Ask Dixie High School full-back Ashlyn Smith what she loves most about soccer and her eyes will light up. “I just love soccer!” she will exclaim. “I feel like I can relax when I’m on the field. I can put all my stress behind me, and I feel at home.”
“I have a desire and passion to play,” says Ashlyn” When I get on the field I don’t think about anything else.”
Ashlyn’s mom, Katie Smith, agrees that Ashlyn’s passion for soccer is unquenchable. Katie says that she has never heard Ashlyn complain about attending a practice. Katie says, “Whether she is tired or not, there’s energy that’s there. She always looks forward to a practice or a game.”
Ashlyn’s love of the game translates into a determination to become the best player she can, even when met with disappointment. Ashlyn recalls playing on her first club team, the Strikers FC, around the age of 12. “Our first season we ever played together, we didn’t win one game,” she relates. “The next season we were determined to win.”
One of Ashlyn’s fondest memories was when her team finally scored during their second season. She was so excited she ran off the field and jumped up to hug her dad, Joseph Smith, who was an assistant coach of her team.
That same club team began winning more and more. Their second season they did very well, and by their third season, they were champions.
Just like that first club team, Ashlyn’s development has continued to be steady. This can be attributed to the heart and determination she possesses. In the 8th grade, Ashlyn participated in the Olympic Development Program. “They had a team they were having try outs for, and they were going to go to a tournament in Vegas,” she recalls. “I tried out for the team, and I actually didn’t make it.” That was really hard for Ashlyn, but after a night of tears, Ashlyn resolved to show that she deserved to be on that team.
As an alternate, she was able to continue to practice with the team. “I tried to work super hard to show them that I was good enough,” she says, “and it turned out that there was a girl that got injured, so they said, “Hey, you’re on the team! Let’s go!’.”
Joseph remembers, “She ended up, by the end of the week, starting and made a huge contribution to the team.” He adds that this kind of determination is typical of Ashlyn when met with disappointment. “She will look at the situation after the pain and say, ‘I’m going to double down, I’m going to work twice as hard, and I’m going to overcome this’.”
When Ashlyn injured her ankle twice this year, her determination helped her make a full recovery. Ashlyn rolled her ankle during the high school season and had to sit out for two games. In January, she rolled the same ankle playing with her club team, suffering a severe high-ankle sprain.
This injury came at a time when she was preparing to go to the Las Vegas Showcase, a tournament frequented by college coaches looking at future recruits.
“We knew that there were some coaches that were coming to watch her play, so we worried about if she was going to be ready in time and conditioned and that sort of thing,” says Joseph. “To her credit, she did exactly what her trainer asked her to do and what her physical therapist asked her to do.”
Ashlyn also had to make the tough decision to sit out of several games for her club team. “That was probably the hardest thing for her because she didn’t want to let her teammates or her coach down,” says Joseph. “She had to sacrifice some short-term things for a long range goal.”
Joseph reports that she was able to not only participate in the tournament, but play better than she ever had before.
Looking back on the experience, Ashlyn recalls, “I realized that I can overcome hardships. I wouldn’t want to do that all over again, for sure, but I definitely learned that it’s not an easy road to do what you want to do.”
Ashlyn applies this can-do spirit to other aspects of her life, such as school. Ashlyn recognizes that, with her goal to play soccer in college, she needs to not only have skill on the field, but also be able to kill it in the classroom. She says the discipline she has developed with soccer translates into doing what needs to be done to be prepared for class. Her 3.95 GPA attests that her discipline is paying off.
In addition to soccer, Ashlyn is also an accomplished dancer. Ashlyn began dancing at the age of three at Southwest Dance, the studio her maternal grandmother started and Katie continues to direct.
When asked if her dance background has helped her in soccer, she says, “It really helps with the core and all the movement.”
“I’ve noticed her balance and agility, her muscle reflex,” Katie adds. “She’s quick to change directions, and then of course, she’s flexible. That helps to kick a good ball off the field.”
As she comes to the close of her junior year, Ashlyn’s future looks bright. In order to prepare for next season, her summer schedule is packed with soccer camps and conditioning with the Dixie High School team. A highlight of her summer will be accepting an invitation from Anson Dorance, who coached Mia Hamm, to play at North Carolina University’s Academy Camp.
After high school, Ashlyn plans to play soccer at the university level and serve a mission for the LDS church. There is little doubt that she will be able to accomplish these goals. As Joseph says, “When she decides that she wants to do something, achieve a goal, she doesn’t let anything get in her way. That’s why she is a great athlete, a great student, and a great person.” • HSSI