Former Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer & Region I ODP player James Tuley recently announced his commitment to the United States Naval Academy, where he plans on playing soccer. He's flanked by his two Kennett High School coaches, Gustavo Mirales (left) and Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Technical Director Mike Barr.
James Tuley has always challenged himself, whether it be on the field, in the classroom or in the community. It's no surprise then to find out that the former Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer & Region I ODP player (for the 1999 boys teams) has committed to the United States Naval Academy. Tuley, who will graduate from Kennett High School later this year after captaining the Blue Demons to their first ever PIAA State Tournament appearance in the fall, spoke with Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer about his path to Navy.
How did you settle on Navy?
James Tuley: When I was a sophomore, I had some older friends who were looking at West Point and other academies. There was a point where I was confused on what I wanted to do. And it looked like something very honorable, and service seemed like the right thing for me. From a family standpoint, I just wanted to do as much for them as they did for me.
Once you decided on that pathway, what things did you immediately start doing to prepare for service?
JT: I just knew that the academies take the best of the best in all categories. I just started integrating myself in as many extracurriculars and sports as I could, NHS President and all these other activities. I just started digging deep. I know they wanted me to take the hardest classes, so I challenged myself, and it was hard sometimes, but it really paid off.
How did soccer play a role in that?
JT: Soccer, it was an outlet for me. I knew I wanted to play in college. Personally, pursuing the Naval Academy, I didn’t really care if I played. I just knew I wanted to serve there, and the opportunity to play there and that kind of brotherhood and the team they have is something to strive for. It’s pushed me on the field, off the field, just made me want to work harder.
Playing ODP, you’ve challenged yourself on the soccer field. How important is that, in any aspect of your life, to keep pushing yourself?
JT: I think the important thing for me—if you’re pursuing anything in life, be that the academy or be it whatever you’re passionate about—(is) you need a team. And I’ve always had a great team behind me. A great team of coaches. A great family. A great set of teachers. A great administration. I’ve always had that support, so I think that hard work is important, but you can only get so far by yourself. When you surround yourself with great people, and you have that kind of love and care behind you, it makes everything possible.
What are some of your favorite experiences playing ODP and with the Region I team?
JT: Playing with ODP and the Region I team was some of the most fun. To see guys from across the region and play some really high level, staying at the hotels, getting a feel for the different...I mean even though we’re in Region I, there are different aspects to the game, different places and everyone brought something different to the table. So it was really nice to see the different styles of play.
Do you know what you want to study yet?
JT: I’m thinking Mechanical Engineering or Naval & Marine Architecture, building boats and ships and things like that.
How would you describe your playing style? (At military academies) you have a discipline structure off the field, how does that translate to on the field?
JT: It translates. The creative game is something everyone preaches. But I think at the academies, just because of the discipline, it’s very passer oriented. There’s creating as a team. I consider myself more as an assister in the midfield, a play-maker. Moving the ball is something the academies preach really well, just because everyone is so used to supporting each other and is less worried about themselves, which sometimes can be bad and sometimes can be good. You always need that crazy striker that can get it done. But (if you have) a lot of guys with the attitude of just making it happen for each other then that kind of comes together.
You had a pretty good idea of where you wanted to go from a young age—sophomore year, that’s ahead of schedule—what advice would you have for fellow ODP players, for fellow youth soccer players, who get to that 15, 16, 17 age? How do you engage that process? How do you know where you want to end up? What were some of the things you did to make sure you were making the right decision?
JT: There’s a great speaker I heard, I can’t remember his name to save me, he says, “Never make your life about one goal.” You want to keep your head driven. You want to work towards that but keep your eyes on a swivel. You want to keep those doors open on the side, because something might catch your eye. That being said, when you want something, you should work as hard as you possibly can to get it and achieve it. And if it doesn’t work out, there’s always something else to do, and you’ll always find happiness if you work hard enough. You can’t get anywhere without hard work or a good team behind you. To those young players who are still undecided, know you don’t need to decide (now). You just need to leave it all on the field. Work opens doors on its own.