Athlete Interview: YouTube and College Soccer Star Jack Griffiths 

Athlete Interview: YouTube and College Soccer Star Jack Griffiths  Athlete Interview: YouTube and College Soccer Star Jack Griffiths 

Jack Griffiths is a former international college soccer player with experience at the DI, DII, and NAIA levels. Jack is a YouTube sensation, with his channel amassing just shy of 40k subscribers to date. In this interview, Jack talks about his time at each level, his inspiration to cross the Atlantic, and his experiences with the recruitment process

How would you compare the level of college soccer at NCAA DI to DII? 

When it comes to day-in and day-out, the standards expected from the athlete are the main difference. When you turn up to training sessions, the minor things, such as 5v2s and rondos at the beginning of training have a level of expectation about them, as you are always expected to perform. At the DI level, the expectation doesn’t just come from coaches but also your teammates. When I went to the DII level, I found that those little aspects weren’t taken as seriously, and the players and coaches didn’t set that same standard. Game-wise, in a one-off match, there isn’t too much of a difference, but when it comes down to consistency across the season and the expected standards, those at DI are higher than at DII.

What inspired you to move on from the DI level?

On the field, I was at a pretty low point career-wise. In hindsight, I can look back and realize that I potentially wasn’t at that level, but in the moment, it’s hard to admit that to yourself. I think the amount of information out there, especially to internationals, is pretty limited, so trying to understand the levels was difficult. Before coming to the States, my mindset was DI or nothing. I had an offer from the reigning DII national champions that I passed on because I assumed that DII wasn’t any good.

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Once I arrived at Missouri State University, I realized that I had underestimated the level of the players I would be competing with for game time. At one point, I was even thinking of quitting soccer; that’s how bad it got. It affected my mental state, as I had made a massive commitment to travel across the world to play my sport, so it affected me quite a lot when I wasn't playing. There was a point where I was in limbo about continuing to play or not, but thankfully, the coach from Drury University reached out, inviting me to a tryout practice, and after that session, I realized how much I loved soccer. Transferring there gave me a new lease of life, as I started to play a lot more. 

What did your recruitment process look like as an international?

I went through an agency, as most internationals do. I was in college back home when a recruiting agency came in and explained how the American college system works, which appealed to me, as hearing that I could play/train 5-6 times per week while also working towards a degree seemed perfect. The opportunity to follow soccer while continuing my education was a very strong draw.

The agency that helped me get out here wasn’t great and has since gone bankrupt, but they did manage to get me in touch with the coaches at Missouri State, whether that was actually due to them or from myself sending out emails or a mixture of both. I once received a highlight video from my agency following a trial day, where instead of circling myself, they had circled the sky, which summed it all up, but somehow, it worked out, and I made it out to the States.

What were the major differences in the recruiting process at each level?

When I originally planned to come to the U.S. to play college soccer, I used an agency that reached out to their contacts, promoting my information and highlight video. Alongside this, I also reached out to coaches personally via email. My transfer from Missouri State to Drury was unique in the sense that both schools are in the same city, so the coach had somehow heard about my situation at Missouri State, so he reached out to invite me to practice with the team. When transferring from DII, I was mainly reaching out to coaches within my conference via email, but when that didn’t work out, my options were slightly more limited, and I ended up at Missouri Baptist University of the NAIA after sending an email to the coach.

What inspired you to come to the US?

The opportunity to effectively play soccer full-time while also pursuing the academic side of things, as if you stay in Europe and want to continue pursuing football as a career, you have to sacrifice a lot. You either have to go to university and play there, where the standard isn’t all that great. Still, if you don’t go to university and want to prioritize your football career, you have to go work a 9-5 to support yourself and then go train afterward 2-3 times per week while also doing extras on your own. The American opportunity ticks all the boxes. 

Is there a notable difference in the daily life of an NAIA athlete compared to the NCAA?

At the DI level, I found it to be more regimented: we had gym sessions on specific days, training sessions on most days, and recovery sessions when our schedule allowed. The amount of meetings we had was ungodly, and there were times when we would have meetings about what our next meeting was about. At DII, we would have practice each morning but were left to our own devices regarding gym sessions. We didn’t really do film, which was a shock to the system after having been used to doing hours of film beforehand. NAIA was a pretty similar schedule to DII, with the addition of team weight sessions, but I think you would expect to have both practice and weights and most programs. DI just felt like a constant bombardment of information. 

What level did you find the most enjoyable to play at? 

Definitely DII and NAIA, but that’s heavily biased because I was getting decent minutes and enjoying my football. In hindsight, I wasn’t built for Division I soccer as a freshman. I would like to go back to DI now as a freshman to see how I would fare, but I think that is cheating.

What inspired you to start your YouTube channel? Where do you see it going in the future?

I’ve loved watching YouTube videos since I was a kid, and when I was younger, I created a channel where I would prank my friends at school, but I got embarrassed and deleted all of them. Before coming to the States, I had surgery on both ankles, which meant that I couldn’t get much of the highlights I needed to come out here in the first place. So, I spent the fall before coming to the US training on my own and figured that making videos based on my sessions was a way of holding myself accountable. If I wanted to upload a video about my training, I couldn’t do so without actually practicing. I’d watched day-in-the-life videos before coming to the U.S. and planned on doing one upon making it out.

I’ve just started a new series where I go to different universities around the country to showcase their facilities and conduct an interview with one of the players to get an overview of their time at the college. Hopefully, this can help educate prospective athletes on what individual colleges look like in person.

What can prospective athletes learn from your channel?

I hope they can learn from some of the information that I didn’t have when I was looking to come out. I want to educate the future aspiring college soccer players. Other than biased agencies, there aren’t many transparent sources of information for international athletes looking to move to the U.S. Going forward, my mission is to give prospective student-athletes an insight into what life is like as a college soccer player.

Image Credit: MBU Athletics

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