New York, NY – July 15, 2019 – The journey to becoming a professional athlete is filled with tons of tasks and obstacles along the way. Training and working on your game in high school, getting that college team offer, and then making it professionally is the typical sequence of events for an athlete who has big aspirations of taking their game to the highest level possible in his or her life. However, there is a lot more to it than just that. For Michael Kirk, a professional soccer player and the Lansing Ignite goalkeeper went through a lot in his journey to playing for The Lansing Ignite. The Lansing Ignite is based out of Michigan and is a part of the US League One. Kirk attended and played for LaSalle University in Philadelphia for four years in his college career, from 2012 to 2016. He had also spent time with the Premier Development League with the Ocean City Nor’easters in 2016.
The Lansing Ignite is a relatively new professional team, having joined the USL League One (founded in April 2017) in October 2018. Currently, the team has members from 13 different nations and backgrounds: the United States of America, Mexico, Brazil, Haiti, the British Virgin Islands, France, England, Chile, Jamaica, South Africa, Cameroon, Trinidad and Tobago, and Egypt. Kirk came from the United States, along with 12 other teammates: defender Rhys Williams, defender Grant Stoneman, defender Brandon Fricke, midfielder Kyle Carr, midfielder Ricky Lopez-Espin, midfielder Xavier Gomez, midfielder Christian Silva, goalkeeper Kyle Ihn, forward Nick Moon, defender Grant Lillard, defender Marshall Hollingsworth, and goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland.
Kirk goes through his journey and what experiences helped shape him as a competitor and gives advice to high school and well as college soccer athletes on what it takes to make a great team player. He also discusses how to stay motivated, training in the off-season, the recruiting process and much more. Fortunately for us, Kirk has taken time out of his day to offer a great deal of advice for high school, college, and aspiring professional athletes.
College Athlete Questions:
LRT Sports: What do you feel is the most important quality that an athlete can have to make a great teammate?
“The most important quality that an athlete would have to make a great teammate would have to be openness. When you don’t really know your teammates, it is hard to trust them on the field. Further, opening up to your teammates and taking the time to really get to know each other. That really makes the difference.”
LRT Sports: What advice can you give the upcoming athletes as far as training is concerned in the off-season? What should they do to rise above the rest of the players?
“The advice I would give to any upcoming athletes regarding training throughout the off-season would be to stay consistent. It is all about the process; you should not think about the big goal. Those days you do not want to go to the gym or go on that run, that is when you really should do it. Grinding through the tough times is extremely important so it can translate onto the field. When you do not want to do something is when you really should.”
LRT Sports: What tip can you give athletes to stay motivated when things are not going their way?
“Something not going your way happens to every person at some point in their lives. You have to think about all of those tough days leading up to that moment. Remind yourself how you put in so many hours of hard work, and when things aren’t going your way, it is hard to remember the hard times it took to get you in that position in the first place.”
LRT Sports: What advice can you give to that athlete who does not go the extra mile for the team? Meaning what is the biggest don’t that they can do as far as being a team player? Does it impair his opportunities to play, or do you play the best no matter what?
“It is bigger than you; the team always comes before the individual. Pretty much, if the team does not perform well, that limits the individuals’ chances if they want to continue to play, play pro, or reach individual goals. If you are not going the extra mile for the team, you are only hurting yourself at the end of the day.”
LRT Sports: What advice can you give to an athlete looking to get off the bench?
“If you are looking to get off the bench, you have to be consistent every day. It is the little things in training that you might not think mattered, but in fact, they do. Coaches see everything, and as far as soccer goes, if your first touch is not consistently strong, that will be bad. The only way to get out of it is by gaining trust from the coaches and staff. Also, do not be afraid to go to the coaches and ask them what they need to see from you specifically.”
LRT Sports: What is the best piece of advice that a coach has given you, and who was that coach?
“Keep it simple. Never lose your confidence; you mentally need to be there. I have gotten it from a couple of coaches. The first time I heard it was from Hunter Gilstrap, the goalkeeper coach in Pittsburgh. It came up again with my coach now, Wael Zenga.”
LRT Sports: If a college athlete is looking to go pro, what is the best piece of advice that you can give them.
“This is a hard question because it happens so many different ways. You have to make good connections along the way, as you never know who is going to be the one who is going to help you get on the pro level. It is important to make a good impression on everyone you meet along the way.”
High School Recruiting Questions:
LRT Sports: If you could go back in time and could change one thing about your recruiting process, what would that be?
