Mahomet-Seymour Freshman Nyah Biegler competes on the ECNL St. Louis Scott Gallager team, which travels regularly to Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Biegler, who plays holding mid, center mid and outside back, played in Phoenix earlier in November. Since returning from the trip, Biegler has had multiple opportunities for international competition and travel to the Netherlands, Italy, Columbia or the Dominican Republic.
Chasing your dreams requires vision, determination, sacrifice and hard work.
Whether it’s doing homework in the car as she drives 2 hours each way for soccer practice or missing out on social activities at home, fourteen-year-old Nyah Biegler has made her share of sacrifices to chase her dream of playing Division I soccer after she graduates from high school.
Biegler, who began playing for the Mahomet Seymour Soccer Club as a third-grade student, joined the Bloomington Normal Fusion soccer team by fifth grade, traveling for practice 45-minutes each way.
Two years later, while playing in a tournament as a guest player for the Mahomet-Seymour Soccer club, Biegler’s talent was spotted by a representative from the Indiana Fire Academy, and she was asked to join the team.
Biegler’s mom, Heather, said the family had no idea what they were getting into when they signed up.
Driving two hours each way three days a week to and from Indianapolis, Biegler also traveled to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Ohio for games and tournaments on the weekends. Each season, the Indiana Fire team played 30 games each season.
“It’s definitely made me a better player,” Biegler said.
The Indiana Fire Academy team won the State Cup Championship, placed first in the Mid-Atlantic Conference and were ranked in the top 10 13U US soccer teams in 2017. The Fire also competed against teams from around the United States at the National Championship last year.
But, coming into her freshmen year of high school, Biegler had some choices to make.
A new league for girls, the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy, which requires players to travel through league play year round, started. Biegler was asked to play for the Indianapolis team.
Biegler decided to turn down the offer that would put her in a league above the ECNL to transfer to the St. Louis Scott Gallager team so that she could take the spring months to play high school soccer.
The choice to stay in the ECNL league came from priorities Biegler is beginning to learn about.
As one of the only players in the ECNL team that travels hours to practice every week, Biegler has felt that she’s missed out on some relationships at home.
“When I go far away for soccer, I don’t know the girls as much because they live together,” she said. “They are all close and tight and have relationships.”
“I’ve played in winter league with girls I go to high school with and it’s really fun to play and have a relationship with people you live close to and go to school with.”
The change in team site also meant a change in game location. Instead of traveling to the east coast, Biegler’s team now travels to weekly games in Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Instead of 30 games a season, she now participates in about 16 games throughout the fall season with additional tournaments and recruiting showcases nationwide.
With an increase of driving time from 2 hours to nearly 3 hours in 2017, the Biegler family also learned that their daughter has limits. To combat fatigue, Biegler only makes the trek two days a week instead of three.
By cutting back a little bit, Biegler has also been able to focus on something else that is very important to her, her studies.
Biegler often uses the extra time in the vehicle to catch up on homework or to plan ahead. And because she wants to go to medical school after college, Biegler knows that her grades matter now.
But, because of the driving, Biegler said she has become closer with her parents and grandma.
With two other children younger than Nyah, Heather, Nyah’s mom, cannot commit to taking her daughter to and from every practice, so Nyah’s grandma has stepped up to the plate, driving the teenager once a week.
“It’s been really fun driving with her,” Nyah said. “Our relationship has gotten a lot better. We’re besties.”
And Heather has enjoyed getting to know her daughter in the same way, too.
“It’s a cool way to get to know her and hear what is going on in her life without all the distractions around you to drown out the talking,” she said.
While the ECNL teams are set up like college teams where the coaches arrange travel arrangements and take responsibility for the players while they are on the road, Heather chooses to travel with her daughter to all the games.
Being there, Nyah knows that she has someone in this game with her.
“It is really motivating when you’re on the field and they are watching you play,” she said. “It makes you work harder.”
“And when you get back from Arizona at 1 a.m. and have to go to school the next morning, you know (that your parents) were there with you, so you’re not really alone in any of this.”
As Biegler steps onto the field in a different way this year, she knows that she is not alone in finding a new balance in life.
While her parents recognize her talent and ability, the family is working to establish balance for their daughter and their family.
“We’re just recognizing that it’s easy to burn her out,” Heather said. “She’s not a machine, she needs balance, and that’s what we’re trying to appreciate more.”
“She has a cool gift that I think God’s going to use to do awesome things, but she also has to be able to have relationships and ties with the people with the community and at our church. She’s not just a soccer player. She’s a student, our child, a Christian, she’s so much more than just one thing.”