From April 6-12, the NCAA celebrates Division III Week -- seven days devoted to the accomplishments of the student-athletes in D3. The goal of the celebration is to raise awareness of Heidelberg and other D3 schools across the nation.
This story is the fourth in a five-part series highlighting the student-athletes at Heidelberg University. It was written by Kyle Stover, Assistant Director of Athletic Marketing & Information.
For more information on Heidelberg's D3 Week activities, visit the D3 Week homepage.
The journey for Heidelberg University soccer standout Hamid Shariff has created its own path, taking many twists and turns along the way. For Shariff, however, the journey is just beginning.
Born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the thought of attending a small university in Tiffin, Ohio, was probably not on the radar of Shariff and his parents. Soccer was already a big part of his life, as his father was a professional soccer player competing across the Middle East.
The traveling started early in Shariff's life when his family moved to Tanzania when he was just a year old. This was a familiar destination for them, as both of his parents were born there. Growing up overseas, there was one point where Shariff was fluent in three different languages: Arabic, Swahili and English.
At the age of 11, Shariff and his family made the move to New York City. Soon after, his family moved to Boston, where Shariff began to get involved with the club soccer scene.
Never settling in one place for very long, his family made the move to Ohio as his father searched for work. This was where Shariff began to make a name for himself, taking part in the Crew Academy in Columbus while also competing for a very successful club team, Blast F.C.
"We were in a league called National League, so we traveled a lot, playing teams that were among the top in the country," said Shariff. "I missed a lot of school for big tournaments."
With his father having played professional soccer, the sport was something that was always a part of the Shariff household.
"We watch soccer 24/7 at home," said Shariff. "It's all soccer."
Shariff attended Centennial High School in Columbus, a school that was not particularly known for its soccer prowess. As a key member of the Stars' program, Shariff helped lead the team to consistent improvement over his four years, including the first league championship in school history.
Through his senior year of high school, Shariff was heavily recruited to play soccer collegiately. It was at an all-star game that he was first seen by Heidelberg coach Dr. Brian Haley. That relationship quickly took hold, as Haley's many connections with soccer clubs over the world fed Shariff's desire to continue his playing career after his college days.
"There were a lot of schools that I was talking to, but Coach Haley was the reason I came to Heidelberg," said Shariff. "Because of the connections he has, and of course I wanted to play after college, too."
Knowing that he wanted to work around soccer in some way, Shariff finally settled on a health and human performance major with a minor in sport management. His passion for health and fitness, partnered with his soccer training, makes his major something that has really left an impact on him.
"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I know I wanted to work with soccer no matter what," said Shariff. "I've always been into fitness and trying to stay in my best shape for soccer. That major is helping me a lot with how I am becoming more fit."
Outside of playing, Shariff has found ways to stay involved with soccer. He has coached teams anywhere from the YMCA to also traveling across the country to assist at camps and clinics.
His hard work and determination has been year-round, as Shariff has been a part of Premier Development League (PDL) teams during his summers away from school. He has competed with the Aston Villa Pacesetters, an Ohio-based team that is partnered with the world-renown English club.
"Every summer I've been gone, so I haven't been able to be home at all," he said.
After his junior year at Heidelberg, Haley was able to get Shariff in contact with the Orlando City Soccer Club, who is now a member of the MLS and has a U23 team competing in the PDL.
"I played with them and lived in Orlando over the summer before coming back for my senior year," he said.
Shariff has remained in contact with them and other PDL teams during his senior season, as he has certainly made a name for himself at the Berg.
As a junior, Shariff became the first OAC Midfielder of the Year in Heidelberg history, and followed that up with First Team All-OAC honors as a senior. During his final season, he helped lead the Student Princes to their first-ever OAC Tournament championship, making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
This success on the pitch has continued to draw the interest of professional teams, as Shariff took part in Miami F.C.'s preseason training during his spring break from Heidelberg. Competing alongside athletes from all over the world, he was invited to stay and train with the club after the two weeks, but Shariff opted to return to Tiffin to finish his senior year and graduate.
"We were doing two-a-days at Florida International University for training," said Shariff, a 3-time All-OAC selection. "They liked me and wanted me to say, but I told them I have to go back to school. Hopefully in May I can go back, but there are other teams I am talking to and a lot of other things going on."
With graduation now just a month away, Shariff is looking to continue on his soccer career, wherever that may be. He has kept his options open moving forward. Though the destination may not be set in stone as of yet, one thing is certain: His soccer journey is just getting started.