• Destination 219

Student-Athlete, a Siblings POV

My name is Maisie, sister of Tom Baker the soccer Director here at Destination 219. Here is a little insight into how I was feeling, and the emotions surrounding my brother moving across to America in pursuit of a soccer scholarship. 

August 2013: I was 14 when Tom first started looking at the possible option of pursuing a soccer scholarship in the United States. At first I was excited, but unsure as to what the opportunity actually was. As Tom got deeper into the process I began to realise what an amazing opportunity this may be for him. My first memory of the process was back in November 2013, travelling to North Wales for Tom to sit his first SAT exam. We stayed in a local hotel and had to be up early as the exam started at 8am. Prior to sitting the SAT exam Tom went to private tutoring lessons to give himself the best chance of scoring high on the SAT. This is when I realised just how important this opportunity was to him. Tom took the SAT twice, scoring higher the second time round, this helping to boost his scholarship chances. Tom then began to travel the country to help build his soccer footage.

January 2014: Most of Tom’s checklist was complete. This was when he began to receive contact and then offers from different soccer coaches across the United States. This was a big step for the whole family, as all of the hard work was now starting to pay off, seeing the first offers from American universities come through. We would then spend most evenings researching each university and soccer team to see which was most suitable for Tom. When he eventually committed and signed with the University of Charleston, the real countdown had started. 

The following months consisted of preparing and planning for his eventual move across the pond. I remember Tom travelling across to Belfast for his student visa interview, this being one of the final steps before leaving for his soccer scholarship. 

14th August 2014: Day of departure, we headed for Manchester Airport. The car was a strange place to be, talking about anything but him leaving for the first time. Once Tom had checked in that’s when it really dawned on us that he was leaving until Christmas. We all knew what an amazing time and opportunity he was embarking on but as his little sister I was emotional, nervous, and excited all at the same time. We said our final goodbyes and watched him go up the escalator, heading in pursuit of his American dream. 

May 2017: Flash forward three years, Tom had been home several times in between semesters and had been having the time of his life. While he was out there we would facetime several times a week staying up to date with life in the United States. This was now our turn to travel across to him, Tom’s graduation day. We had heard so much about Charleston and the friends he had made, but to experience it ourselves with the other families was truly a day to remember. 

If I was in your shoes right now and your brother/sister is thinking about pursuing a sports scholarship in the United States I would say 110% go for it! The memories, life experiences, and friends is something that any sibling would want for their brother or sister. 

If you would like any advice or have any questions, please feel free to reach out.

Maisie Baker. 

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