NMI Boys U18 National Team standout Kohtaro Gato has committed to play college soccer at Park University. The Gilbert, Arizona school plays in the California Pacific Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. They are known as the Buccaneers.
The 17-year-old senior at Marianas High School said Park University showed interest in him after assistant coach Logan Sanchez saw a highlight video through Linkedin.
“He was interested in having me for the Fall Season of 2022. From there, we spoke about the program and the school itself and the potential of me fitting in with his program and team,” said Goto of how he was recruited by the school.
Right now, the 5’7” and 138-lb center attacking midfielder plans to major in psychology or exercise science with his athletic scholarship to Park University.
“I’m very excited to play college soccer because I want to be out of my comfort zone and see if I can compete with players in the mainland. It will be challenging because coach Sanchez said it’s a very physical game there but I will prepare myself before I leave for college. My main goal in college soccer is to help my team win. I want to make a huge impact for Park University and hopefully win the conference and advance to Nationals! A goal just for myself is to score the most in the conference. It’ll be a challenge but I’m definitely going to try!” he said.
NMI Boys U18 National Team head coach Michiteru Mita congratulated Goto and his home club, Tan Holdings FC, his family coaches, and his teammates who have supported his growth and development on and off the soccer pitch.
“I’m glad that his continued hard work and dedication has been seen by Park University. He set his goal earlier and stated that he would like to play college soccer. Then he contacted many colleges by himself. Also following Sunjoon Tenorio, Dai Podziewski, and Thiphi Austria he proved that our national team players can play a higher level like mainland college varsity teams,” he said.
The Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director also said prior to his ward’s commitment to Park University, he spoke with other college soccer coaches regarding Goto and they showed a lot of interest in him.
“What they saw is Kohtaro’s ability like his skills on the pitch. They also talked about his creativity and technique. They also saw his off-the-pitch skills and attitude, too.”
He added that college soccer is a totally different environment compared to soccer in the CNMI.
“A player will have to stay separate from family, lots of competition in the team, and they have to adapt to a different style of play, etc. A player needs to have off-the-pitch skills like self-reliance, communication skills, resilience, etc. In our national team program, we have a limited environment but we try to develop these off-the-pitch skills too, for example we go to off-island training camps and participate in international tournaments. We also have mental skill training. Kohtaro developed and learned these skills throughout our program,” said Mita.
“I believe if he continues to work hard to prepare to play college and the U20 Asian Cup Qualifier in October 2022 then I look forward to seeing further his growth not only in college but also in the national team,” he added.
Goto thanked his family and friends for always supporting him through the highs and lows and even during his college application process.
“Honestly, I thought I wasn’t going to get any replies from the colleges I applied to. My family and friends motivated me and pushed me to keep going so thank you! I also want to especially thank Sebastien Manabat for teaching me the college process by marketing myself to coaches and seeing what fits me. He helped me back in June and from there, I learned a lot from him because I was planning to get a recruiter but he taught me how to properly market myself and now I want to thank him for helping get me 40 college coaches interested,” said the son of Taro and Sheila Goto.