By Carmen Greger
PF: Gugi, when and where did you start playing soccer? Tell us about your experience up until now.
GS: I first began playing soccer at the age of 4, before my family and I moved to the Philly area from New York City. I started my journey at Lower Merion Soccer Club (LMSC) at 5 yrs old and played for different clubs over the years. Now, 14 years later, I am ending my club soccer career at LMSC, where I began. Over the years I never really thought about playing college soccer other than club as academics were always my first priority. However, when I entered my junior year, at the end of the Varsity season I realized the importance of having soccer in my life. Soccer has given me so much beyond the sport itself. As I began the process of looking at schools and recruiting, I decided to focus primarily on high academic schools that had D3 programs and immediately ruled out D1 as I knew it was not the path for me. I have great memories of playing intramural soccer for LMSC when I was 5 years old. I also remember playing at the Gladwyne park with many kids who later became some of my best friends. I’ll never forget being selected for the intramural all-star game. That was the moment I realized I really wanted to focus more on soccer.
PF: Do you have siblings?
GS: I have a younger sister, Gabi, who is currently in 9th grade at Harriton High School. She also plays soccer for both Lower Merion Soccer Club and Harriton and also runs track for Harrriton.
PF: Top 5 stand out athletes of all time and why…
GS: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Kobe Bryant, Muhammad Ali, and Péle. I chose these athletes because they all possess traits and attributes I respect and admire. All of these athletes have shown immense amounts of hard work throughout their careers, leading them to the top.
“You Don’t Have to be Great to Start,
But You Have to Start to be Great” -Zig Ziglar
PF: To what specifically do you attribute your success both on and off the field?
GS: Hard work and Humility; There’s always room for improvement.
PF: How important is your nutrition and sleep regimen? Can you give us a general idea of your daily food intake, and about how many hours of sleep you get regularly?
GS: My nutrition and sleep regimen is important to my success on the field and off. Every day, I make an effort to eat different fruits and vegetables as well as protein into my diet. Also, I always aim to have around 8-9 hours of sleep each night but with school and soccer that can often be a challenge as I wake on school days at 6:15am.
PF: What position do you play?
GS: Overtime I have become a more versatile player, changing positions throughout the years. I would consider myself a winger as well as a center attacking midfielder. For high school I played center attacking mid and for club I am mainly a winger. I also have the ability to play striker as that was my position for many years.
PF: How challenging is it to balance academics and sports and what are the best techniques for doing so?
GS: Balancing sports and academics has never really been super challenging as I have been doing it since the beginning of elementary school. Most athletes who play sports at a higher level learn time management early on. Starting my junior year, when I began the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, it became much more difficult as my academic workload increased dramatically. In order to maintain a good balance I always try to take advantage of my free periods to get homework done. I also like to take my work one assignment at a time, slowly checking off my homework list because it allows me to be more focused and productive.
PF: Do you play any other sports?
GS: I used to be a big tennis player when I was younger. When soccer became more serious and much more of a time commitment, I chose to stop playing and focus strictly on soccer.
PF: What additional hobbies/activities do you enjoy?
GS: I mainly enjoy hanging out with my friends and going to the gym to workout. I also really enjoy coaching my U10 “Heart” girls team. I began with them when they were in the U8. It has been really fun and rewarding to watch them grow and develop as players as they are a very talented group.
PF: Which school or community clubs are you involved in?
GS: I am part of the Ronald McDonald Club at Harriton. Last year I helped organize a spikeball tournament at Harriton, raising around $1,200 for the Ronald McDonal House. I have also been a peer mentor/freshman mentor since 10th grade. I have really enjoyed this as when I was a freshman the older students were very supportive when I needed it.
PF: Do you participate in any additional service/outreach programs?
GS: In addition to The Ronald McDonald Club as stated above, another program that has been very important to me is Lower Merion Soccer Club’s Special Needs Program. I helped coach these sessions each fall since I entered 9th grade. It has been one of my favorite ways to give back to the soccer community.
