Design by McKenna Dunn
The dream of being a professional athlete comes across many kids minds. But many times, that dream dwindles away with age. However, for a 2019 Orange graduate, this dream became a reality.
On Jan. 17, 2020, former student Sebastian Berhalter signed his first professional contract with his hometown club, the Columbus Crew. Berhalter started his high school experience part of the class of 2020. But when the opportunity to play in college and with enough credits to graduate early he couldn’t pass it up.
Berhalter’s name may sound familiar to many of the students from the community or from his Dad. Berhalter’s dad is Gregg Berhalter, the head coach for the US Men's National Team, but that’s not on the mind of the young player trying to make his own name to the team.
Berhalter graduated early to attend college at the University of North Carolina. He may have only stayed there a semester, but that wasn’t the plan from the beginning.
“When I went to UNC I had an idea but nothing was for sure whether I was going to leave after a semester. All I knew is that I was going to give it my all to the team and see where it went from there,” Berhalter said.
With Berhalter signing so young for the Crew it shocked many people in the community including 2019 graduate Max Brunke.
“I was shocked, excited and hyped for him all at the same time. He’s getting an opportunity to run with the big guns at 17, 18 years old. That’s something people only dream of,” Brunke said.
Like Brunke said, it's something people dream of. That is true for Berhalter too but wasn’t only a dream but a goal also.
“Becoming a starter for the first team has been a goal of mine for the last seven years and now being a part of the team has put me one step closer to that goal,” Berhalter said.
The first team is a term used to describe the top team in professional soccer clubs. This is the team viewers watch on TV when the Columbus Crew is on or go to a game.
At just 18, Berhalter has had to adapt to the life of living on his own, which is something many 18 year olds don’t typically deal with.
“UNC taught me how to function living by myself. It has helped me tremendously now because I now know how to handle most things on my own without having to rely on other people,” Berhalter said.
Berhalter played in the Crew Academy growing up, and he feels as though it has helped him transition into the first team.
“I think although the academy was a professional environment, being around the first team now you can see the different level that everyone works at and how smoothly everything runs between the team and organization,” Berhalter said.
One of the biggest things that Berhalter wants to do this year is be there as a team player whether that is here in Columbus or somewhere in the USL.
“I’ve never been more excited about an upcoming player debut in my lifetime. I hope he shocks the world with his skill,” Brunke said.
The Columbus Crew’s season started with the first game of the year on Sunday, Mar. 1. The team kicked off their season at Mapfre Stadium against New York City FC.
With the new stadium already under way in the Arena District this could be the last season that the team plays in the current stadium.