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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Xavier Tanyi: From Playgrounds to Harvard’s Rising Soccer Talent

Senior Xavier Tanyi competing in a match for Bethesda Soccer Club. (Courtesy of Xavier Tanyi)

Senior Xavier Tanyi has been gaining significant recognition in the soccer world from scouts and coaches as he prepares to tackle the next phase of his athletic and academic journey at Harvard University next fall.

His journey originated in the local playgrounds of Johannesburg, South Africa at age six, starting off as casual play. However, soccer quickly evolved into something more serious when he joined the Brazilian Soccer School club team at age seven in South Africa.

Upon moving to the United States in 2015, he continued his soccer campaign by joining his first travel team, Bethesda Soccer Club, an organization he has remained loyal to ever since. Tanyi started as a left-winger in his early career and has transitioned to playing in the midfield.

Nonetheless, it was not until his sophomore year that Tanyi started to dream beyond high school soccer. Inspired by a fellow player’s commitment to the University of Chicago, WIS class of 2022 graduate Matteo Caloia, he set his sights on playing at the college level.

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Tanyi’s life as a student-athlete demands arduous time management.

“Balancing athletics and soccer can be difficult at times, but that is where being efficient comes in,” he said.

Tanyi rises early, starting his day at 6 a.m. for school. After school, his schedule varies depending on practice times, often leaving him with limited time to focus on academics and soccer commitments. To compensate, Tanyi utilizes free periods, lunch breaks and post-practice hours for academic work. Additionally, he makes the most of weekends to work when he is not occupied with games.

His journey, however, has not been without certain hurdles.

“The challenges faced in academics were a rough time,” he said. “It resulted in getting a lot of stress and figuring out how to balance it and maintain academic excellence.”

Tanyi faced a steep learning curve with the IB program in his junior year, learning to manage stress and maintain his academic excellence.

In the meantime, he navigated the mental game on the soccer front, overcoming nervousness and the pressure to perform consistently. Even occasional goal droughts and off-days tested his resilience, yet he persevered, learning to rebound from setbacks.

“I used to close my eyes before kickoff, activating my senses to focus on the moment, forget about impressing coaches, and just play how I want to play,” Tanyi said.

Mental preparation plays a crucial role in his athletic performance, showcasing how such practices enable players to excel when it matters most on the field.

When comparing soccer to academics, Tanyi emphasizes the shared theme of self-reliance.

“Soccer is a lot like school, where you are going to do so much by yourself,” he said.

Tanyi’s pursuit of college soccer began in earnest during the summer between his 10th and 11th grade years. Although he initially doubted his odds with Harvard due to academic concerns, the Harvard soccer team’s head coach, Josh Shapiro, reached out after observing Tanyi’s performance during a showcase game, which consists of a tournament explicitly designed to provide soccer players the opportunity to compete in front of college coaches from across the nation in an effort to be recruited.

After subsequent visits to the Harvard campus, Zoom meetings with Harvard coaches and consistent communication with the staff, he was offered to join Harvard’s class of 2028, which he accepted with enthusiasm.

Learning from others is a fundamental aspect of Tanyi’s commitment to continuous improvement, as he firmly believes that one is never truly at one’s highest level.

“The more you see others, the more you see what it takes to improve and reach your goals in soccer,” he said.

His dedication to growth exemplifies the mindset of an athlete striving for excellence in every aspect of the game.

As he prepares for his college soccer career at Harvard, where he will be predominantly playing as a striker, Tanyi is improving his technical skills, particularly his shooting ability, to significantly improve his impact on the field. He is also learning to handle high-pressure situations with sensory exercises and pre-game rituals, ensuring he remains focused on the game and not external distractions.

Overall, Tanyi’s aspirations extend beyond college soccer. He dreams of playing at the professional level, and with his dedication, talent and the support of coaches and teammates, he is well on his way to achieving that goal.

Tanyi’s advice to aspiring soccer players includes seeking guidance, being open to learning and embracing the desire to improve.

“Soccer is like a game of opportunity and chance, do not let it get into your own head,” he said.

With his remarkable journey and relentless pursuit of excellence, soccer enthusiasts can expect to see great things from this young athlete in the coming years.

“Every soccer player’s dream is to play at the professional level,” he said. “Hopefully, being surrounded by talented players at Harvard will help me reach that goal.”

By Leonardo Sarzi Braga

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Leonardo Sarzi Braga
Leonardo Sarzi Braga, Multimedia Publications Editor

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    Natasha BhallaOct 4, 2023 at 1:41 pm

    This is quite an accomplishment!! Congrats to Xavi and to Leo for a well written article!!