Welcome to Interview #70.
I am excited to introduce you to Matt Sheldon, professional soccer player and owner of the highly successful company, Become Elite. Matt turned himself from a very average 14 year old athlete into a very talented soccer player. Matt is currently under contract with the Orange County Blues of the USL. He is pushing toward his goal of making it to the MLS.
Matt is also driving his business, Become Elite forward. Become Elite is an incredible training experience for soccer players looking to improve their game through YouTube videos and private mentorship. Matt’s YouTube channel has over 44,000 subscribers and is quickly approaching 3 million views.
At fourteen years old you had a dream that many young athletes have: to become a professional athlete.
Yes and no. I was not on the standard trajectory to become a professional soccer player. I was not on an academy team, ODP team, regional team, or even a good club team. I was small, weak, and probably displayed the potential of a good high school player or average D3 player.
However, my work ethic was on trajectory to become a pro. I was obsessed with working out, running, and training to become a better player and that put me on track to become a pro.
When I was younger I kept dedicated and continued to cultivate my work ethic, researched other athletes and what made them successful, balanced soccer and school, and started researching colleges that would give me the best platform to grow my game.
How did you set yourself up for athletic success? What separates you from most players who never realize their dream to play college or professional sports?
Dedication. 100%. Every single player goes through phases of hard work. I had teammates who would go to the gym consistently for a few months, then stop. I had friends who would train with me every day for a couple weeks, then gradually stop coming. My dedication to workout, train, and run every single day for years and years on end is what ultimately allowed me to reach higher heights than my teammates.
How do diet and nutrition affect the performance of teen athletes?
Diet and nutrition is an untapped resource for young athletes. I hear/see young players go through their day fueling their body with junk food, fast food, and sugar and then try to compete in their sport. They fail to see that by changing their diet and fueling their body the right way they could become a completely new player. They fail to see their nutrition might be the reason they don’t ultimately become a pro or play D1. As you progress to higher and higher levels, more and more players realize that nutrition gives them the extra edge they need.
Do you have any advice for young athletes to improve their performance through nutrition?
It doesn’t need to be an intense diet, or crazy complicated. Focus on consuming vegetables, fruits, complex whole grains, and lean sources of protein. Start doing that for one meal a day, then two, then three. Every piece of junk food that you replace with something healthy, moves you one step closer to achieving your goals.
What was the role of your parents throughout your athletic career and how has that impacted you?
My parents were the biggest supporters of my athletic career since the start. My Dad pushed me to go for a D1 scholarship when I was unsure of my capabilities. They supported me every step of the way, and without them I don’t know if I would have even made it to Varsity high school soccer. Having the belief of your parents is such a huge motivation as a young athlete.
You changed yourself as an athlete and as a result college coaches began to take notice. Can you talk about your recruiting journey?
I was not a top recruit in high school or even on any colleges’ radar. Therefore, I had to bring myself to the colleges.
My junior year of high school, I bought a video camera and had my mom record every single one of my games. I would then re-watch the games and collect 1-2 highlights from each one. Over the course of my junior club season, I had created a 5 minute long highlight video.
I did some research and copied a resume to build my own soccer resume. With a ton of research, I compiled a list of about 30 schools that I would be interested in attending and sent my highlight video and resume to all of them, each with a personal message about how I liked their specific school.
I got responses from a few schools, but I didn’t get a great response. My Dad suggested I try some ID clinics and camps and I went to the UC Davis and Oregon State camps. Right from the start, UC Davis was really interested and I followed up after the camp with an email. They said they’d like to stay in contact with me so I sent them a new highlight video every 3 months or so.
In the winter of my senior year, I went to another Oregon State camp and then they started to get interested in me. Soon after, Gonzaga started recruiting me from some of my club games. I signed my National Letter of Intent (NLI) with UC Davis in February of my senior year.
What made you choose UC Davis?
I chose UC Davis, because the coaching staff had displayed an interest in me from the very first day of the ID Clinic. I also loved the location in California and thought that the conference was one of the best in the nation.
Can you compare and contrast your freshmen year and your senior year?
Freshman year I lacked confidence, my technique and skills were very low for a collegiate soccer player, and I was timid on the field. Senior year I had developed my skills to be one of the best in the conference. I felt confident, and thought I had developed into a great leader.
What did you get from playing Division 1 soccer that you are taking into your life after college?
Besides the development of my soccer abilities, I developed the ability to work well in teams. My confidence and leadership had gone through the roof. I feel I have developed a great network of friends.
After college you embarked on a professional career that has taken you to several different clubs and countries. Can you describe your journey?
Going after my dream of becoming a professional athlete has been the biggest roller coaster of emotions that I’ve ever experienced in my life. It started out boldly, I dropped out of college right after my senior season to be free to chase after any opportunity that presented itself.
It seemed I had many offers from many different teams, but as quickly as they had popped up, they started to disappear. Lost interest, changes in coaching staff, arrival of new players, etc. caused me to be completely out of opportunities just a few months after dropping out. I was living at home with my parents and felt I had failed every single day.
I finally got an opportunity to be a practice player at a professional club and jumped on it. I lived at a friend’s apartment on a mattress stuffed in the corner of his kitchen, I drove in a car 20+ hours a week, and I was paid barely enough to even cover my expenses, but I kept pushing.
I got opportunities in Germany and Iceland, where I developed a ton, but went through pretty bad homesickness. Then, after 1.5 years of struggle, I signed my first professional contract in Orange County, California. In that moment everything that I had gone through became 100% worth it. I went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs and I have grown tremendously as a person and athlete.
Today, I’m still pushing to reach even higher in the professional soccer world. I often look back at the highs and lows of pursuing a pro contract with pride.
What are you doing now to help kids like you who desperately want to get better but do not know how?
Once I became a pro, I realized I had the knowledge and experience the “teenage me” would have killed for. I knew I couldn’t go back in time and help out the younger version of myself, but that there were probably thousands of kids out there who are in the same exact position as that 13 year old me.
I started an Instagram @Become_Elite and YouTube channel Become Elite to show what it really takes to become a professional athlete, the behind-the-scenes look that so many people never get a chance to see. So far it has helped thousands of kids improve their game and has been such a rewarding experience for me.
What are your goals and ambitions over the next few years?
In the next few years, my main goal is to climb up into the MLS. I want to grow into the best version of myself both as an athlete and as a person and I want to continue to help kids pursue and achieve their dreams by improving and growing Become Elite.
What tips do you have for high school athletes who want to play collegiately and maybe even professionally?
My #1 tip is to ignore the critics who say your dream is unreasonable or impossible. No matter what you do in life, there are people in the world who will tell you that you can’t do it. Ignore anyone who tries to bring you down and have 100% belief in yourself and your abilities to achieve whatever it is in life that you wish to achieve.
For more information about Matt Sheldon, you can find him at:
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