Commit for life

Two juniors bound for Division One sports at prestigious schools
Flynn Leonard ‘25 runs with his lacrosse stick, looking for an open teammate. His team hasn’t lost a game in three years.
Flynn Leonard ‘25 runs with his lacrosse stick, looking for an open teammate. His team hasn’t lost a game in three years.
Photo courtesy of Greg Satchfield.
Flynn Leonard ‘25 plays for the Nation’s Best team. He’s one of two players on the team from Colorado.

September 1, 2023. The day it was all for. The day it would all finally pay off.

When Flynn Leonard ‘25 was five years old, his dad, Mike Leonard, gave him a lacrosse stick, hoping to pass down his love of the sport. Lacrosse would later become Leonard’s whole life.

“From his very early days, Flynn always had a lacrosse stick in his hand, just playing as a little boy,” Mike said. Having played in college, Mike coached Leonard from third to eighth grade. That was when Leonard’s talent really started to take off.

Beginning in eighth grade, Leonard played more club lacrosse out of Denver. He worked with high-level coaches and athletes, and soon his list of accomplishments was growing to impressive heights. By now, he’s played for 3D Colorado, Boulder Valley, Scorpions, Denver Elite, Nation’s Best, Legends National, and 3D National.

But none of it has come easily.

“It’s literally my whole life. Everything revolves around it, whether I’m working out or training,” Leonard said. “I put almost five hours a day into lacrosse.”

Mike has watched Leonard put more and more time and effort into his passion. “A lot of times it becomes more of a burden,” Mike said. “You make a lot a lot of sacrifices when you get into high school.”

Despite the cost, these sacrifices all go toward one goal. For a high-achieving athlete like Leonard, committing to the right college or university is vital for his next phase of life. That’s why the process took so much preparation—and why it mattered so much.

“For lacrosse, you can start getting recruited and start talking to coaches September 1 of your junior year,” Leonard said. “So it felt like my whole life led up to September 1.”
That day and the following weeks were a whirlwind.

“I was just constantly talking to coaches, constantly calling them, trying to get a feel for which school I might want to go to,” Leonard said. “And then the next week, I went on visits and it all led up to that moment.”

“It was a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “Is any of this training going to pay off?”
Throughout the whole process, Mike knew all of Leonard’s hard work wouldn’t go to waste. “I believed 100%,” Mike said. “I believed in that kid, even when he didn’t believe in himself.”

And Mike was right. All the hours of training, practice, and travel proved worthwhile when Leonard’s college search turned out to be less of a search and more of a selection.

“I had offers from Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth. I got looks from Brown,” Leonard said. “Then I had offers from North Carolina, Penn State Lehigh, and a few other D1 schools.”

Now that his options were clear, Leonard had to make the complicated decision about where to spend the next four years of his life.

There was one school that stood out from the beginning. Many Monarch students might remember Sam Riecken ‘22, who went straight from Monarch to Yale University—also for lacrosse.

Having played with Riecken his freshman year, Leonard knew Yale would be high on his list. But to see for himself, Leonard went to visit the prestigious university.

“I talked to the players and they said they wouldn’t want to play for any other coach,” Leonard said. “And when I toured there, I got to hang out with the team for two days, and it was the best days of my life.”

Only a few weeks into September, Leonard finalized his decision.

He chose Yale.

It will be another two years before his time at Yale begins, but he’s excited to play on the team he connected with and to reunite with a Monarch alumnus.

“Flynn’s very first freshman fall ball practice was with Sam,” Mike said. “And Flynn’s gonna go have his very first fall ball practice at Yale with Sam too.”

But between now and the fall of 2025, there’s still more Leonard has to do to prepare for Yale.

“I thought I could calm down in school, I could kind of coast the rest of the years,” Leonard said. “But actually, now I have to take more advanced classes and I have to train more.”

On top of an intense academic and training plan, Leonard also has to take special care not to get injured. Although it has always been a concern, staying healthy is especially important now.

