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Gila Ridge's Smith takes skills to the next level with Olympic Development Program
At age 15, Sheridan Smith is already working toward her goal of playing soccer in college — as well as playing for the U.S. national team at the Olympics.
The Gila Ridge sophomore forward is a member of the 19-player roster for the Arizona Youth Soccer Association Olympic Development Program. The program gives young athletes the chance to face teams from around the country as well as the opportunity to work with college coaches.
“I want to go to college for soccer and eventually like go farther and farther — as far as I can with it,” Smith said. “I decided to try this. My parents told me to try it out because it was a good opportunity and it might teach me stuff. Then I ended up making it.”
But making the team was no easy task. Smith went through a number of practices with the ODP, which led to more and more girls getting cut from the program until the final roster was reached.
“Everyone wants it — you can tell everyone wants to be there,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting on the field, you can that they want it and they are in the game. It's really neat and a cool experience.
“I was really excited (to make the team). It was a good accomplishment. Coming from Yuma, I didn't really know what to expect. There were these girls up there that were trained so hard — then making it, I was just really, really excited.”
Smith and the Arizona ODP team took part in a tournament earlier this month where they faced off against teams from areas like Washington, California and New Mexico.
The whole experience, Smith said, has made her a better player — and it's rubbing off on her Gila Ridge teammates.
“I learned a lot and I kind of want to share it with them (her Gila Ridge teammates), too. A couple weeks ago, I learned this little drill and I picked it up and told them about it and they we're like, ‘Oh, this is really cool!' So we just started doing it at practice.”
Smith has come far in her seven-year soccer career. She moved to Yuma when she was 8 years old with hopes of continuing to run track, but found no teams to join. Because she loved to run, Smith's dad suggested that she try out for soccer.
“I ended up being kind of good at it, I guess. It took a lot of work at first, I wasn't very skilled. But then I started picking up with my speed and everything. I like being competitive and I like sports, so I just kind of stuck with it.”
Hard work and lots of practice paid off for Smith as she made the Gila Ridge varsity roster as a freshman. Her mother, Sheri Smith, said her daughter has always pushed herself to be better.
“She's always kind of played up to get to those players who were more at her level,” Sheri Smith said. “She's worked hard for it.”
Even though graduation is still two years away, Smith will attend a camp at Arizona State University in February hosted by her coach of the ODP team — head coach of the ASU women's soccer team. At the camp, Smith said, she will learn about the recruiting process and what she will need to work on in order to take the next step in achieving her goal of playing soccer in college and beyond.
“I definitely want to play in college. I want a scholarship — that's definite. But if I make it farther and farther, that's great. I just want to go as far as I can go. To play in the Olympics — that'd be cool. It's kind of a dream.”
Erin Redmond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6880. Find her on Facebook at facebook.com/YSErinRedmond.