PF: You’re committed to Swarthmore College, and playing soccer there! Congratulations! Please explain the process. Were you recruited? How did you feel when you got the news? How did you know you’d go?
GS: Actually, Swarthmore was not on my list of schools originally due to proximity. However, I was looking at a number of schools that shared similar academics and size. My LMSC soccer coach, Jared Harris, asked if I would ever be interested in Swarthmore as he thought I would be a great fit and had the academics necessary to apply. After thinking about it, I decided to tour the school and had the chance to meet a couple players as well as an assistant coach. I immediately felt a connection. The head coach then came to watch me at a few of our club games and last June I got the opportunity to meet him at Swarthmore’s Elite 300 ID Camp.
After meeting Coach Wagner (the Swarthmore head coach) and more of the players, I felt it was a perfect fit for me. Fast forward a few months, in September I was made an offer to play soccer for them. I was really excited as I was given the opportunity to continue playing the sport I love for a school that had become my first choice. I am very proud to have the chance to play soccer for Swarthmore as it is also a college that holds tremendous prestige for its academic excellence.
PF: That’s wonderful! Would you mind sharing the topic of your college essay; Did you find it challenging to select the idea and write it?
GS: The overarching theme of my college essay was my ability to communicate with others nonverbally. This idea definitely took time to develop but originally I picked out different moments/parts of my life I would want to write about and I found that they all related to nonverbal communication.
PF: Your family must be thrilled that you are staying local; Are you looking forward to staying close to home?
GS: When I was thinking about colleges originally, distance from home never really mattered to me as long as I was in the U.S. In the end, being close to home is definitely a good feeling, but I plan to be living the same college life as though I was anywhere in the country.
PF: Where else did you apply; Was soccer a deal breaker?
GS: In the end, I only applied to Swarthmore since I committed in September. In terms of soccer, Swarthmore was the only school I was ultimately considering playing for. No, soccer was not a deal breaker at all. My list of schools I was planning to apply to included NYU, UVA, Johns Hopkins and others. I would have played club for these schools had I been admitted.
PF: What do you feel your major will be in college and why?
GS: I plan on majoring in Economics because I want to move into business in my future. Business as a major is not offered to undergraduates at Swarthmore, as is the case in many liberal arts schools. I think econ is a good segway into business.
PF: What do you hope to do professionally and personally after graduation?
GS: I hope to do something with economics and business, but I do not know what exactly that is at the moment.
PF: You definitely have time to figure that out and you’ll certainly be successful at whatever you do! What advice can you give young athletes attempting to follow in your footsteps?
GS: It is very important to maintain a good balance between athletics and school, but academics have always been a priority to me. Academics should always come first.
PF: You’re on the student athlete committee at Harriton High School. Can you give us the inside scoop on the club’s purpose and happenings?
GS: Every coach at Harriton nominates a couple of their players to participate in the committee run by the Athletic Director Shawn Albert. I was part of the committee last year and I was elected as captain of the Harriton Boys Soccer Team for the 2022 fall season. We met once a month throughout the year to discuss the different elements of leadership, and how to become a good leader for your teammates and also for your classmates as well. As a shy kid, this definitely helped me gain confidence and develop as a leader and it showed this year as I was able to step out of my comfort zone and lead our team. I was chosen at the end of the season for the Leadership Award for Harriton Soccer. Since I am graduating, I am not part of the committee this year, but I highly recommend it if you are selected by your coach.
PF: What is the best thing about being a student athlete?
GS: Developing valuable skills such as time management at a young age as it will be a very helpful and important tool in my future at college.
PF: 5 adjectives that best describe you….
GS: Intuitive, attentive, empathetic, collaborative, pragmatic
PF: How specifically have you grown as a person because of your role as a player on the Harriton Soccer team?
GS: I have undoubtedly grown as a leader. I developed a voice as I was a shy kid for much of my life. I feel I gained the respect of my teammates for my leadership. I have also gained self confidence.
