The transition to collegiate athletics is a universally challenging one for any competitive freshman athlete. Different team dynamics, more intense training programs and faster-paced competition test these novices in new ways. On top of these changes, the courseload of the average Cornell student and the abrupt change from home life to college life is inevitably overwhelming.
For George Pedlow, a first-year striker on the Cornell men’s soccer team, the transition to university life included a transcontinental journey.
“Obviously London is so different [from] Ithaca,” Pedlow said. “Recently it’s been dawning on me that I am kind of in the middle of nowhere.”
Pedlow is originally from South London, where he attended St. Paul’s School, studying economics and captaining both his school and club soccer teams. At first, Pedlow said he was too busy to step back and notice the lifestyle change.
“The first month at college there’s so much going on,” he said. “Especially when we’re playing soccer every day. So I had my group of freshmen — it’s like nine guys — who I’m always talking to and getting to know, going to eat with and going to training. And I’m always working.”
But lately, Pedlow said he’s been noticing the distance.
“Being out here kind of gives you time to think and time to focus on your studies,” he said. “And it’s nice being around greenery and not just pavement all the time. I guess it can be a little bit… sad when your family is so far away, but I’ll get to go back at Christmas and see them.”
Pedlow’s parents are originally from Westchester, N.Y., but are still currently living in London. They have traveled to the states to see several of his games this fall, which he said he is incredibly grateful for.
“[But] sometimes I do feel a bit isolated,” he admitted.
Pedlow’s family also includes three older sisters, all of whom also came to the United States for higher education. His two oldest sisters, Mikaela and Sophia, graduated from Penn and Dartmouth, respectively, while his other sister Colleen is currently a senior at Wesleyan University.
With his older siblings setting such a high bar, Pedlow said that his academics have always been a priority.
“I wanted to play Division I, if I could,” Pedlow said. “[But] I never would have sacrificed… not going to a top-tier school just to play soccer. I always want to strive for all of my academic passions.”
A Budding Entrepreneur
Pedlow is currently enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, on track to major in economics, but is undecided about his final major selection.
“Being an economics major in Arts seems really appealing and also AEM seems really cool,” Pedlow said. “I’m kind of feeling it out right now.”
As a student at Cornell, Pedlow says it is easier to handle his indecision here than if he had gone to school in England. When British students apply to universities, they apply with scores from major-specific exams called “A-levels,” which by themselves can determine almost entirely which schools a student is admitted to and also sets them on track to study one subject.
“I didn’t want to give my life away to one area of study so early,” he explained.
After Cornell, Pedlow said he hopes to start his own company. He believes studying in the United States has given him the best opportunity to make this dream a reality.
“If I could come up with an idea for a business,” Pedlow said. “That would be my dream…start[ing] it up from the bottom.”
His passion for entrepreneurship is closely tied to an interest in product design, as well as mobile applications. Pedlow said he is hoping to get the chance to take some computer science courses, in addition to economics and business classes during his time in Ithaca.
Let’s Get Physical
But in addition to his academic future, Pedlow is committed to making an impact while playing varsity soccer at Cornell. Just like the cultural transition, the abrupt change in intensity of training was suprising to the freshman striker.
“I really had no idea what to expect,” Pedlow admitted. “You can’t really tell the pace and aggression and the athleticism [from watching games online]. When I first came I was really impressed by how fit and how physical everyone was here… The first time you play in a college game [is] kind of nerve-wracking.”
The increased physicality is more than just an element of collegiate athletics. Pedlow said that many of his opponents and teammates in London had comparable technical skills to some of his teammates at Cornell, but few of them were as physically fit. He siad the change in athleticism took some getting used to.
“I’ve never been used to running so much and having to shut down [another player] so quickly,” Pedlow said. “I was like, ‘Whoa, these guys are really fit and they take it really seriously,’ which I kind of relish. It’s what I like about it.”
In spite of the challenging physicality of collegiate games, Pedlow has had an enormously successful first season. He has managed to take almost twice as many shots over the course of the season as any other member of the team. Individually, he is responsible for almost a quarter of all shots taken by the Red this season.
Eight games in, Pedlow led Cornell’s offense against Syracuse, who, at the time, was ranked second in the NCAA. Thirty minutes into the match, he broke through the Orange defense to score Cornell’s only goal of the game and allowed the Red to lead for the rest of the first half.
“I try to go into every game with the same mindset that I’m confident but also need to be composed,” Pedlow said. “[Head coach John Smith] has a really good motto. He says, ‘Fire in the belly and ice in the veins,’ which is something which I always try and think about when I’m going into the games.”
‘Fire in the Belly and Ice in the Veins’
As Pedlow finishes out his first season with the Red, he and his teammates have a plan for how to improve the outcomes of their games next season.
“Having gone through the season now, I know what I need to work on,” Pedlow said. “There’s a few key pillars that I need to work on as a striker which Coach Smith has drilled into the strikers pretty well.”
He and his teammates have already discussed getting out in the offseason to generally develop fitness and work on the goals their coach has laid out.
“I’ll be getting out there every day, definitely, with the ball and doing work,” Pedlow said. “It needs to be a constant thing… [sophomore defender] Ryan Bayne has already messaged us saying that we need to put in blood and sweat in the spring, so I’m really pumped about that.”
For Pedlow, the long-term goal is development of the team. Next season, he said he and his teammates are looking to develop more of a winning mentality to bring about an Ivy League Championship.
Despite the Red’s limited success this fall, Pedlow said he is convinced that an Ivy win is on the horizon for the team. He said he fully expects to win at least one conference championship during his time at Cornell, and this confidence stems from a complete faith in his coach.
“Smith just knows,” Pedlow said. “He knows how to do it. He did it at Stanford. They went from a mid-tier team to winning the national championship… Already I’ve seen him pull the best out of all of the players and I just have confidence in him.”