June 2, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
Jimmy Maurer is sharing what he has learned to make a difference on and off the soccer pitch. After a highly decorated career as a Gamecock goalkeeper from 2007-2010, Maurer played briefly in Chile before finding a home with the New York Cosmos, where he was not only named to the North American Soccer League's (NASL) "Best XI" team, but he also spends time with Athletes Helping Athletes and tries to make a difference in the lives of local youths.
"We talk to these kids and have seminars for high school students about character building, bullying and staying away from drugs and alcohol," Maurer said. "We teach them to take these seminars, so they, in-turn, go to middle schools and talk to the younger kids. The middle school kids look up to the high school kids, so the message can be pretty powerful. For high school kids, it's a lot of former professional athletes that come in and talk to them. It all has a good trickle-down effect."
The 26 year old is no stranger to giving back or paying it forward as he also trains goalkeepers for local youth club teams in his area when he's not busy with his own professional career.
"I can't complain about my hours," Maurer said. "We practice in the morning, and I'm usually done by 1 or 2 in the afternoon, so once or twice per week I will coach some youth players. It's a lot of fun for me to give back to some kids and pass along whatever knowledge I can."
While Maurer is generous with his time, he has always been stingy in the net. As the Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year coming out of high school, he had a huge impact on the South Carolina program right away. He earned Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors in 2007, was named to the league's all-academic team three times, and earned all-conference team honors all four years. He was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-South Region team three times, and ranks second in South Carolina history with 28 career shutouts. Needless to say, he has great memories of his days in the garnet and black and was a perfect 4-0 against rival, Clemson, with four shutouts.
"Beating them all four years and not even giving up a goal was pretty special," Maurer said. "Being able to win the conference tournament and make a little run in the NCAA Tournament to the Sweet 16 my senior year was great as well. I knew a little about the rivalry when I was in high school, but you never really understand a rivalry until you are a part of it. My first game ever playing in college was against Clemson, and we won in overtime. So after that, you really learn what it's about."
"Jimmy was the model student-athlete," South Carolina head coach Mark Berson said. "He had all of the intangibles to play professionally. He had the drive, savvy, and intelligence to read the game and the willingness to grind it out as a professional. He's the type of the guy you just root for."
It's a lot of fun for me to give back to some kids and pass along whatever knowledge I can.
Maurer wasn't a typical college kid off the field as he and his high school sweetheart, Kristen, were married between his junior and senior seasons at Carolina, with the first of their two sons being born while he was in college. Starting a family early made him grow up quickly.
"It was a little crazy," Maurer said. "We had great support from both of our families. We just made it work. There were a lot of things going on, so I definitely had a different college experience than a lot of my teammates. We had a great time on and off the field, but I was probably a little more reserved than a lot of college students."
Maurer was selected in the Major League Soccer (MLS) Supplemental Draft by the New York Red Bulls following his senior year, but eventually wound up with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL. He found that breaking in as a goalkeeper can be more difficult than other positions.
"It's one of those ironic situations where teams only want goalkeepers with experience to play, but the only way to get experience is to play," Maurer said. "It's always tough for young goalkeepers starting out, no matter who it is. You just have to be patient."
The patience would pay off as he found an opportunity to play professionally in Chile the following year, and had more than just competition to overcome.
"It was amazing," Maurer said. "It was a big culture shock. I had taken Spanish in high school and at South Carolina, but it's completely different to take a class and having to speak it day in and day out. There was only one other player on my team who spoke any English. None of the coaches and nobody in the front office spoke English either. So it was a trial by fire. It was great though."
Becoming fluent in Spanish would soon prove beneficial as he signed with the New York Cosmos the following year and has been a mainstay in net the last two years.
"We have a lot of Spanish speaking players on my team here," Maurer said. "It's great that I can speak to them both on and off the field. You learn a lot when you are a foreigner in another country. I had a lot of people who were really nice to me and helped me out when I was in Chile. You don't realize how hard it is being in a foreign country and not really knowing the language or the culture until you go into it. It really gave me an appreciation for helping people out. I'll always take that with me. Anytime someone moves in or is coming to a new place, you can help them."
Maurer has carried that knowledge and willingness to help into his everyday life off the field as well.
"It comes up day to day all the time," Maurer said. "Sometimes I take my son to school and there is someone there whose parents don't speak English, so I try to help them. It's a big help to be able to speak another language. It's funny how much it comes up."
He and his family continue to pay it forward as they have hosted some of his teammates and their families for holidays such as Thanksgiving.
"Obviously that's an American holiday, and not a world holiday," Maurer said. "We hosted some of my teammates from other countries. My Norwegian teammate had his family there. They had a blast experiencing some American culture. At least once per month, we'll have a big barbecue with families, and it's fun to have people from different parts of the world talk about their experiences to get a different perspective on things."
Maurer is thankful to be living his dream of playing professional soccer, and enjoying all that New York has to offer. Choosing to come to South Carolina helped him get to where he is today.
"It was a great experience, on and off the field," Maurer said. "South Carolina prepared me for professional play and showed me what it takes to be successful day in and day out. You get great facilities to work with, so it's all just top level. Off the field, all the classes and seminars that the athletics department put on for us were great. I've spoken to athletes who went to a lot of other schools, and they didn't have all that we did at South Carolina. That was very valuable. It really helped me to take the next step."
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