NOTE: This is part of a series on athletics.covenant.edu with feature stories written by the student-athletes about their time at Covenant. The series is in conjunction with NCAA Division III Week (April 2-8), an annual event to celebrate the accomplishments on and off the field of student-athletes in the NCAA's largest division.
By John O'Carroll
(Covenant '18; Men's Soccer)
It feels even weird writing about my time at Covenant because it feels like just yesterday I was a nervous freshman on the soccer field with some grown men.
I grew up in Houston, Texas and my life revolved around soccer. I would spend time hanging with friends and doing schoolwork, but ultimately it was all about soccer. My junior year I decided I wanted to continue playing soccer at a high level. My high school coach at the time was from Brentwood, Tenn., and he recommended that I look into Covenant College, a beautiful school outside Chattanooga, Tenn., on top of a mountain. My first response was "I've never heard of it." A response that I would get often over my next four years, whether when telling my parents, friends, sisters, or at a job interview.
I decided to attend an ID camp at Covenant just before my senior year of high school, and that was where I first met Coach Pifer and Coach Bosgraf. Little did I know Coach Pifer would be my head coach for three years-an intense, demanding, passionate coach; and Coach Bosgraf would be my coach for my final season-although a different style, still an intense, demanding, passionate coach. Both of whom in their own way taught me what it means to work hard, what a competitor looks like, and how to strive after Christ in everything you do.
I decided to come to Covenant ultimately because of soccer. It was an opportunity to play four more years and the guys on the team seemed awesome. I came in as a freshman ready to play soccer, and I did, in practice, but games I typically spent warming the bench, only we stood for the games, so I didn't even get to do that. I thought to myself "I am playing D3 soccer at a school nobody has heard of and I am not even playing because everyone else is way better than me."
As cliché as it sounds, that first season taught me more about life than any other year that I played soccer. It taught me what it looks like to play a minor role on a team, but still pursue excellence, and it taught me that I had been putting my identity in something that was never going to fulfill me; soccer. My whole life it was always soccer, well that year I didn't really have it and I realized the only place I could put my identity in order to be whole was Christ, everything else would never satisfy me.
Over my four years playing soccer at Covenant has taught me a lot about hard work. My first year I saw guys like Hunter Harrison, Snoopy Davidson, and basically every older guy on that team bust their butt all practice, pursue excellence in the classroom, and then pursue a relationship with Christ and the younger guys on the team like me. I learned what hard work looks like from getting home early on a Thursday morning at 1 a.m. after a mid-week game and then having a test or paper the next morning. I learned what hard work looks like from being challenged all day in class by professors like Professor Dodson, Dr. Wescher, and Dr. Quatro and then going to practice where I was pushed to my limit by Coach Pifer, Coach Bosgraf, and my teammates.
In my time at Covenant, I have been challenged spiritually, academically, and athletically; and it also has given me great friendships with teammates and other students, and great mentors with coaches and professors—all of whom have greatly shaped who I am today.
Next year I will be moving back to Houston and pursuing a career in private wealth management, where I will continue to compete, pursue excellence and pursue Christ, all of which I learned at Covenant both on and off the field.