It’s 25 degrees outside and snowing. The snow rages and with little signs of it letting up. School is cancelled. Most students would take this opportunity to curl up in bed for at least a few more hours. However, as I quickly learned through my conversation with him, sophomore Cole Hellert is different from the rest.
Cole sets his alarm to 7:30 a.m., wakes up, and trots over to the field behind Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, carrying his soccer ball. He swings the gate to the soccer field open with his left hand, throwing the ball down with his right. Cole plays for about two hours in the snow, enjoying every second, despite the weather conditions.
“I eventually had to leave, but it was actually a lot of fun,” Cole recalled with a grin.
Cole’s love and dedication for soccer goes back to his early childhood.
“When was your earliest memory of playing soccer?” I asked.
“I started playing when I was three… my first camp was at Cherry Hill Park and we played in the volleyball pits,” he replied after a considerable amount of thought.
Cole has played the sport ever since that first camp at Cherry Hill Park, at the age of three, and continued to play a combination of rec and travel soccer all the way through middle school. During the offseason, he would participate in soccer camps.
Currently, Cole plays as a midfielder, specifically center attacking midfielder, for the George Mason varsity soccer team. This is his second year on the varsity team, and third year with the Mason soccer program. He plays on the second tier Arlington travel team as well.
When on the field with his teammates, Cole prides himself on his ability to distribute the ball in the midfield.
“[Cole] is really good at passing,” sophomore Zorhan Boston said, a longtime teammate and friend of Cole.
After some struggles last year, finishing the season earlier than expected, the George Mason varsity soccer team has high hopes for this season. Just last month, the team won the Smoky Mountain Cup, hosted in Tennessee, despite facing tough competition. Cole hopes to collect a state championship this season.
He recognizes that this goal is far from a reality without the collective efforts of the entire team.
“I feel like we do not rely on any sole person. Everybody contributes to the team,” he said.
As of April 24, the Mason varsity team sits at five wins and one draw, with Cole having four assists across these first six games.
I asked Cole about his long term goals for soccer.
“I would love to play [soccer] in college,” Cole replied with little hesitation.
But to succeed as a student athlete in college, one cannot be oblivious to the pressure to perform academically. Because of this, Cole has had to balance his love and commitment to soccer and the pressures of school.
“I feel like where we live, there is a lot of anxiety around doing really well in school,” Cole explained.
I quickly learned that a lot of Cole’s competitive spirit and hard work ethic in soccer apply to his education as well. Much like when on a soccer field, Cole focuses and puts forth a lot of effort in class.
“He is a very conscientious student and he is eager to learn,” noted Mr. Will Stewart, Cole’s science teacher for the past two years.
Cole plans to graduate with an advanced diploma, which requires 26 credits. But he wants to challenge himself more than the bare minimum required to receive an advanced diploma.
“I am not going to go for the IB diploma, but I also want to take some AP and IB level courses. I want to push myself and really get the most out of my advanced diploma,” Cole stated.
Cole backed his decision, saying; “I think that maybe, if I worked really hard and stopped playing some soccer, I could get the IB diploma. But I think the cost would be too much. I’d rather continue to play soccer and take some IB courses as opposed to taking on the full load of IB.”
Cole is unique in his confidence around this topic. Many students struggle to choose which diploma to plan for and which classes to take. The decision is extremely important, and students do not take to the issue lightly.
So I asked him, “What would you say to other people making the same decision as you?”
“I think people need to know their limits. Make sure whatever you plan for, you can enjoy and learn in that environment,” he replied.
Cole plans to study economics and business. And eventually, he would like to establish and manage a startup company.
“I’ve always wanted to start and own my own business,” he said
Cole represents the dichotomy that Mason students commonly face: school versus sports. Many view these two as rigid opposites, but Cole doesn’t see it that way.
“To me, they are just two important things. As long as I keep them under control through scheduling and planning, I am able to stay on track with both,” Cole said.
When I asked Cole how he manages these tasks efficiently, Cole specifically mentioned his love for the Schoology calendar feature, which allows him to take a quick look at all of his assignments. This calendar also allows Cole to add “personal events” which can serve as reminders about both soccer and school.
Cole has his whole life ahead of him, and considering how meticulously he has planned his school work with a heavy sports load, I am not worried for him. Cole Hellert, either as a professional soccer player or an entrepreneur, is likely to succeed given his ability to not only balance many different interests, but also to prosper in them.