Former Soccer Players Continue Playing Post-College

Sports, as many athletes are aware, is a temporary activity. Between the inevitability of age and the unpredictability of injury, there comes a time in every athlete’s life when they make the decision to stop playing the sport that used to define them.

For the vast majority of athletes, the conclusion of an athletic career comes at the end of high school. Others manage to extend their career through four years of college, but that’s where it ends. However, three recent graduates of the Oberlin men’s soccer team have managed to continue their playing careers even further, continuing to hit the pitch even past the end of college.

Tim Williams and Jesse Lauritsen, both OC ’17, and former Oberlin student Jake Crim have all continued playing soccer at various levels. Head Men’s Soccer Coach Blake New remembers the unique trio well.

Williams currently plays semi-pro soccer for LA10, a Los Angeles-based team that plays in the United Premier Soccer League. A former All-North Coast Athletic Conference second-team selection, Williams is considering a potential career change.

“When my current job finishes in the spring, I may try to play professionally abroad,” said Williams.

This doesn’t surprise his former coach. New considers Williams one of the more entertaining players he’s coached, but also one of the hardest workers.

“[Tim] loved to have fun and worked really hard to become a better player,” said New.

Lauritsen currently plays on a number of amateur teams that occasionally compete in big tournaments. Although none of his teams have advanced very far in these tournaments, he enjoys the time he’s continued to spend with the game. His rapid development over the course of his Oberlin career culminated in a first-team All- NCAC selection in his fourth year. This impressive growth is what New remembers most.

“My best memory of Jesse is the monumental leap in his development from his [first year] to [his second year] and how dedicated he was to [getting] better,” said New.

Crim left Oberlin after just three semesters to pursue a career in professional soccer. So far, he has managed to carve out a pretty solid role in soccer, playing for Loudon United in Virginia for a few months earlier this year before suiting up for Vaksala SK in Sweden, where he played until October.

“Jake was pretty quiet and fought me on a position change, but now admits that I was right because that is where he is playing in the pros,” said New.

New contends that the trio’s obvious talent isn’t the only thing that’s allowed them to continue playing beyond their college days.

“I think it is important to note that a lot of my players have the ability to go on and play after college, but it is players like Tim and Jesse and Jake who have a real desire to keep playing for as long as they can,” said New. “So, they were good players here at Oberlin and stood out on the team, but it is their desire to keep playing the game that they love that pushes them to keep chasing it.”

Even though he remembers his experiences at Oberlin fondly and values the time he spent on campus, Crim still can’t say that anything truly prepared him for professional competition.

“The professional level, compared to [Division III] soccer, is much more rigorous,” said Crim, “It is incredibly mentally taxing, whereas, at Oberlin, [playing] soccer was an escape from the difficulty of the schoolwork.”

Williams, like Crim, is playing at a high level that demands a lot of his time.

“We actually practice three times a week [which is] less than the everyday grind of Oberlin soccer,” said Williams. “However, it goes all year and 8 p.m. practice three night a week, coupled with a regular 9 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.] workweek can be exhausting. The play of the team is so rewarding though. Half of the guys have played professionally in Europe, Mexico, or South America, so it’s awesome to get to compete with those guys every day, and thrive alongside them.”

Unlike Crim and Williams, Lauritsen doesn’t view his current level as more rigorous than college. Instead, he sees amateur soccer as a way for former players to continue playing the game they love in a competitive environment.

“Everyone works a full-time job, so it is tough to make practice mandatory,” said Lauritsen, “It is mainly made up of guys still trying to grasp the competitive style college or semi-pro offered.”

Their current experiences with the game may be different, but the trio all agree that their time at Oberlin was marked by one thing.

“Camaraderie,” said Crim. “The Oberlin soccer team is a family.”

Lauritsen agrees, believing the Oberlin soccer team to be a one-of-a-kind environment.

“The most valuable part of my experience [playing soccer at Oberlin] is the bond everyone on the team had,” said Lauritsen. “I am extremely confident no other program has this, regardless of [the] sport. As it is for most teams, the guys in your class are automatically your best friends, but there were guys who were in their late 20s and early 30s offering support or advice.”

Williams echoes the same sentiments as his former teammates while also acknowledging that it isn’t always easy to get along with teammates.

“It goes back to that sense of family,” said Williams, “Our team motto: OC Love. When you’re on the practice field, you yell, you fight, you get mad. But when practice is over, you walk right back through that gate knowing that whatever happened on that field, you’re still a family off of it.”

It is clear that the players aren’t the only ones who feel this way about the program. New has coached many players over his 21-year career and manages to keep in touch with several of them.

“I still talk, email, and text with all three guys pretty regularly,” said New, “[They are] all great guys that made a great impact in our program and continue to be an important part of our extended family.”