Chris Freeman: Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year
This year’s Gatorade Player of the Year award recipient for boys’ soccer is Zionsville’s own Chris Freeman. Freeman just graduated from Zionsville Community High School (ZCHS) with a 4.07 cumulative GPA this past June and will be heading down to Bloomington, Indiana, where he will be studying finance at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
Believe it or not, Freeman will be playing on IU’s football team as a kicker. Not only is he the best soccer player in Indiana, he is also a nationally ranked football kicker—ranked nationally as the No. 9 football kicker by Kohl’s Kicking.
We spoke with Freeman and ZCHS head soccer coach Rob Jordon about Freeman’s high school career, the highs and the lows that include a perfect [21-0-0] season and state championship, as well as completing his high school experience from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and hopes for a successful college freshman year.
An Early Passion That Developed Into a Stellar Athletic Career
Freeman’s passion for sports and competing began early in his life around the ages of 5–6 years. He began his soccer career at Zionsville Youth Soccer Association’s summer soccer camps.
“The three sports I played growing up were soccer, basketball and baseball,” Freeman shared. “By my freshman year, I was playing soccer only, and then the summer before my sophomore year, my dad said I should try football, so I ended up starting on the field goal position on the ZCHS football team, and my first game, I kicked the game-winning field goal. I realized then that this [kicking] was what I really wanted to pursue.”
Balancing Athletics and Academics
When asked how he balanced both sports and grades, Freeman said, “I’ve always taken pride in my academics and have been raised in a family where that is expected. My [parents] have always supported me. The two sports [soccer and football] really complemented each other well. Each of those teams and coaches supported me very well and made sure that I had what I needed in order to get things done at school so I could perform well on the fields. I’ve always been a math guy and enjoy math classes. I’ve had a lot of good math teachers throughout my career at ZCHS as well.”
How Both Sports Have Better Developed Freeman’s Skills
When asked what made him choose football over soccer, Freeman said with conviction, “It was always football for me after my sophomore year. I know, that surprises some people. My sophomore year was my first year on the varsity [soccer team]. We had a great team! This last year, we played like it was a business and we were just going to take care of business. When we won, we really didn’t celebrate because we knew the end goal was to win a state championship and not just get back to the state championship. We all knew what that felt like, and we didn’t want to feel that again. Going two years, back-to-back, as runners-up wasn’t going to look good on a resume. It [state championship] wasn’t uncharted territory. We knew what we were getting into, and we did it. We took care of business. It was a great cap to my soccer career.”
Having learned specific skills as both kicker and central midfielder, Freeman explained how these skills will help him in his collegiate football career.
“In soccer, I played an attacking midfielder position, which more or less starts the attack and moves the ball forward,” Freeman explained. “What I will take into my football career is the teamwork that it takes to be successful. If you’re not completely bought in, it’s really hard to be successful. What I learned this year is that you have to be bought into the team and not just yourself.
Growing Up as Friends on and off the Field
Freeman’s good friend, soccer teammate and fellow ZCHS 2020 graduate Ben Weidner was also nominated for this year’s Gatorade Player of the Year for soccer.
“Ben and I are really good friends,” Freeman shared. “We played basketball together back in fourth grade and played soccer together, and now we’re Gatorade Player of the Year nominees together. That was something we always talked about, and we always said that we want one of the two of us to win the award. We’re always watching and cheering for each other. Now I’m going to IU for football, and he’ll be going to DePauw [University] to play soccer and basketball.”
On a side note, Freeman shared that both his parents and Weidner’s parents are moving into the same neighborhood so the two will be able to catch up during breaks and continue building their friendship.
In addition to friends and family, Freeman noted that the coaching staff at ZCHS was imperative to his success as a student and athlete.
“The coaching staff was great and always supported me in everything I did,” Freeman emphasized. “I still receive emails from them and will remain in contact with them. They were always there for me when I needed to talk, whether it was sports related or not.”
Leaving His Mark at ZCHS
Freeman’s name has been struck on several post-season awards, including the prestigious Indiana Soccer Player of the Year by the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association. He was named a High School All American and High School and All Great Lakes Region by the United Soccer Coaches. Freeman was 1st Team All State, 1st Team All District, 1st All Conference and Academic All State. Freeman’s success as a football kicker led to his designation as a two-time All State football kicker, and he has won numerous other awards throughout his high school career.
During his three years as a starter, the team has gone 52-3-6, won two conference championships, was state runner-up in 2018 and was the state champion this year with a perfect record.
Rob Jordan, ZCHS head soccer coach, shared, “Chris’ heroic determination through the season and particularly the state tournament led to a perfect season and state championship. Chris did what great players do for their teams—make incredible winning plays. Chris scored the tying goal in the state championship with a 40-yard run with the ball through six players. He scored on a 20-yard run with the ball through five players for the tying score at semi state championship and scored two goals at the regional championship and had an incredible free kick goal and the game-winning assist for the sectional championship.”
Onward and Upward for Freeman
Jordan expressed it was a bittersweet farewell to this year’s seniors on his team.
“Chris came with a great senior class,” Jordan said. “When that class came in as freshmen, all the coaches knew that this was going to be a special group of kids. We had some exceptionally talented kids in that group, and Chris was one of them along with Ben [Weidner]. They’ve done some incredible things and will be listed—inarguably—as one of the best soccer teams in Indiana history. Chris started playing on the varsity team as a sophomore, which for our program is pretty rare.”
Jordan continued, “Chris takes and puts in the time to become better, and not only with athletics but with his academics as well. He is an intelligent and well-rounded kid, which is a testament to how well his parents have raised him. It’s bittersweet to have him leave, but I know there’s great things ahead for Chris.”
Persevering Through a Pandemic
Freeman shared his innermost thoughts about persevering through this pandemic and how he is personally trying to stay focused and sharp as he prepares for his football debut at IU.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, I was almost mad,” Freeman expressed. “I was wondering why this had to happen—especially during the second semester of my senior year. Luckily, I got to play my sports [last fall], so I was very grateful that I had the opportunity to play my senior season and perform at the level that our teams did. I always want to feel like I am in control of a situation, and with this pandemic, I have little control. With all the uncertainty of not knowing what was or is going to happen, I try to clear my head for a little bit at a time. At the start of the pandemic, I would go and kick footballs for an hour and a half. That was an hour and 30 minutes that I didn’t have to think about what was happening in the world. I had to find times to get away. I realize that this will end—at some point—and things will work out. I have to have faith, and it will get back to normal, even if it’s a ‘new normal.’”
Freeman signed off with a message to the incoming ZCHS soccer and football players.
“It’s going to definitely be different,” he admitted. “Just have faith and stay the course. Always stay at the top of your game, even if you don’t know when you’re actually going to be playing the sport. Just make sure that you’re staying in shape and staying ‘ready.’ Good things will come as long as you’re staying ready and buying into the program. Listen to your coaches and listen to your teammates. Work hard and everything will work out.”