PF: How has being involved with sport inspired confidence and positive lifestyle choices?
GS: Playing soccer motivates me to make healthier choices for my body. I am motivated to get enough sleep, eat well and stay in good shape because all of those factors are crucial in my success.
PF: What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome, what resources did you use and what lesson was learned?
GS: I would say the passing of my grandfather was very difficult for me because it was the first time I lost a loved one. He passed away when I was in 8th grade and it was very hard for me because I found many similarities between our personality and work ethic. He inspired me to be the person I am today and I will always remember him because of that and for his kindness.
PF: Best moment in your life so far off the field…
GS: The evening I received the phone call from the Swarthmore Coach offering me a spot on the roster.
PF: Best moment of your life on the field…
GS: Either: my goal against Lower Merion in our 2021 season to tie the game with the Harriton stands fully packed. Or: my winning goal this season in the last seconds of overtime off an assist from one of my best friends against Great Valley in the first round of district playoffs.
PF: What inspirational advice can you give to highschool students who have a sedentary lifestyle?
GS: Extracurricular activities, such as soccer have been extremely important to me because not only have I learned valuable lessons and skills through the sport, but I have also met my best and lifelong friends who are very important to me.
PF: Most important things your best coaches have taught you…
GS: My high school coach, Biff Sturla, has definitely taught me many valuable lessons throughout my four years of high school. I have grown into a leader who gained respect from my teammates through leading by example and vocally. Biff has helped me grow as a leader by providing me with opportunities such as coaching a younger girls team for a couple years. His main goal has always been to make sure everyone he coached became a better person and learned to be leaders as well as good soccer players.
PF: Describe your perfect day…
GS: I would wake up, make Challah french toast, watch a premier league game (preferably a Chelsea game), go to the gym, go to the field to play soccer with my friends, have a family dinner, and then hang out with my friends at night.
PF: Favorite 3 places you’ve been to in the world and why?
GS: Italy, London, and New York City. I love going to Italy because I have family there and I love learning about my culture. My father is Italian and I am a dual citizen. I also have family in London and I love the city as it has so much to offer. I was born in New York City and lived there for 5 years, so it is a big part of who I am. I love the city as it still feels like home. My Grandmother and Uncle (and his family) remain in New York.
PF: Greatest role model of all time?
GS: I would say Kobe Bryant because his work ethic and mindset was unique and unmatchable. Nobody was like him and I aspire to have a similar mindset.
PF: Quote you live by….
GS: A quote I live by is one by Zig Ziglar, stating that “You don’t have to be great to start, but You have to start to be great.”
PF: Top 3 additional goals in life ….
GS: Graduate college, find a great job in business/finance and one day have a family of my own. Most of all, to be happy.
PF: If someone gave you ten million dollars to use however you’d like, what would you do with it?
GS: I would definitely give lots to my family but I would donate a large sum to kids who would otherwise not have the opportunities I had to play soccer and have a great education. I would also save much of it for my future.
PF: Top ten songs on your workout playlist….
Jimmy Cooks – Drake ft 21 Savage
A lot – 21 Savage
Pepas – Farruko
Knife Talk – Drake ft 21 Savage
Dreams and Nightmares – Meek Mill
Don’t Stop the Music – Rihanna
What Happened to Virgil – Lil Durk
On the Floor – Jennifer Lopez ft Pitbull
Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Magic in The Air – Magic System ft Chawki
PF: What do you love most about Philadelphia?
GS: I love the diversity of Philadelphia as well as the endless amount of opportunities it presents.
PF: What would you change about the world?
GS: I would make the world peaceful-conflict and violence free.
PF: Is there anything else you want Philly to know about Gugi Sola?
GS: I am a hardworking student athlete who strives to be a leader by example. I hope I can motivate others to take advantage of many extracurriculars, whether it is athletics or not, because the advantages and what you gain are invaluable and endless.