletics. Make the commitment to excel at both.
What have been some of your best experiences at Colby thus far?
One of the coolest experiences that I’ve had at Colby was when I had the opportunity to meet Briana Scurry, the goalkeeper of the U.S. 1999 Women’s World Cup championship team. Briana Scurry is an incredible athlete, person, and advocate. As one of the first openly LGBT African-American athletes, she spoke to us about her unique perspectives and experiences in professional sports. My team got to sit down with her one-on-one before her scheduled appearance and ask her questions and even hold her gold medal, which was pretty cool.