Keisuke Yamashita ’10 is not shy to admit that playing soccer at Wesleyan changed his life for the better. Yamashita was recruited to attend Wesleyan through the Freeman Asian Scholars Program and became a walk-on for the men’s varsity soccer team in his first year at the University. Although he came to the first team practice in sneakers rather than cleats, the raw forward quickly moved his way up in the world of Wesleyan soccer. He played in all 15 games his sophomore year, achieving one of the fastest hat tricks (in just 3 minutes and 30 seconds) in NCAA Division III history in a victory over Springfield College.
As a junior, Yamashita cemented himself as a starter, coming off the bench in fewer than half of his games played. One of his four goals that season was a game winner, and he was consistently an important component of an offense that was a year away from fully blossoming. His senior year, the team earned the top seed in NESCAC Men’s Soccer Championships for the first time ever while going 15 games without a loss, which was also a first. That year, Yamashita co-received Wesleyan’s Maynard Award for the 2009-10 top senior male scholar-athlete. Yamashita ended his career with 31 career points, including 15 goals, which were staggering numbers for a walk-on. Today, he works in Japan as an investment banker. The Argus spoke with Yamashita as he reflected on his time as an athlete at Wesleyan.
The Argus: What made you want to play soccer?
Keisuke Yamashita: I’d been playing soccer since five years old and wanted to continue to play at Wesleyan. As an international student, I thought being in a college team would also help me to mingle with other American students and to be exposed to a different culture. I also wanted to challenge myself in a competitive environment.
A: What was your favorite part of being on the team at Wesleyan?
KY: Being on a team, whether it is for sports, study or any other things, is quite a lot of fun and exciting, as everyone looks the same direction: victory. We spent a considerable amount of time together, even during an off-season, and built strong teamwork. Although a soccer season is only a couple of months long, those two to three months constituted the fruit of our efforts and proved quite dramatic.
A: Do you have any special memories from the team?
KY: When I was a senior, we went to Argentina for two weeks before the season started. During our stay, not only did we play soccer with local teams, but we also went to see professional games and did sightseeing as well. Although it was tough for us to make the trip happen as we self-sponsored the trip through fundraising, it was such a memorable experience. Thanks to this pre-season camp in Argentina, I believe, we did not lose any single game in our NESCAC regular seasons and finished the 2010 season ranked first (first time since 1950s or something if I remember correctly).
A: Has your time on the Wesleyan soccer team and your time involved in Wesleyan athletics affected your life after Wesleyan? If so, how?
KY: Definitely. As our time for study, in particular during the seasons, was very limited, I learned how to improve studying efficiency and this lesson has been very helpful for my current work in investment banking. Also, making lifelong friends is another virtue of playing sports. Although I am currently living in Japan, I still keep in touch with most of my soccer teammates with whom I spent many hours on campus. We still remember every moment in the matches we played.
A: Besides playing soccer, what did you like about Wesleyan the most?
KY: Maybe a bit cliché, but diversity is the thing that I like about Wesleyan the most. Once you start working in a company, you will realize that Wesleyan is actually an epitome of a society where people from different background study, work and live together. Before Wesleyan gets students prepared for their next journey after graduation, I would strongly recommend them to step out of their comfort zone and mingle with different people on campus.