We recently caught up with FirstPoint USA client, Juwon Akintunde, a member of our Class of 2014. Nearing the end of his four-year soccer scholarship, here Juwon shares with us how he found the process of obtaining a scholarship, the highlights from his time in the States, and his plans for the future.
Hailing from Edgware, North West London, Juwon is a former pupil of both Salvatorian College and ST. George’s VA School. Prior to moving to the US, Juwon played for QPR, Brentford, and Maidenhead United. Having had a successful soccer career at home, Juwon tells us he wished to pursue a sports scholarship in the US as it would provide him with the opportunity to study and play soccer. He stated, “It was a chance to start a new challenge that I was looking forward to, I couldn’t wait to get started.”
When Juwon first told his family about his opportunity to play in America, he tells us that they were very supportive. They wanted him to be able to play soccer at the highest level, and gave had no doubts that this would be an excellent chance for him.[caption id="attachment_12129" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Cincinnati State[/caption]
With regards to obtaining the scholarship, Juwon states that he and his family found the process to be very simple and easy. After having played in client games and our Showcase, Juwon began to receive solid offers. He tells us, “It was very exciting receiving emails from coaches out in America. We had to wait it out until around March/April until I received the offer that would take me to America which was Cincinnati State.”
Juwon tells us that the decision to attend Cincinnati State was made easier and he knew they had a very good track record of taking their players to good DI programs. As this was where Juwon wished to end up, he decided that a move to Cincinnati State would be a good start. Juwon tells us that the school isn’t located in a massive city, but it’s not a small one either. Stating, “They had a good program going to Nationals the past two years, and being in the Top 10 in the Nation, I knew it would be a good fit for me. I really felt like Cincy State would take me where I wanted to go. It’s a junior College so the campus was small, but nice at the same time.”
As a student-athlete, with both sports and education commitments, it can be difficult to balance everything. Juwon tells us that he didn’t find this too difficult to do; he likes to keep himself organised, so he never allowed his workload to pile up. He added, “I was constantly busy and moving. It felt like there wasn’t enough hours in the day sometimes but it was a good thing because I had to stay focused on what I came here for; to play and graduate.”
After completing his two years at Cincinnati State, Juwon transferred to West Virginia Wesleyan College for the remaining two years of his studies. Juwon tells us that he did not find the transition too bad as he knew beforehand that he would be moving to a very small town. Having prepared himself for DI soccer, Juwon states that he found DII to be just as intense.
“I remember my first game against Cal PA and I was thinking to myself, “Wow, is this the level over here?” Then I played Charleston who were No. 1 in the country, I had never run so much in my life. Over the years I adapted and got better; it became much easier for me, and that goes for on and off the pitch.”
Nearing the end of his fourth year in the US, we asked Juwon what his highlight had been. He stated, “Winning the MEC Tournament Championship in my senior year; beating the No.1 team, Charleston, and making it to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.”
After graduation, Juwon tells us that he will have the option to stay in the States and apply for a Graduate Assistant position and learn the trade whilst studying towards a Master’s degree and try to play in either the PDL, USL or NASL. However, an alternative option would be to return home and to play semi-professional in the UK. Currently, Juwon is unsure on which route he wishes to pursue, but states that his passion is to continue playing, so that is what he will pursue first; whether that be at home or in the States.
Finally, we asked Juwon is he had any advice for players who are currently thinking about heading to the US on a sports scholarship,
“Do not rush where you want to go. Try and get to know the place you are trying to go before committing there, you want to make sure that the school you go to is a good fit. Don’t take anything for granted because four years will go by so quick. I know everyone says this, but it’s true. Enjoy every minute of it and have fun.”