What It Means To Love a Sport

Gregg Zelkin

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It is not the easiest thing, making a varsity high school sports team. Particularly when it’s for one of the most popular sports in the world in a school of over 4,000 students. But for senior Alex Hughes, while he made the boys’ varsity soccer team like many others in his last year, he did it with no prior high school sports experience.  

Although Hughes has never played high school soccer before this year, he has played soccer for many years on various teams.

“I started playing at a young age, and I really got into it,” Hughes said.

After starting off his soccer career very early as many kids do, he then decided he wanted to try and compete at a higher level.

“I first got into travel soccer around the third grade,” Hughes said. “And it got super serious after that when I played for a higher level travel team around the 6th grade.”

Although the competition was much higher with the travel leagues, Hughes still wanted to pursue a higher level of competition, causing him to look even to other states to find teams to play for.

“Around the middle of 8th grade I decided I was going to play at an even higher level so I decided to play at the pre academy which is in Baltimore,” Hughes said. “Until the end of 10th grade I played for their academy team.”

After two years of commuting hours away just to practice, Hughes switched to a different team.

“I joined the Bethesda-Olney team in the academy league which was closer,” Hughes said.

Even so, the drive to Bethesda, Maryland is not a commute many people take just to practice. For Hughes, he made the trips with a goal fueling him to continue to push forward.

“I was playing that far away and at that high a level to play in college,” Hughes said, “because that would give me the highest opportunity to go to the schools that I wanted to go to.”

With a singular dream in which to fixate on, the only aspect in Hughes life which he questioned was which school it was that he wished to go to.

“I looked at Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Washington University in St. Louis, Penn, Harvard and NYU,” Hughes said.

Although each a fantastic school, Hughes settled on one he believed would suit him best: New York University.

“They saw me play when I was a sophomore and they said they were really interested in me playing for them,” Hughes said. “As I kept playing on my team and in camps I began to realize that NYU was the perfect place for me.”

After committing to a quality soccer program like NYU, all Hughes had to do was stay on his travel team and just wait out high school until he graduated. Instead, he chose to join LB’s team in his senior year.

“The decision was well I’m not playing as much with my travel team and it’s important to get touches on the ball so the goal was to play constantly and to keep fresh,” Hughes said.

Hughes is widely known for his “I-do-what-I-want” method of life, but simply choosing to just start playing a sport on a high school team does not often work out for people. Despite this, he was able to not only make the team, but become its starting goalie.

Even though there are a few differences between travel and high school soccer, Hughes’ mentality when playing the game does not alter.

“It’s a very different style than other leagues,” Hughes said, “but it’s still soccer, you still have to prepare everything the exact same way.”

The boys soccer team has started the season with a 3-2 record so far, but no matter how the team ends up, Hughes’ aspirations to play at a higher level will not end.

“My goals for soccer are to compete for the starting job – hopefully I’ll get it – if not I won’t be that distraught,” Hughes said.

Hughes’ passion for the game of soccer is strong, but he also understands that there are other important things aside from sports.

“Grades are the most important to me,” Hughes said, “because in the end they’re what matter and that’s what going to help me graduate and get a good job.”

Whether it is soccer, school or anything in between, Hughes will always strive to achieve his goals, and with his kind of drive, it is hard to see him not achieving them.

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