Makings of a Champion

The following is an excerpt from the November "The Champions Issue" of Amplified Soccer Athlete magazine. What does it take to be a champion? This is the question that we explore in this issue of Amplified Soccer Athlete. We have pulled together insights from World Cup, MLS, NWSL and NCAA champion players and coaches. Content contributions come from some of the top professional training, nutrition, mental-game and fitness leaders in the industry. We know you’ll enjoy your experience. Subscribe Today!

By Ross LaBauex, 2009 NCAA Champion at University of Virginia and 2010 MLS Champion with Colorado Rapids 

For as long as I can remember I have had an affinity for sports. Soccer, football, baseball, tennis and everything in between, I was sure to be watching or playing.

I love sports for many reasons, but particularly due to the undeniable power sports have to influence individuals, groups and even entire societies in positive ways. 

We see businesses closing early to gather with fellow countryman to support teams in the Olympics. Nations come together to support their women’s national soccer team after a tsunami, and entire wars cease-fire during the World Cup.

Sports will always be one of many driving forces that bring people together. This has long appealed to my sensibilities and influenced many decisions and events throughout my life.

I grew up in Chicago, where sports are a significant ethos of the city. I’ve personally witnessed the greatness that was Michael Jordan and the 90’s Bulls, the tough times (and current rise) of the Cubs, the very unpredictable seasons of “Da Bears”, the dynasty on ice that is the Blackhawks, and the inaugural season of The Chicago Fire that took home an MLS Cup in 1998. 

The city’s sports teams are winners, and those winning moments are very nostalgic for me. I can remember where I was when Michael Jordan crossed Bryant Russell to make the winning shot of the NBA finals against the Utah Jazz. 

I remember watching Peter Nowak and the Chicago Fire hoist the MLS Cup trophy after beating DC United at a packed Rose Bowl in 1998.  I remember all these moments as a fan, but I also remember thinking that I wanted to know what that feeling of being a champion would be like as a player. I wanted to know it badly. 

Reliving these moments in my head was a daily pastime for me in childhood. I wanted to win and be a champion like those I looked up to. I wanted to hoist a trophy with my teammates so we could prove that all of the blood, sweat and tears into the season mattered. My goal was that some little kid would look at me the way I idolized my sports heroes and legends.  I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me; I wanted to be a part of sports history.

Fast-forward a few years….

It was not an easy path, but thorough years of training, honing my soccer skills and total preparation in the soccer recruiting process the first step in achieving my dreams started with my acceptance to the Division I soccer program at University of Virginia.  

During my first few days on campus, I knew that I had to make the most of this unbelievable opportunity. It was going to be a privilege to play for one of the best college soccer programs in the country, and I wasn’t going to waste these next four years. 

Over the course of my time playing soccer at University of Virginia I made memories for a lifetime, but the work that was put in by my teammates and me was immeasurable. 

The early morning practices, the extra running, the summer workouts that were optional (but mandatory) were tough, but the commitment of a group of guys that wanted to win more than breathing is what made everything we did worth it. 

**Authors note: If you are just beginning your college soccer recruiting process (or are lost as to what you need to do next) here is a link to a great free resource 

Get the rest of this article in the November "The Champions Issue" of Amplified Soccer Athlete. What does it take to be a champion? This is the question that we explore in this issue of Amplified Soccer Athlete. We have pulled together insights from World Cup, MLS, NWSL and NCAA champion players and coaches. Subscribe Today!