“If I could go back in time and change anything about my recruiting process, it would have to be to get more scholarship offers from bigger schools, just get looked at more by ACC schools and whatnot. I would have switched clubs to get more exposure.”
LRT Sports: What advice would you give to recruits as far as social media is concerned?
“Be smart. Do not say dumb things because somebody somewhere is going to find it, and it will turn on you in some shape or form. On the positive side, using social media as a recruiting tool can be a smart investment. With this, you should follow coaches and programs. The more they see you, the more they will be inclined to invite you.
LRT Sports: Do you think high school soccer players should be open to playing different positions when playing college ball? Or do you think they should push to play their one position?
“You definitely should be open. No, you have to be open. There are so many wingers and midfielders that get transitioned to outside backs or center backs. You have to be open to it. At the end of the day, it is whatever gets you on the field.”
LRT Sports: All athletes deal with coaches that they do not get along with; what advice can you give to those kids as far as how they should handle this situation. Should they suck it up, or should they express how they feel to the coach?
“You need to give it time to develop. If you do not like the coach right away, maybe it is a bad impression, maybe it is biased if you are not playing, or a new system you do not like playing in. First, the athlete should give it time to develop, with a ‘yes coach’ mentality, try to make it work. If it is still not working, be respectful, sit down and talk to a teammate or another coach, see what you are doing wrong and how to fix the situation.”
LRT Sports: How important are facilities when looking at colleges? Should they matter, or should the team dynamics matter more?
“As a kid, when I went through it, the facility speaks bounds. If a facility is nice, you could also know nothing about the team or academics. On the flip side, facilities can also build character in the team and program. They matter, but at the same time, the people and teammates you work and play with matter more. You could have great facilities but not fit well with your teammates, and what is that going to do for you?”
LRT Sports: What is your go-to meal before a big game?
“My go-to meal before a big game is always chicken and rice. I eat this before as a last proper meal, and then always have a banana pre-game for the last boost of energy, and a cup of coffee.”
LRT Sports: What is the funniest thing that happened to you or a teammate while playing a game?
“I don’t know, the banter from the crowd is always pretty funny. Some of the things they say are so clever that you have to laugh, and when fans see you laugh, it lightens the mood. This only happens when you can hear the fans.”
LRT Sports: Uniform or suit?
“Suit, keep it classy.”
It is apparent that it takes a great deal to make it professionally in the sports world. After hearing Kirk’s thoughts, young athletes looking to make it to the college level, and even after to the professional level, should consider his wise words.
When doing research in the recruiting process for my daughter I came across the LRT Sports website. I was immediately intrigued as this was another dimension of the recruiting process that many people don't even consider. My daughter and I could "short list" schools based on the education she was looking for, as well as the opportunity to play her sport. LRT Sports not only gave us pertinent information into the recruiting process with different interviews of coaches and players, it also gave us insight into current and/or former players' opinions on the coach of that school in her sport. We could use this information to re-prioritize my daughters list of schools based on this feedback. I have many friends that are, or will be, going through this process shortly and I highly recommend using LRT Sports as part of anyone's recruiting process.
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The C.A.L.C. was thrilled to have Keirsten Sires come and speak to us on multiple topics relevant to high school athletics today, including recruiting. Keirsten reached all of our students and left them with great strategies that will not only help on the fields, courts, and mats, but also in the game of recruiting. She was a true professional and delivered a wonderful message.
Now that the recruiting process and the related stress is over, I wanted to thank you for your guidance. You did so much more than we had expected. Once you started the process by matching the best academic schools first, not the best sport programs, I knew you were the one. The way you laid out a timeline of contacting coaches, visits, and camps completely took any guesswork out of the plan for us. All of the student athletes that you put us in touch with gave us a look from the inside, and made us more comfortable knowing what was coming. Finally, using your website as a resource for knowing what to expect from different coaches based on former recruit reviews gave my son confidence before our meetings. There is no way we could have figured this out on our own, you really put us in a great position when decision time came.
I think hearing from other athletes is very beneficial. To be able to learn from people’s mistakes, and to be able to have access to those voices is really helpful; especially voices that have been there and done that. It’s very important for people to have access to information that could benefit them, and in this case there are many voices that can help the next wave of athletes.
If you have something that’s going to spell [the recruiting process] out for you… it’s so valuable. I think what everyone at LRT Sports is doing to spread the word and help advocate and educate athletes on the recruitment process is incredible.
Without question would have used LRT Sports. It would have probably been one of the most valuable tools that I could have had. If you want to know what these coaches are really like then I think this is the best tool out there. I’m really glad you are allowing recruits to have a resource like this moving forward.