Former Gainesville Leopard and future Hill College soccer player Ivan Franco isn’t waiting for the fall season to come around to start working out.

His summer has been filled with soccer, including his time playing for an FC Dallas youth league team.

So with just weeks to go before he begins playing soccer year-round for Hill College, Franco has concocted his own workout regimen.

“I’m not trying to waste any time,” Franco said. “I’m trying to get as many practice sessions in and weightlifting in as I can so I’m ready by the time college hits. Most players slack off and when they get to college, then they want to ramp it up, but I want to have an advantage when I get there.”

Franco credited Gainesville High School for supporting his workout habits and his drive to prepare for collegiate soccer. 
Franco said he and his brother Danny Franco, the girls head soccer coach, have formed a workout duo that includes a weightlifting session, an all-soccer session and running or conditioning session.

He doesn’t need extra motivation, but Franco said he is striving to solidify a starting spot on the team when he arrives in the fall.

“At Hill, we have a lot of good prospects coming in,” Franco said. “I know things aren’t going to be easy. Everything is going to have to be earned. I want to be one of the top players in the bunch. I already have an advantage on most of them.”

Franco doesn’t have a position decided and he expects his coach to place him in the center of the field at center midfielder, where he played for the Leopards and FC Dallas, or on the defensive back row.

Preseason for Hill College begins Aug. 1 and from then on there are three-a-day practices that begin at 6 a.m.

“Right now, I’m getting up early to get used to it,” Franco said. “I just want to be as ready as possible.”

Named the District 5-4A MVP last season for the Leopards while helping them to the playoffs for the first time in three years, Franco played with a chip on his shoulder.

He expects to have that same mentality at Hill College.

“It’s always kind of a pressure,” Franco said. “Whenever I first joined my FC Dallas team, I knew that if I was patient and I proved myself that I would get more playing time. After a month or two, I became a starter and played most of the game. Over time, you know you have to make your statement and be consistent.”

Last week, Franco concluded his time at the FC Dallas select team, where his team qualified for the regional championship in North Carolina.

His team advanced to the knockout stage and faced a rival FC Dallas premier youth team, who they beat 1-0 to make the final game with a chance to advance to the national championships in Frisco. They lost in penalty kicks.

Franco said it was nice to continue playing soccer in the summer after the Leopards were beaten in the final seconds of their regional quarterfinal playoff game.

“It was hard the playoff game ended, but I knew I had a long season ahead of me with FC Dallas and another chapter in college,” Franco said.

The FC Dallas team and playing for the Leopards were a huge boost to his confidence and skill level according to Franco and he hopes all the work he put in will pay off at Hill College.

“It helped me so much,” Franco said. “I was always a decent player headed into last year, but my coach Chris Che from FC Dallas helped me grow a ton. We had a great year. Soccer is growing in this area and it’s great to see.”

Patrick Hayslip can be reached at sports@gainesvilleregister.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip

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