This is the second in a series of articles about Comox Valley student athletes who are moving onto the next level in their sport.
Alex Jones of Comox is the starting goalkeeper of the men’s soccer team at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., where he is majoring in chemical engineering.
The 19-year-old made his USports debut not long after graduating from Highland Secondary in 2016, starting seven regular season games and a playoff match. Last season, he recorded three shutouts in 14 games, and was a second team OUA (Ontario University Athletics) all-star selection.
As a youth, Jones played U14 to U17 with the local Riptide program, which competes in the Vancouver Island Premiere League, then played U21 in Nanaimo.
He considers himself lucky when he cracked the Queen’s squad, which had three goalies his first year. Two of them were injured in pre-season, which opened the door for Jones.
“By the time you’re at the varsity level, everyone is good,” he said. “The difference between making a team and starting for the team is less about how good you are but more about your attitude and your commitment to the game.”
There’s little doubt his positive attitude helped earn his spot on the team. In his rookie year, Jones would arrive early and stay late after training. If strikers wanted to shoot, he’d step between the pipes. By mid-season, he was the starter.
“A lot of my quality is more my mental game,” said Jones, who stands 5’11. “I’m a small goalkeeper.”
He started the process of contacting university soccer coaches during his senior years at Highland. Jones had considered the University of Toronto, but didn’t see eye-to-eye with the head soccer coach. He also considered the University of Alberta, but ultimately chose Queen’s, which he notes is older than the country itself.
“It’s been fantastic,” Jones said. “The academics at Queen’s is phenomenal. It’s one of the best undergraduate schools in Canada.
“I say it’s the perfect student town,” he added. “There’s three universities there. No one lives more than minutes away from campus.”
His advice to student athletes seeking an athletic scholarship?
“On top of your academic studies, you really should be contacting coaches between your Grade 11 and Grade 12 year. In the summer, you should be sending emails. Mid-fall, you should be sending videos.”
He also notes the importance of travelling to colleges and universities for tours and tryouts.
Jon Fugler, who runs an online business called Recruit Me Athletic Scholarship System, encourage families to do something every year while their son or daughter is in high school — if he or she is serious about chasing a scholarship. It starts with research: familiarizing with the recruiting world, size of school, proximity from home and types of majors offered. Video, he added, gives potential coaches something to go on.
“It’s the parents that end up taking the lead in 95 per cent of the cases,” Fugler said from Colorado Springs. “They’re understanding the bigger picture. They’re the ones that are going to have to pay the bill…but the athlete needs to emerge in the relationship with the coaches. They want to hear from the athlete.
“The whole process of pursuing a scholarship, the whole recruiting thing, is so parallel with an athlete’s sport,” Fugler added. “It takes the same type of character, effort, tenacity, goal-setting, getting up when you’re rejected.”
He cautions that a verbal commitment is not good enough. Until a scholarship offer is written, he said it’s not binding.
“The biggest thing is to remember to treat this as a marathon, not a sprint,” Fugler said. “I try to tell families over and over again to have fun. Don’t lose the enjoyment of competing in your sport.”