Once Blair Gavin was introduced to the game of soccer at an early age, there was one thing he knew: He wanted to keep playing soccer. To this day, that is precisely what he is doing. Blair played soccer with Sereno, at the time, the No. 1 nationally-ranked team winning which won back-to-back-to-back-to-back Arizona state cups. He is also an alumni of the IMG Academy soccer program where he has his number '5' jersey retired, and has played for the University of Akron Zips, leading the team to runner-up in the 2009 National Championship. Now, the 22-year-old Gavin is entering his second year with MLS's Chivas USA, after being drafted 10th overall last season. He is looking to build off a first season that included both success, and hardship. IMG Academy recently spoke with Gavin to catch up with one of the IMG Academy soccer program's most distinguished alum.
Blair Gavin on...
...IMG Academy helping your soccer development: It helped me mature me as an athlete. While at IMG I was living away from my parents, and kind of getting the whole college feel. On top of that, it is a professional environment where they have plenty of equipment, everything is set up for you, and all of the fields are just perfect. The whole facility just sets you up for success. The coaches they have are great and you can go out and stay as long as you please, until it gets dark if you really want to.
...getting the ball rolling: When I was younger, my parents enrolled me in soccer. I instantly fell in love with the sport, and after that it was history. It has always been the sport that I wanted to take to the next level. I played a little bit of baseball and basketball growing up, but that stuff was just for fun and was an activity, whereas soccer was serious.
...continuing to move up to the next level: I always had the goal to play college soccer. When I played with the Sereno soccer club, I got plenty of exposure, and when I came to IMG I began to realize what colleges I would be able to go to. Akron took a look at me and some other guys when I was at IMG Academy, and I guess they liked what they saw. Once our soccer program at Akron started to do really well it started to get pretty serious.
...best moment thus far: My debut in MLS for Chivas USA against the L.A. Galaxy. Obviously, you always dream about becoming a pro , but until you actually play in your first game where the lights are on you, and you see all the people sitting and watching you play you don't realize it. You are kind of in awe. To this day, that is one of my favorite memories that I will always take with me.
...the rookie season: I started off really well. I played in 15 or 16 games, but that kind of got throw off course by a hamstring injury. It was unfortunate, but injuries do happen. It was tough, because you always want to be out there, especially when you are playing well, but it was a tough lesson that I took a lot from. I took some of the things that I learned from that injury and applied it to this season. Hopefully I will be able to stay on the pitch a lot longer this year.
...recovering from the injury: I am almost fully recovered. I am in the process of getting my game fitness back. I played about 30 minutes in our previous game, but I am still just building my endurance back up so I can be able to be out there for 90 minutes. My main goal for this season is to stay healthy. I think that I need to do the right things throughout the year to maintain my body, because an MLS season is much longer than a college season, so you have to take care of your body to stay in shape.
...biggest difference between college and MLS: In the MLS, you have to have an idea of what you are going to do with the ball before you get it. In college, you may get the ball and make something up on the spot, but in the pros you have to have 2 or 3 options and then know what you are going to do if one of your options closes. It is just a lot more thinking, being smart, body positioning, figuring out how do play an opponent differently if he is faster than you. It is still all about details, and they count the most.
...a message to IMG Academy soccer program students: Take advantage of the resources you have available. You have some of the best coaches in the country that are always willing to help you. They have been at the highest level to learn from the best. You have everything you need, so if your dream is to make it professionally, go for it, you have the chance to work at it everyday, so you might as well soak it in and become the best that you can.