This is the story of how my classmates and I revived the Babson Graduate Soccer Club, which had been relatively dormant because of the pandemic, and had a bunch of laughs and scored some big wins along the way.
Having been born and raised in Spain, it was only natural that I grew up playing all kinds of soccer, and, in just a couple of weeks at Babson College, I met several classmates who enjoyed playing the game for fun.
In Olin Hall, we discovered a bag with a small collection of battered and deflated soccer balls, and we organized weekend pickup games at public fields in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As these games became more frequent, we attracted interest from both men and women players, including those who were new to the sport, as well as seasoned veterans.
Soon enough, we enrolled in the Boston Graduate Coed Soccer League, an annual graduate school league that includes other prominent schools in the Boston area, such as MIT, Tufts, and various Harvard graduate schools.
We prepared for the season, using our pickup games as practice. Our first game was against Harvard Law School. After 90 painful minutes, the referee blew his whistle, signaling the end of the match and revealing a dreadful scorecard. We lost, 11-1.
It was time to make a change. It was time to get serious.
I was co-president of the Babson Graduate Soccer Club, along with Roberto Fiorentino MBA’22. I also became the coach.
As the coach, I spent countless hours watching YouTube videos, reading conditioning articles, and contacting former soccer colleagues and coaches to get insights. Our practices included physical, technical, and tactical drills.
For our second match, we played against another contender to win the league: MIT. While we did lose the match (3-0), there was noticeable improvement. The team played well. We communicated, we pressured, and we held possession. Little by little, we were getting there.
After a few more weeks of soccer practice, we were playing on Babson’s grounds against the Harvard Kennedy School. The final whistle blew, and while we were all fatigued, we were happy. We beat them, 6-2, our first of many victories to come.
David and Goliath
Toward the end of the season, we qualified to participate in the 2022 New England MBA Soccer Tournament, which meant playing three back-to-back games against the MIT, Harvard, and Columbia business schools. We were the clear underdogs, but, as underdogs, it was our duty to play with grit and go beyond our skill level.
The first match was against MIT. We had lost against them twice during the regular season. However, this time was different. During our practices, we had improved on our tactics, pushed ourselves to the limit, and fought for each ball under the rain and in the mud. We were more motivated than ever.
“The joy of sharing a common goal, a common rival, and a common road to victory forged friendships that will last forever.”
Roberto Arcila Barbour MBA'22
The whistle blew, and the match began. After 15 minutes, however, the referee blew his whistle and signaled a penalty kick. My heart sank. “Clearly, that couldn’t have been a handball,” I thought.
Nevertheless, the decision had been made, and MIT had a chance of scoring their first goal. The striker prepared to take the penalty. Running toward the ball, he shot a very strong and well-placed ball.
Fortunately for us, it never made it to the net. Stretching to his right like an agile feline, our goalkeeper stopped the ball from scoring. This was the turning point of the match. That penalty gave us the motivation to fight the Goliath to our David. We beat them, 2-1.
A Tight Group
We ultimately did not win the tournament, but our squad had greatly improved from our unorganized pickup games to become a tough, well-organized team. It was amazing to see how we all evolved from a collection of headless chickens to a fully fledged team of amateur soccer players with great physical abilities, a deep understanding of tactics, and the know-how to play smarter not harder.
The team also created a tight-knit group of friends that would have probably just been good classmates had we not played together. We all suffered through the same hard practices under the scorching summer sun, and we all suffered the cold, playing matches in the snow during the winter months.
The joy of sharing a common goal, a common rival, and a common road to victory forged friendships that will last forever.
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