The club had chance to catch up and ask a few questions with former USSDA player Tony Black who is currently attending the United States Military Academy @ West Point.
Q. What’s the hardest thing being a Div. I student-athlete?
A. The hardest thing about being a Div. I student-athlete is definitely time management. When I’m not at practice or traveling/preparing for games, I just want to take some time and relax (nap, watch a movie, etc.) but can’t because I know that I’ve always got work that needs to get done for classes.
Q. How is college soccer different than club soccer?
A. Speed of play. The ball moves a lot faster than club soccer. Guys are a lot stronger and faster in all areas of the field, so you have to already have an idea of what you’re going to do on the ball next before it gets to you. Otherwise, it’ll get stolen from you quickly.
Q. If you could do something over in your preparation in your senior year to make more of any impact in your first season in collegiate soccer, what would it be?
A. Coming into my first season, I was already fit and athletic. I would’ve spent more time focusing on the technical side of my game (touches and passes). Like I said before, a big difference between club and college soccer is the speed of play. Once I was able to have cleaner touches on the ball and make firm passes, that’s when I felt like I was truly able to make an impact as a defender on the team.
Q. What advice would you give to an incoming freshman for collegiate athletics?
A. Never stop working. The college soccer season has a lot of games played in a short period of time. It’s a constant grind. You have to be ready to work hard every training session and game. A lot of guys get complacent with where they are, but there’s always somebody out there who’s trying to out work you so they could make an impact for their team too.
Q. Describe your day as a student-athlete?
A. The typical day at West Point is pretty long compared to most student-athletes. We start out by having breakfast at 6:30 am. The entire Corps of Cadets (4,500 students) usually eats together. From there, I have classes that begin at 7:30am and go all the way until noon where I have lunch. I have an hour scheduled out of each day called Commandant’s or Dean’s Hour which allows me to either get tutoring from instructors, get homework done, or take a short nap until classes start back up at 1:55 pm. I have one class in the afternoon, then I head over to practice usually around 3:30pm. We typically do a film session as a team that lasts anywhere between 30-45 min. After that, I then head up to train for about 1 hr and 30 min to 2 hrs. We’re usually done at 6:15-6:30 pm and have dinner. From there I go back to my room to start homework around 7pm up until 11:30 pm. I try to get to bed before midnight and then I wake up to do it all over again the next day.
Q. What was the #1 thing that took you by surprise coming into the program?
A. The #1 thing that took me by surprise coming into the program was the emphasis on a brotherhood. I knew I would connect with certain guys from my official visit, but the fact that I’m with my teammates throughout all hours of the day whether it be class, eating meals, or even staying in the same barracks, this has allowed us to develop a relationship where we can call each other brothers.
Q. What’s different at West Point vs. other schools?
A. The values and tradition. I made the decision to come to West Point not only because of Head Coach Russel Payne, but also because West Point has been known to produce some of the greatest leaders our country has to offer. Being here definitely challenges me to be at my best everyday, no matter what I’m doing. Other schools might have great academic programs too, but West Point trains it’s students to become quality leaders of character who will serve as Officers in the United States Army.