Talent only gets you so far; it’s hard work that helps you succeed. Some students at Leigh have exhibited this–they have earned positions on national teams or early recruitments to prestigious colleges. They represent dedication and hard work, by pursuing their passion.
As of October, 2014, Emily Smith, junior, has been selected to play with a scholarship for the women’s soccer team at University of California, Berkeley. From around the age of four, Smith has always had a passion for soccer. At age ten, she joined the De Anza Force club soccer team as her way of committing to play soccer. Freshman year, during tryouts, it was clear that she had talent, and soon became a part of the varsity roster. Committing to Berkeley and being on the varsity soccer team as a freshman are both huge accomplishments, and Smith didn’t stop there. In Dec. of 2015, Smith had her first camp for the Women’s National U- 17 soccer team, and on Jan. 9, 2016, she became an official member of the team.
“It’s always been a dream to play college soccer, but I never even imagined being a part of a national team. It is so exciting and I’m so honored to be a part of it!” said Smith.
Smith continues to work hard both academically and on the field to achieve her goals.
“My goals are to stay on the national team and hopefully win a World Cup in October, and prepare myself and improve as much as I can for the soccer team at Cal,” said Smith.
Another soccer player shares the same aspiration in playing soccer. However, her situation is a little different. Being born hard of hearing, Dani Wheeler, junior, has had to overcome more than most athletes. Growing up, she has played many sports from lacrosse, basketball, tap dance, gymnastics, ballet, and of course soccer. When it came down to choosing a focus, Wheeler chose soccer due to her passion for the sport. After years of hard work, Wheeler made the Women’s National Deaf team in 2014, yet had some more challenges that set her back. In 8th grade, Wheeler tore her left ACL and sprained her MCL and meniscus, and after a couple of years later in 2015, she did the same thing but on her other knee. After six to seven months of recovery, Wheeler was back on the field and playing for the national team again. Wheeler has learned to become more aware of her surroundings on the field by not relying on a sense of sound. Playing among others that share her disability, Wheeler explains how it has helped her grow as an athlete.
“It has shaped me by playing smarter and knowing where my teammates should be. To communicate, we wave our hands in the air a lot more and we have to look up more often. The coaches use a yellow flag in which they throw on the floor to stop the play. I get nervous and panic a little bit since I can’t hear as much, but it makes me more alert with my surroundings,” said Wheeler.
Soccer star Andrew Paoli is another junior striving towards a successful career in soccer. A member of the San Jose Earthquakes Academy, Paoli has been playing at high levels of soccer for many years, while simultaneously achieving academic success. Playing since he was the age of three, he has been pushing himself to improve and become a well-rounded athlete. Managing soccer and maintaining grades is something that many talented athletes struggle with. However Paoli makes it seem easy.
“It’s hard to be away from school sometimes because you get behind on homework, but I work hard to catch up and try to get my work done ahead of time,” said Paoli.
Noticing Paoli’s outstanding attributes, and what he has to offer on the field, many prestigious colleges have taken interest in him during his sophomore year. After a hard decision, Paoli decided to commit to University of California, Los Angeles on November 2015.
“I was getting recruited by other schools but I chose UCLA because of their fantastic soccer program, plus I really like the location in Southern California,” said Paoli.
With his humble attitude and strict determination, Paoli is also a member of the U- 17 US Men’s National team. Although he was unable to play for Leigh’s team, his efforts on the soccer field go beyond the local community.