Welcome to this special interview, with Cristian Anguiano Marin, a former NAIA, and JUCO student athlete. Cristian is an admissions counselor at Eastern Oregon University, where he received his undergraduate degree last year. He is graduating this spring with a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Cristian rose from rural southern Idaho with few opportunities to become a great college student-athlete at Eastern Oregon University.
Cristian’s story will inspire you and show you there are many paths to college athletics. He overcame many obstacles to get where he is today.
For those of you dreaming of competing in college, listen to athletes like Cristian who have already traveled the road and are now looking back.
This interview is incredibly motivational and insightful! Cristian played for two years at Eastern Oregon University (EOU) after two years at a community college. He was fortunate to be coached and mentored by Coach Stan Rodrigues.
How did you first get involved in soccer?
I grew up playing and was first introduced to the sport as a 4 or 5-year-old because my brother, who is 4 years my senior, was always kicking the ball around. I immediately fell in love with the sport.
There are a lot of athletes who don’t have access to playing with a club team due to distance or finances? What is your experience and advice to those who cannot play club ball?
I grew up in a small town in southern Idaho where there wasn’t any exposure to soccer. I knew I was a good player, but I think the biggest factor for me was having exposure every so often with local tournaments where we had teams competing from surrounding areas. That’s when I was really able to see where I was compared to the club players in the area. My older brother really motivated me to keep practicing and he helped really gage where I was as a soccer player in the state and not just in the area.
Will college coaches find an athlete if they are talented or even the best in their area?
I believe so. I think that it does take a little more effort for students to come across coaches especially if you live in a rural area. Most of the work has to be done yourself whether contacting coaches or making a drive to go tryout somewhere. It’s always important to know where you are in terms of skills and what you can improve on.
I would recommend for students to go try out at a local college early in their high school career and at least try to watch a college game because the game speed does improve.
If you could go back to your high school days, what would you do differently so college coaches would know you existed?
Great question. I would have prepared myself more financially and physically to go play club soccer. I would have started a savings account early on that would help with the expenses of playing club soccer. I would have attended more college ID camps as well because that’s where you truly get to see first-hand the skills it takes to play college soccer.
There are a lot of very good Hispanic players living in the U.S., not all of them with legal status. What struggles will they face trying to play in college? What is your recommendation to these players?
Luckily for me, I was granted a full-tuition scholarship when I attended my junior college. Not having a status was an obstacle for me. I wasn’t able to work legally and I didn’t qualify for many scholarships because of my status. I was able to scrape up enough money to pay for my food and housing each summer by “helping” family members and friends. I think that nowadays we are more lenient towards undocumented students. There are more scholarships for students to receive regardless of their status.
You ended up going to a local community college and playing. How did those two years prepare you for a four-year university?
I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to play at a two-year school first but there were many things I didn’t enjoy. The transition from high school to college was smooth, however, I didn’t like the lack of focus from coaches/administrators on academics and athletics at that time. There were not many distractions by going to a smaller school but there wasn’t a culture of academic and athletic excellence.
How did you find Eastern Oregon University? Did the community college coach help you find a four-year program?
A college teammate was going to go try out and he invited me to go with him. The community college I attended wasn’t known for getting students on to the next level, which was something I never thought about when choosing a program to play for.
TVCC maybe had a total of 2-3 players in the program who transitioned into 4-year programs. The talent at my JUCO was quality but most athletes weren’t thinking past the two years because of the lack of motivation towards their academics.
What advice would you give to student-athletes about academics in high school and in college?
Having a drive towards academics is just as important as having talent in athletics. The higher up you look at college soccer the more they focus on academics. The local community college (depending on the program) might not focus too much on grades whereas a university is going to care more about grades because there is a lot of pressure from the athletic administration to get students to graduate.
