When it comes time for a draft in any sport, there are always great stories to go along with the great talent for the players involved. Yale’s Aerial Chavarin certainly fits that bill on both behalfs. She’s a skillful soccer player and she has taken a special journey to the cusp of being drafted into the NWSL.
She grew up in Oakland, California and was a star basketball player and soccer player for Bishop O’Dowd High School. Not only was Aerial learning lessons on the court, the pitch, and the classroom, she was taught a valuable lesson about compassion from a key figure in her life. “Growing up, my father was a teacher (and eventual principal) at several schools that were in underprivileged, minority communities in Oakland, CA. He would constantly bring students home to feed them and give them a safe place to sleep and interact,” she told BGN. “He would drive them to and from places and allow them to become a part of our family. As a young child, observing my father’s natural tendency to provide for this community and hearing about the lives of these people he would bring into our home, I formed this desire to also serve underprivileged, minority communities in whatever way that I possibly could. I fed this desire through mentoring younger children at middle schools around Oakland and by volunteering at elderly homes.”
After graduating and racking up accolades in basketball and soccer, she would find her way to one of the most prestigious academic universities in the world. “I did not imagine going to an Ivy League school until my junior year of high school. I remember sophomore year during spring break, I had the opportunity to tour a multitude of colleges on the east coast through one of our programs at Bishop O’Dowd High School. I saw Harvard, Yale, Boston College, MIT, etc. This was an absolutely incredible experience and opened my eyes to a whole different world filled with so much opportunity,” Aerial recalled. “Even after this experience and realization, I never thought that I would actually end up going to college on the East Coast, let alone an Ivy League school, simply because this didn’t seem like a possibility—at the time, all the schools that were showing interest in me for soccer were on the West Coast, like Stanford, Santa Clara, UCLA, Colorado.
“Fast forward to junior year when Todd Plourde, the assistant coach for Yale Women’s Soccer at the time, reached out to me seeing if I had any interest in attending Yale and playing soccer there. Even at that point, I was unsure about going to Yale. However, when I visited campus for the first time, that changed. I know this sounds very cliché, but I genuinely fell in love with the campus and the team during that visit. This is something that I did not feel when I visited other schools, so I knew right away that I wanted to be at Yale, and did everything possible to make that dream turn into a reality.”
Obviously, there is a perception of Ivy League schools and students, but Aerial thinks they are off-base. “The biggest misconception is that people at Yale are uppity and snobby—this is certainly not true. There are so many awesome people at Yale and I am truly happy that I decided to spend my four years of college at Yale,” she said.
After soccer season ended in her sophomore and junior season, she joined the Bulldogs’ basketball team. “In basketball, I work hard to rebound every ball possible, to play solid defense and get steals, and to drive to the basket,” she explained. “I think the biggest benefit of playing basketball was that it allowed me to work different muscles so that I was not constantly tearing down the same muscles year-round.”
There are a lot of great athletes from Oakland (and also some that represent the area professionally like the former MVP pictured above), and her favorite also stars on the hardwood. Aerial said, “My favorite athlete from the Bay is Damian Lillard. He is a phenomenal athlete who truly gave everything he had on the court in order to find success. His grit and perseverance and hard work ethic are qualities that I strive to emulate in the way that I play.”
Like Dame, Chavarin definitely combines the talent and hard work in her top sport. As a senior on the soccer pitch, she earned countless accolades including Second Team All-American, Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, and unanimous All-Ivy League First Team. She leaves Yale in the top ten for goals in school history with 25 and that’s not even entirely as an attacking player. She transitioned from a striker into a new role this season for Sarah Martinez’s Bulldogs. “I absolutely love playing defensive center mid,” Aerial explained. “This past season, my senior year of college, was my first time playing this position. I loved the freedom and hard work that came with playing this position—I could literally run all the way up the field and help with the attack and also run all the way down the field to help with defense.”
As one of the eligible players for the NWSL College Draft this week, Aerial Chavarin will definitely attract some attention with her production, versatility, and athleticism. She’s already gone from the Bay Area to the Ivy League, to a new position as a senior, and soccer to basketball and back again. Next up, she will be trying to take her impressive journey to an NWSL city near you.