Adversity Chapter- by Tom Morris
On November 11th, 2018, I watched the Indiana Hoosiers men’s soccer team battle the Michigan Wolverines for the Big Ten tournament title. With a little over three minutes left, Jeremiah Gutjahr struck a head ball from about 20 yards out to score a game sealing goal. This won the Hoosiers their 14th Big Ten title. What people watching didn’t know was that Jeremiah Gutjahr and his stellar performance were not even supposed to be there. If Jeremiah were to write a book on his soccer career, the richest chapter would be the one on adversity.
Jeremiah has always been mature beyond his years. He’s had very specific goals for each stage of life. Each goal has been progressively bigger than the next, with the pinnacle goal to become a professional soccer player. The way he achieved these goals was with intentional, tireless, focused hard work. In college, Jeremiah’s soccer career moved swiftly. He came onto the team as a scholarship player, got on the field as a freshman on the 8-time NCAA Champion team and found himself on the U.S. Under-20 National Team as a sophomore.
Jeremiah was on a perfect linear progression to becoming a professional soccer player.
In 2017, eight games into his junior year, he was involved in an intense tangle on the field which resulted in a season-ending surgery. Like everything else, he fast tracked his recovery and when his coaches offered him a chance to redshirt, he decided to go for it, even though it would give him less time to get up to speed.
Jeremiah has always faced adversity head-on, and his decision to play in the 2018 season validated this. He came into the season demonstrating his readiness to lead the Hoosiers, but the newly operated knee revealed some lag in his preparation. He was seeing playing time, but nothing near the time he received before his injury. Even though his strength, fitness, and overall feel continued to grow, he still struggled to consistently match his pre-surgery form and successes. The 45 to 60 minutes he was getting didn’t compare to where he was in pre-surgery play, when he had been a consistently playing all 90 minutes.
Halfway through the season, during the IU vs Butler game, I stood next to Jeremiah’s mom. Jeremiah had just been pulled. Both of our hearts sank as she said, “I wish Jeremiah could have the ‘storybook’ ending.” That comment stuck with me because it made me think. Every great story has adversity. Every story has the chapter that tests the protagonist’s confidence, dedication, and overall will to succeed. Maybe this is Jeremiah’s adversity chapter?
Looking back, it was his adversity chapter. Jeremiah hit his stride exactly when the Hoosiers needed him during tournament time. He was a key reason why the Hoosiers made a run to their record 20th College Cup. Jeremiah lived out his dream of going pro and accepted an invitation to the Chicago Fire this year.
Jeremiah is having the “storybook” career, but it is the adversity chapter that highlighted his true character. It’s when life throws challenges that our character is highlighted. Every single one of us will have our lives interrupted. Knee injuries, bike accidents, or a job that didn’t play out the way we thought. The interruption is where the adversity chapter fits in. Adversity is designed to give us great opportunity. Adversity is crucial, no matter if we are trying to be a pro soccer player or run a Fortune 500 company. Embrace adversity, use it to fuel the path to all of your audacious goals, and in the process, write your own chapter.
INDIANA UNIVERSITY: ASSISTANT ATHLETIC DIRECTOR OF ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE