Friends on and off the field, Alex Johnson and Dylan Steely can often be found right next to each other. These best buds have been through similar experiences within their short time so far on the Belmont Men’s Soccer team.
Together, they have faced adversity, handled challenges thrown their way, and grown as not only as individuals, but as friends.
Here is their story!
“I was a number in high school. I kept to myself, had my soccer teammates and a few friends that I was really cool with.” – Dylan
From Hoover, Alabama, Dylan Steely was a top recruit when he arrived at Belmont. Meanwhile, Alex was a stud from a smaller high school in Franklin, TN.
“In high school I had a close-knit group of people… I was focused on soccer and the next steps with college”.
However, as most athletes find out when they arrive to college- everybody is good. Soccer is a more extreme example of this because there is an international search for talent.
Adjusting to College
In the midst of adjustment to college athletics, the friends and roommates found out that they would be redshirting for the season.
“We were basically busting it every week and after about the 6th or 7th week it hit us that there wasn’t any opportunity on the field for us this year. That’s the frustrating part, that it dawns on you that you probably won’t see the field.” – Dylan
The two student-athletes realized that there was less pressure on them, and more time to develop as players and people. They were now gifted with the time and resources to create relationships and establish themselves within their team.
For the last two months of our first semester, was probably the best two months of college for me. I felt like a normal college student rather than just an athlete. Hanging out with friends, building relationships, having fun, and having more freedom. – Dylan
Thankfully, Dylan, Alex, and their other roommate, Cade (who was also on the team) were able to lean on each other for support. Together, they found common interests and hobbies where they could hang out, bond, and take their minds off of any recent stressors.
One of their favorite activities together: skateboarding
We’d go skateboarding while the team was on the road and we’d talk and have super deep conversations… We had a little group together.” – Alex
By finding their community within the team and on campus, they began gaining their footing and looking forward to what’s in store for them.
Emotion in Men’s Athletics
From a young age, boys and young men are told to be strong, courageous, and to some extent… bulletproof to anything that life throws their way.
Combine the pressures and expectations of collegiate athletics with this social stereotype and you get one group of tough young men… or do you? Is it that young men are taught to bottle their emotions rather than speak them out?
Deep down, men and women deal with very similar issues (and respectively their own), yet it is more socially acceptable for women to openly express their emotions.
“I don’t get emotional often, I try to keep it in. It’s probably not healthy. Then something good or bad happens and it is stored up and eventually I let it all out.” – Alex
Everyone deals with stress, pressure, and emotions in different ways & for Alex, this means confiding in his parents. Since he is not far from home, he has been able to speak with them and receive their advice.
I’ve had plenty of days where I’ve shrugged people off asking if I was ok just because I didn’t want to open up about it. Every time this happens it’s because a matter of having too much pride in saying that “I can get through this by myself” or a sense that we can solve all of our problems by ourselves without talking through them. – Dylan
The boys’ story is far from over and with much of their soccer career ahead of them, they are on the right path to be leaders within their community. Their experiences have shaped who they are today and who they will continue become.
Beyond The Net, we are Brothers.
How to help
We’ve heard out Alex and Dylan’s story of their growth throughout their redshirt season, how they have bonded and created a firm community.
One overarching theme is the bottling of emotions. Bottling frustration, confusion, pain to name just a few. It is essential to encourage tough conversations, check in on a friend, and understand that it is ok to not be ok.
There is a four step process to managing and processing emotions
- Pause to think things through
- Acknowledge what you are feeling
- Think about what you are feeling
- Eat a healthy snack
- Reorganize your room
- Make a gratitude list
- Draw how you are feeling
- Make a problem – solution list