To achieve their goals, all athletes must make sacrifices.
Usually, the bigger the goals, the bigger the sacrifices.
For York Suburban High School senior Ryan Ludwick, there have a been a few things he’s had to surrender in his pursuit of an opportunity to play NCAA Division I soccer.
Ludwick, a standout both on the pitch and in the classroom, will see his goal realized on Wednesday, Feb. 7, when he officially signs his National Letter of Intent to play men's soccer for the powerhouse Stanford University program.
All-in on soccer: The road to Palo Alto, California, is one that required Ludwick to basically live the sport. It’s also meant not being able to take the typical path of a high school athlete.
A typical day for Ludwick consists mainly of two things, either soccer-related activities such as practicing or conditioning, or academic concerns.
Ludwick will normally attend school, then travel nearly an hour to practice with his PA Classics team before returning home. Once home, it’s rinse, eat, study and repeat. PA Classics is one of the many United States soccer youth developmental academies throughout the nation.
There’s also lots of other travel to games, tournaments and showcase events.
“Ryan is a very dedicated soccer player that has put a lot of time into his training and youth soccer career. He has always had the goal of being the best player he can be,” said Steve Klein, coach of Ludwick’s PA Classics team. “A lot of players have that goal but aren’t willing to make sacrifices and actually put the work in that it takes.”
Most high school athletes revel in the fun of being able to represent their school while playing alongside their classmates. For Ludwick, the time demands of playing for Classics, and the desire to face the best possible competition, meant missing out on that thrill.
“I’ve been playing for Classics even before I got into high school, so for me it wasn’t that hard of a decision to stay with Classics,” Ludwick said. “I feel like the competition and the quality of soccer is such a high level at the academy, and I thought to get better and improve my game, that’s the type of environment I would want to be in.”
Picking Stanford: With Stanford’s high academic standards, Ludwick has also been required to be just as diligent about his studies. He finished his junior year ranked fifth in his class, and by his estimation is on track to graduate in the top five.
“I was looking for colleges that were both good at soccer, and had really strong academics, because both of those things are really important to me. And I found that Stanford had both of those,” Ludwick said. “It’s really the type of program and school that I wanted to be a part of.”
Ludwick first appeared on the radar of the three-time-defending national champion Cardinal through a friendship between Klein and Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn. That led to Stanford scouting Ludwick during a showcase event in Florida.
After the event, Ludwick was invited to California to visit the school. Having already known of Stanford’s academic pedigree and recent sporting success, and then developing an affinity for the Palo Alto campus, the choice was easy.
On the pitch: A center-back by trade, Ludwick is described by his coach as “versatile” and that he “can play in the midfield or as a defender. (He) has good feet and can use both right and left foot. (He) reads the game extremely well and makes good decisions on the ball.”
Having worked with him for several years, Klein estimates he first thought Ludwick would be able to reach the D-I level when he was about 13 or 14. Since then, Ludwick has progressed into a team captain and “quiet leader” who is “very reliable in helping set the tone for the rest of the team.”
For Ludwick, the belief in his talents has been there even longer.
“I’ve always believed in myself that I can play at any level,” Ludwick said. “I’ve always been working hard to just keep that level of play.”
Ludwick says his best assets on the pitch are that he’s calm on the ball and a good passer who knows the game well. But he’s not unrealistic about his game either, and knows finding success on the next level will require him to sharpen certain aspects.
“I think I have to keep getting faster and stronger, because the players in college are extremely athletic,” Ludwick said. “And keep improving on my technical ability.”
— Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com