“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
The famous quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson can sum up the soccer career for Columbus North senior Aidan Whitley. It was a bunch of highs and lows and ups and downs for Whitley during his four years with the program. After seeing his crosstown Columbus East have postseason success his eighth grade through sophomore years, it was Whitley and rest of the Bull Dogs’ opportunity to shine. Whitley made the most of the opportunity and catapulted North into a state runner-up and final four competitor his junior and senior years.
When Whitley was in middle school, he saw the Bull Dogs endure their only two losing seasons in 2018 and 2019. That all changed when Whitley’s senior class and the previous graduating class completely turned the program around in less than three years.
“The culture and adapting to high school culture was definitely a learning curve, but I had a great time doing it,” said Whitley, The Republic Boys Soccer Player of the Year. “I met a lot of good friends, some of my best friends, and it all escalated exponentially from there.”
Soccer was in Whitley’s blood since the day he was born. His father Dane was a standout at North and Notre Dame. Dane also was an assistant coach for both the Bull Dog boys and girls teams.
Aidan’s two older sisters also had success in soccer at North. Elise, a 2019 graduate, reached the semistate with the girls team in 2016, and Lauryn, a 2021 graduate, reached the semistate with the girls in 2020 and is the school’s girls all-time assists leader.
While Aidan Whitley admits it put pressure on him living up to his family’s expectations, he eventually grew out of it and realized all his family wanted was to see him succeed.
“I remember being in middle school and driving up to semistate games and hearing about them winning all these games and scoring all these goals. It got me sitting here thinking I want to do that, too,” Whitley said. “They don’t bug me about my soccer, but they’re extremely supportive and want to see me succeed.”
Whitley led the Bull Dogs this season with 13 goals and 12 assists. He was named to the first-team All-State and All-District 4 boys’ teams by the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association and was also an All-Conference Indiana selection.
“Aidan regularly worked with a ball from the early stages in his development as a player. This continued throughout his tenure playing soccer in Columbus,” North coach Andy Glover said. “High level players regularly spend time with the ball because they know its feedback is very honest. It’s not a coincidence that Aidan is one of, if not the, best player on the field when the team plays. His skills on the ball permit him to focus on the tactical plans for the team. Aidan knows his role and does his best to fulfill it.”
Obviously, the biggest influence in Whitley’s soccer career has been his father. Aidan recalls watching his dad play in an adult soccer league when he was in elementary school. Sometimes, even Aidan would join in and play soccer with the men. Of course, it was tough for Aidan to adapt, but said it made him become a better soccer player.
With their home within walking distance of the Richard Wigh Soccer Complex fields, they would grab a bag of balls and cones and work on kicking and shooting. Aidan credits his father for really teaching him the beginning basics of soccer, as well as his sisters and soccer coaches as he grew older.
“All credit goes to my dad and sisters and the coaches around me. They really push me to become great,” Aidan Whitley said.
Glover will have several voids to fill for next season with Whitley and the talented senior class graduating.
“Aidan and the senior group leave big shoes to fill,” Glover said. “His competitive nature in competition and training is inspiring to his teammates. The aforementioned have a very positive effect on the culture of the team, which is very significant. This has created lofty expectations for the team going forward.”
Whitley plans to play college soccer. He hasn’t decided on a school yet, but he is excited for the next four years.
While he won’t don the North uniform again, Whitley cherishes all the memories he’s made playing for the Bull Dogs.
“I’ll always remember winning semistate my junior year, winning regional my senior year, all those moments,” Whitley said. “What I’m going to hold dearest to me is the 6:30 a.m. (practices) three days a week during the summer because that’s when people show their true colors. You figure out who is dependable and who you can count on. Those moments, they really help create the best memories.”
The Republic All-Area Boys Soccer team:
Aidan Whitley, Columbus North: The senior led the Bull Dogs with 13 goals and 12 assists.
Christian Cardoso, Columbus North: The senior netted 12 goals and four assists.
Nico Gotoh, Columbus North: The senior recorded eight goals and three assists.
Misaki Takemoto, Columbus North: The senior netted seven goals and eight assists.
Thomas De La Cruz, Columbus North: The junior had one goal and one assist and led a defense that allowed only 23 goals in 21 games.
Konnor Gribbins, Columbus North: The junior helped lead a defense that allowed only 23 goals in 21 games.
Leo Iorio, Columbus North: The sophomore had one goal and two assists and helped lead a defense that allowed only 23 goals in 21 games.
Juan Jose Salcedo Calderon, Columbus North: The junior recorded 46 saves and allowed only 19 goals in 18 games.
Martin Simon Rodriguez, Columbus East: The junior led the Olympians with 19 goals.
Gui Silva Coelho, Columbus East: The senior netted one goal and six assists.
Justin Sylva, Columbus East: The senior had one goal and four assists and led a defense that allowed only 24 goals in 15 games.
Christian Hernandez, Jennings County: The senior netted three goals and five assists.
Brown County: Carter Norcutt. Columbus East: Boston Ely, Eduardo Aranda-Michel, Emilio Quintero Aguirre. Columbus North: Derek Arau Ortiz, Sam Brown, Obed Oliva, Bryan Rodriguez, Madux Tovey. Hauser: Luke Bruner, Camden Grimes, Ethan House, Lakota Robbins, Zach Weichman. Jennings County: Keiton Miller. Trinity Lutheran: Andrew Lemming, Peyton Pollert, Levi Pottschmidt.