Think about it. Who is going to be more beneficial to your program? An 18-year-old 5-star recruit who is going to be stellar for only one season because of grades OR an 18-year-old 4-star recruit that is going to grow into a 5-star player and will play for more than one season. Good coaches consider many factors of a player, not just skills. They have to be coachable, hardworking, unselfish, dedicated, etc.
The career of an athlete, even a successful one is not roses all the time. Were there times in college where you struggled with physical or mental strain? What kept pushing you to excel?
When I got to Eastern Oregon University, I realized that I was given another opportunity to not only keep playing collegiate soccer but most importantly, to get a degree. I was smart enough to know that I wasn’t going to make a living off of soccer but I knew that because of soccer I could get a college degree at a discounted rate.
There were multiple times when I was physically and mentally strained. What pushed me was knowing that I only had 2 years left of collegiate soccer. I wanted to make sure that I left everything on the field as well as in the classroom. It was important to me to be a role model to my teammates, family and Latino community. I am glad that I gave it my all on and off the field during my time at EOU. I have no regrets.
Looking back at your soccer career in college, what are your favorite memories?
My favorite moments were competing with other great soccer players in the division. I met so many good friends through soccer who I still talk to today. I had opportunities to meet people from all walks of life because soccer is such a global sport. I have a few good friends from Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and even local friends who I would have never met if it wasn’t for the beautiful sport of soccer.
You will soon have a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership (Spring, 2019). How did being a college athlete influence and affect the success you are having academically and in post-college life?
Soccer has been the biggest factor for me to get an education. In high school, I never focused too much on academics (which I regret).
The only reason I went to college was to continue playing competitive soccer. It took me a couple years in school to finally realize that even if I didn’t go professional, I could still use soccer to help me have a better life for myself and my family.
At EOU, I had all the right support to become successful. I was supported by many peers while at the same time being challenged to excel. I was a student-athlete and worked a full-time job during college. Being able to do all of those things really gave me the mindset that I can achieve ANYTHING. Of course, I was busy and missed many social aspects of college. However, I’m glad I did things the way I did. All it takes is hard work and dedication.
How did Coach Rodrigues impact your life?
Coach Stan Rodrigues gave me the opportunity to play at a university and pursue my bachelor’s degree. He played a huge role in the person I am today because he motivated me and my teammates to not only become good soccer players, but also good people. He treated me as one of his sons and would do anything for me.
Both Stan and his wife Angela gave me the support I needed to really get out of my comfort zone and be a better person. Stan and Angela were my parents away from home. To this day I hold them both very close to my heart for all that they did for me and my future.
Bonus Question: If you could speak directly to high school boys what would be most important for them to know?
I would tell them to continue to keep working hard both academically and athletically. In my profession as an admissions counselor, I work with many outstanding athletes who are looking to play at the university level and some of them are unable to play at EOU because they don’t meet our GPA requirement.
It’s really difficult when I have to call a student and tell them that even though they are receiving a big scholarship in their sport they weren’t accepted into EOU because there grades weren’t good enough. It’s a very tough conversation to have, especially since I was once a college athlete.
One piece of playing collegiate sports is the skill and the other piece is the academic side of things. Students should focus on both the academic and athletic side of things in high school to increase the possibilities of getting into college. A great question to ask college coaches is, “What’s the percentage of students in the program who graduate?”
Is your dream to play in college?
If you have talent, work your tail off and have a good attitude, there are roster spots and athletic scholarships available. However, if you wait for college coaches to come knocking down your door and throwing scholarship money your way, you will miss out.
I want you to know the truth about athletic scholarships. In The Ultimate Guide to Athletic Scholarships, I provide you with actual facts and statistics. I interviewed over a hundred college coaches and asked them to help you to understand scholarships.
The truth isn’t so glamorous as promising your child a full-ride. But once you know the truth, you will have the ability to evaluate the offers your child does receive. You will have the tools to make the best decision.
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P.S. Parents ask me about athletic scholarships more than anything else. In response, a new book for you, The Ultimate Guide to Athletic Scholarships. Released February 12, 2019