Freshman Derek Gebhard making moves for FGCU men’s team
The word that comes to mind as freshman forward Derek Gebhard thinks of how long he has been playing soccer.
If he wanted to get more specific, he would say he was 3 years old. Gebhard’s dedication and passion for the game has led him to FGCU where he has played in all seven games for the season and is third on the team in number of shots with nine.
“I get to play soccer every day,” Gebhard said. “Every morning, it is the first thing I get to do when I wake up. It is like living the life.”
Gebhard graduated from George Steinbrenner High School in 2013, took a semester off and joined FGCU’s soccer team the following spring.
“I visited here and after that I really fell in love with the campus,” Gebhard said. “I also came and watched the team and met them and hung out with them and really liked them. I thought the school was a really good fit for me.”
When Gebhard started playing soccer, he was living in Spain. He moved to Maryland when he was five years old and continued to play the game.
“My little sister and I are the first ones in my family to play soccer. When I started playing soccer, at the time we lived in Spain. In other countries, soccer is there number one sport there. I think it was just kind of living in that culture.”
In his junior year of high school, Gebhard played for the US Region III Olympic Development Program and got to travel with the team to Costa Rica. It was a small taste of what the college experience would be like.
“I’m competitive so it is fun to play with a bunch of guys that are good at what they do,” Gebhard said. “It makes it a lot more fun when you are playing at such a high level.
“Since I got here, I have definitely learned a lot,” Gebhard said. “As a player I have developed. One thing that I was struggling with was having confidence when I first got here and was playing but now I feel a lot more comfortable when I‘m out there.”
Another adjustment Gebhard has had to make since becoming a student-athlete is focusing on maintaining a balance with schoolwork and soccer.
“You just have to have your priorities,” Gebhard said. “If you get the stuff you don’t really like doing out of the way, then you have more time to relax and hang out with your friends. It is really about managing your time.”
Gebhard’s ultimate goal would be to play soccer professionally. He is using his experience at FGCU to grow as a player and hopefully transition into that lifestyle.
“The program we have is really good,” Gebhard said. “I think it is the perfect place and opportunity to get to my full potential and improve to be able to play at that level.”
The team is currently 1-4-3 for the season. The Eagles haven’t played in any conference games and hope to start securing wins to get to their goal of competing in the NCAA tournament. They play Jacksonville University on Wednesday, Oct. 1, their first conference game of the season.
“We want to definitely get to the NCAA tournament and really get far into it,” Gebhard said. “From when we started, I’m more surprised than I thought. I didn’t realize we had such a good team. It is really exciting because we haven’t started off that great but every game we have played, we have always felt like we outplayed the team. Our problem now is just scoring but over time, I think as a team we will pull it together and as it comes time for conference, I think we will be ready to really do something good.”