“Now it means a lot more,” Leonard said. “I could lose the opportunity to play at Yale if I get injured.”

His commitment was a major checkpoint in the process, but it’s not over yet. “I’ve committed to the admissions process at Yale, but I still have to technically get in. I won’t know for another year and a half,” Leonard said.

Besides the technical factors, there’s a lot of mental preparation necessary to attend an Ivy League school.

“It takes a lot of sacrifice and discipline to balance a university like that,” Mike said. “I have every confidence in the world that Flynn is gonna be able to do that because I’ve watched him balance it. I’ve watched him work and prioritize the right things in his life.”“My hope is that Flynn continues to support, to grow, and to inspire others around him.”

Flynn Leonard ‘25 plays for the Nation’s Best team. He’s one of two players on the team from Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Greg Satchfield.)
Emma Fassora ‘25 poses in her Penn State uniform. She had a professional photo shoot after she committed. (Photo courtesy of Penn State Women’s Soccer.)

Emma Fassora ‘25 has been playing soccer since she was just nine years old. Now, seven years later, she has only recently announced her commitment to play four more years of soccer at Penn State, one of the best colleges for Division 1 women’s soccer.

“I always knew I wanted to play in college,” Fassora said. “It wasn’t really a goal, it was more of an expectation I had for myself.”

Fassora played for several clubs in the past, but eventually decided she needed something bigger and more challenging. In 2020, she joined Real Colorado soccer club.

“I made the transition to Real in eighth grade,” Fassora said. “After that, I started emailing schools the summer going into my freshman year.”

The official date for colleges to contact her was June 15, 2023. Before then, Fassora had received interest letters from schools.

She just had to make calls.

“I was on calls with schools basically every day,” she said. “With Penn State, I went on five hour-long calls because they’re obviously recruiting the player, but the next step is recruiting the person.”

In order to attract the attention of good schools, Fassora had to put in countless hours of practicing and improving her skills.

“I practice four times a week for about an hour and a half, plus a two-hour commute total,” Fassora said. “I have two games on the weekend, which is also a pretty far commute, and then I’m traveling almost every weekend for the first semester of school.”

There isn’t a definite number of hours she has committed to soccer, and there’s barely any time for her to take a break.

“I don’t really have an offseason,” she said. “Normally it’s just about recovering and then I’m just lifting and doing technical work to keep my touches in.”

After putting so much dedication into working on her skills and improving as much as possible with the goal of early commitment in mind, Fassora still feels there’s work to be done.

“I don’t feel pressure from anyone except myself,” she said. “My parents are very supportive, as well as all of my friends, and I’m just trying to better myself and do the best that I can in every aspect, including school.”

Juggling both soccer and school, Fassora couldn’t find a happy median. She was always trying to do the best in both. Now that she’s committed to Penn State, she’s transitioned to a more soccer-focused mindset.

“I’m still very focused on my grades and wanting to do good in every aspect, but my coaches have actually tried to help me bring back the amount of advanced classes I’m taking and they encouraged me to drop a few classes this year to make my load a little bit easier,” she said.

Fassora had several schools she was interested in including several in the Big Ten and PAC 12. However, the initial draw to Penn State stuck with her through her decision.

“When I was going through the recruitment process, they were ranked sixth, but they’ve always been in the top 10 based on their track record from past seasons,” Fassora said. “Right now they’re nine games in and their record is 8-0.”

Playing at a Division 1 soccer has its perks.

“I am on a scholarship and it’s definitely really exciting for me,” Fassora said. “I’m just excited to get out there and play with all the other best players in the country.”

When picking any college, it’s important to look at the community and people. Fassora toured Penn State, met the team and people, and decided out of all the colleges she had lined up, Penn State would be the best fit for her.

“It really just came down to the culture and the people of Penn State, and that’s why I was sold to go there,” she said. “I just want to learn from the best coaches and be pushed to my limit.”

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

All MOHI Mix Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.