The Northern Mariana Islands Football Association hosted a forum dubbed “Let’s Talk: College and Soccer,” providing NMI players insights on creating pathways for themselves.
Guinevere Borja, Sunjoon Tenorio, and Joshua Abragan—NMI national team members and are now competing in the collegiate level—were the presenters at the forum for the NMI national team pool players held last Tuesday, Jan. 4, at the conference room of the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium. The three shared their personal experience in college as students and players, how they made it to the team, and the challenges and opportunities they are facing trying to balance academics and sports. Borja played for Navarro College for two seasons and will next suit up for Oklahoma Panhandle State University, while from Suffolk University, Tenorio is now with Warner Pacific University. Abragan, on the other hand, is part of the Boise State University Soccer Club.
The forum, which was attended by more than 50 players from the NMI national men’s, women’s, and youth team pool, NMIFA president Jerry Tan, and the national team coaching staff led by head coach Michiteru Mita, also featured a Q&A portion.
Female player Pia Ngewakl said the presentations were full of insights that will help her work on things she needs to move ahead with her plan to play in the collegiate level.
Jeremiah Diaz, a member of the NMI U18 national team pool, said seeing more NMI players having the opportunity to play soccer and study at the same time is very encouraging for him and other aspiring players from such a small island like the Marianas.
“Hearing from players I look up to motivates and inspires me to follow in their footsteps. I used to think that it was nearly impossible for athletes from the NMI to play collegiate soccer, but seeing that they have been noticed and they even flourish competing in that level, gives me hope in pursuing my own dream of playing in college,” said Diaz.
Giving back; getting better
Abragan and Borja were both honored to share their stories at the forum since a couple of years ago they were on the same shoes as many of the forum attendees are.
“It was a good idea by NMIFA to set up a presentation for the younger kids of the national team pool to see the process of how we, Sunjoon, Guine, and I, got into our respective college and the things that go on as we manage being student-athletes. We hope that this presentation would inspire more players to take a step to play soccer abroad and continue their education as well,” Abragan said.
Borja added that players appreciate hearing stories from people they know personally, as the experiences they shared are more realistic and their goals are more attainable. Both Borja and Tenorio thanked the NMIFA for having programs that allowed them continue their soccer journey and pursue higher education at the same time.
“The level of play in the states varies depending on the conference you are in. I played teams who have won the national championship, as well as programs who are just kick starting. It really varies however, the pressure is always intense and that is something that takes getting used to,” Borja said.
Tenorio, during the Q&A, said when he moved up to the collegiate ranks, he has to play at a faster pace and he is skinnier now, as he had to adapt to the speed of play and physicality. Tenorio added that the same hard work you put into soccer must be exerted in your study to keep both worlds.
NMIFA technical director and national team head coach Michiteru Mita said activities like the forum are critical in keeping players motivated.
“Although the opportunity to represent the country in football is a great experience, there were many cases where they quit after the tournament or when they feel burned out. To keep players motivated, they need long-term goal setting, which includes playing in the collegiate level,” Mita said.
Mita added that it’s very important to know the effective process to go into the collegiate ranks so the insights from Tenorio, Borja, and Abragan were very valuable.
“Presenters gave advice on how they should research for schools, what preparations they need, and what skills they should acquire when they are on the youth national team. These three players made use of the skills they learned in the NMI youth program, created pathway for themselves, and proved that NMI players can also play in college varsity level in the mainland,” Mita said.
Meanwhile, NMIFA president Jerry Tan thanked Borja, Abragan, and Tenorio for their time and for serving us inspiration to their fellow players.
“Presentations like this give our young players the opportunity to think about their options in the future. As for NMIFA’s part, we are doing our best to provide as many competitions as possible for our men’s, women’s, and youth national teams to open more doors of opportunities for them,” Tan said. (PR)