Striking Gold

%28Courtesy+of+Ben+Southern%29

(Courtesy of Ben Southern)

By Sawyer Strain, Website Editor, Graphics Editor

If you’ve ever walked around the bustling buildings of Tamalpais High School and caught a glimpse of the warm smile from a blond, sharply dressed senior, it’s possible that you have just spotted Benjamin Southern. 

Southern has been training as a soccer player for many years now. “If you focus on doing something you want to do, you have to be dedicated to it. You have to make sacrifices to be successful in what you do. It’s been seen through history,” Southern said. 

A senior at Tam High, Southern is no stranger to dedication. Southern’s passion for the game of soccer is reflected in his grand ambitions, which is to sign up for a professional soccer league. “The dream is to sign pro,” he said “I’m going to try to go play professionally in Europe.” Southern wants to make the first team, whether that’s the U.S. or England. Because he has dual nationality, he can play for both, “so the goal is to play professionally and also represent my country,” he said. 

 Soccer has been a part of Southern’s life since he was young. “Soccer’s been through my childhood and runs in my blood. I’m from the UK, and soccer – or football as they call it over there – is a big part of the culture, it’s almost a lifestyle,” he said. Growing up surrounded by soccer culture influenced Southern and helped foster a passion for the sport. 

(Courtesy of Ben Southern)

Now, he plays for Silicon Valley, a Major League Soccer (MLS) Next team in Palo Alto, playing in the same league as the San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers. Waking up at 6:30 a.m. for a before-school workout and getting back to training after school every day in Palo Alto make for a packed day. 

“It’s a lot of discipline, but it’s the price we pay. There are sacrifices I have to make if I want to do what I do,” he said. “I’ve had to lose a lot of things. I’ve lost friends because of my athletics, I’ve lost my social life, like I don’t go out much because I’m either training or I have to sleep.” 

While his experience playing soccer has incurred loss and struggle, Southern said it has also taught him valuable lessons. “I think [soccer] made me a much more vigilant person. You could say I notice the little things. When driving around or walking around and someone walks by, I notice who they are or what they’re wearing.” 

Southern credits soccer for giving him a different perspective on respect. He has adopted a new way of approaching people, which he says comes from the necessity to give attackers space so they don’t outmaneuver him. “I guess in life it kinda helps if someone’s going through something, give them space, give them time, because you don’t know what they’re going through.” It takes a certain compassion to translate lessons on the field to changes in one’s life outside of the sport, a skill that Southern has refined over time. 

In recent years, Southern has begun to think more seriously about achieving his goals, however, taking athletics this seriously can push the limits of personal motivation. Seeing kids his age playing at high levels can be frustrating, but Southern recognizes this and uses it to push himself even harder. “Everyone has their own path and it comes down to whether or not you’re willing to put in that work and be the 1 percent that makes it.” He said. He knows that in the long term, he will thank himself for putting in that extra hour, doing that extra sprint, or doing that extra set on the weights.

Southern’s father, who played soccer at a high level was instrumental to Southerns close relationship to the sport. “He gave me my first ball, he was my first coach, he took me to my first training, he took me to my first tryout, he’s basically been the foundation of where I am today.” He credits his father as a big part of his career so far. 

Ultimately, Southern’s dedication to the sport of soccer has brought him a long way and will undoubtedly continue to manifest itself in fruitful ways. Southern plans on continuing his training and working towards representing his countries.