In three years, Gaspar Jean-Baptiste has gone from a freshman on the Seton Hall club soccer team to a goal-scorer on the varsity team.
Without his ambitious spirit, it wouldn’t have been possible.
Coming into school without an offer, it made playing soccer at a high level a difficult task.
Jean-Baptiste came out of high school playing three years of varsity soccer at St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, N.Y. He never planned to play in college, but Jean-Baptiste joined the club soccer team at Seton Hall just for the love of the game.
“I made the decision to play for the club team because soccer has been a part of my life since I was 8 years old and I couldn’t let go of it yet,” Jean-Baptiste said.
But once Jean-Baptiste experienced success on the club level, he set goals he never considered possible coming out of high school.
“My parents and I chose Seton Hall for its promising academic programs, so trying out was not initially on my mind,” Jean-Baptiste said. “It didn’t become a goal of mine to make the team until a few close friends of mine convinced me that I was good enough and I had nothing to lose.”
It doesn’t hurt to ask for opportunity, and for Jean-Baptiste, it payed off.
“Gaspar came into the office with a wish of wanting to try out,” head coach Gerson Echeverry said. “He came a little late his freshman year, so we told him to come and try out in the spring because it’s tough. Obviously we didn’t know much about him, so he came in the spring and started working out with us.”
It wasn’t as easy as trying out once for Jean-Baptiste.
“After a few weeks the coaches told me they saw a few nice things in the way I played but needed to see more,” Jean-Baptiste said. “So they invited me to come back in August for pre-season and try out again. I officially made the team that summer right before the beginning of my sophomore year.”
That was the moment Jean-Baptiste went from a club soccer player to a varsity player on a Division I team.
“He’s a pretty athletic kid,” Echeverry said. “He’s got pace and speed on the ball, and that led a pretty hard shot, so we saw several capabilities he had that were a little different.”
Once on the team, Jean-Baptiste was not able to use that unique talent right away as a sophomore.
“His first year, he was injured a lot, and he wasn’t as fit as he needed to be,” Echeverry said. “Over the spring and the summer, he got himself into really good shape.”
At the start of this season, Echeverry and the whole team were able to see the hard work play out. On Sept. 10, Jean-Baptiste made his first varsity goal, a 21st-minute header off a long free kick lob from Matheus Miranda that gave Seton Hall a 1-0 lead over Lehigh.
“It’s one of those feelings you can’t explain,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Since I started training with the varsity team my goals were to make the team, get some playing time, but scoring a goal was something I only dreamed about.”
The team would go on to win in overtime, so every goal mattered. Jean-Baptiste’s goal made a difference, and it is something Echeverry would like to see from his junior in the coming seasons.
“This season is for him to continue working hard,” Echeverry said on Jean-Baptiste.’s role. “Anytime you’re a forward, you’re expected and wanted to get goals. That’s something that we’ve lacked over the last three years, and hopefully this season we can see some goals that will be needed this year.”
Jean-Baptiste is ready to work. This first goal can be the start of a new and vital role on the team.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to see our team have a successful season,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Whether that means I see the field for three minutes or a whole game, I’m always going to give 110 percent. Whether it’s on the field or off I will continue to work hard to help the team and be somebody the underclassmen can look up to.”
But of course, he’s been working all along. He’s just going to continue what he’s always done, and that’s to persevere, work towards his goals and to continue forming his own opportunities.
“If you really want something, go for it,” Jean-Baptiste said. “There will always be doubters, but with hard work and confidence anything is possible.”
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @eswint22.