By any standards set for a high school or college athlete, Chester native Will Bates has accomplished just about everything one would hope for. Bates won a state championship as a freshman at Thomas Dale, and then won a National Championship as a freshman at the University of Virginia (UVA). Last week, the next chapter of Bates’ career began as he was drafted fifth in the supplemental round of the Major League Soccer (MLS) draft by the Seattle Sounders as the 43rd overall pick.
“I was just hanging out and waiting,” said Bates. “I knew the draft was going on and then my agent called me. I am very excited for this opportunity.”
While being drafted does not guarantee the Knight alum a roster spot in Seattle, Bates is no stranger to hard work. All through his soccer career he’s been noted as a humble, hard worker that’s always been willing to do whatever it took to progress the teams he’s played for, and his own self. A prime example of this work ethic is when Bates tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and meniscus during his junior year at UVA. Bates came back ahead of time, working diligently through the long rehab process.
“Will is a very hard worker,” said UVA head soccer coach George Gelnovatch. “He worked hard through his rehab process and with the technology today, players often come back stronger than they were before their surgery.”
A balanced player in high school, Bates played midfielder before moving to forward in college for the Cavaliers. Thomas Dale High School head soccer coach Mark Fowler stated that Bates was one of the best all-around players he has coached, and that’s why the positioning made sense.
“If Will had played forward, he would have challenged any record standing at Thomas Dale,” said Fowler. “Everyone knew his name and knew he was the best player in the region; I’m not at all surprised that he’s playing on a professional level.”
Most would consider Bates’ list of accomplishments on the field for UVA to be as impressive as his work ethic. In both 2011 and 2012, he was named All-ACC First Team and in 2012 he was named to the Mac Hermann Trophy watch list. Bates, UVA’s co-captain in 2012 finished seventh all-time in UVA history with 46 goals, ninth in UVA history with 102 points (goals plus assists) and the forward also ranks third in UVA history with 15 game-winning goals. (Information gathered from the UVA Athletics website). Both in high school and in the college, Bates contributed as a freshman and was an important part of both the Knights and Cavaliers championship runs in each respective season.
“To be a part of two championship teams was incredible,” said Bates. “I always had players to look up to that set solid examples for me as a person and a player.”
In high school, Bates cited teammate Roger Bothe as someone he looked up to. Bates became the third player in Thomas Dale history to play professionally, as Bothe and Jordan Evans both suited up for the Richmond Kickers in the United Soccer League. Bates will have an opportunity to play at an even higher level in MLS.
“In my opinion, Major League Soccer’s product has improved, even compared to the English Premier League,” said Fowler. “Now Premier League teams come play exhibitions state side and MLS has given good performances in these games.”
The Seattle Sounders were founded in 2007 as a part of MLS and have developed a rivalry with the Portland Timbers, another team that was recently formed as a part of the league’s 2009 expansion.
“I’ve heard Seattle is a really cool city and I’m ready to get out there,” said Bates. “I’m very thankful for all I’ve learned and experienced at this point in college and in high school.”
Bates will be in Seattle later this week. Check out the Village News Sports on twitter @VNewsSports for updates on Bates and other pro athletes hailing from Chester.