[su_carousel source=”media: 180209,180208,180207,180206,180205,180204,180203,180202,180201,180200,180199,180198,180197,180196,180195,180194,180193,180192,180191,180190,180189,180188,180187,180186,180185,180184,180183,180182,180181,180180,180179,180178″ limit=”50″ link=”lightbox” width=”400″ height=”220″ items=”4″ scroll=”4″ title=”no” autoplay=”3500″]
Although soccer is “just a sport,” it has without a doubt shaped me into the person I am today. I started playing soccer when I was 5 years old. just a little mini Carlee. the first couple years, I was the littlest girl on the field, running around chasing butterflies while my pig tails bounced around. my parents cheered me on and were so proud when I just touched the ball. something clicked when I was about 8 years old. and when I say something clicked, I mean my competitive spirit. I all of a sudden wanted to win every game. I didn’t want girls to be better than me (even if we were on the same team
As I got older I understood the game more and I found what my strengths (and weaknesses) were. not to mention, I had the best coach and mentor. I credit Philippe Blin (and my parents) for most of the success that I have had in soccer. I played for a club team called Pleasanton Rage. that obnoxious orange team that stood out at tournaments. we were pretty much a group of ballers. from the time we were little tykes, we were known as the dream team. probably sounds like i’m bragging (i might be a little) but I really am just proud to be a part of such an incredible group of girls. we competed in competitive leagues, tournaments, and went to nationals twice. looking back on my Rage experience, I gained an incredible amount of life lessons. perseverance, hard work, practice, passion, fighting for my end goal- just to name a few. another HUGE take away has been the memories and lifelong friends I have made. I keep in touch with so many of my teammates, a few were even bridesmaids in my wedding. the countless hours of practice and traveling, goofing off in hotel rooms, painting sports bras and underwear for game day and team pasta feeds will never be forgotten. glory days people.
Throughout my club and high school days, I played ODP (Olympic Development Program). I got the chance to play at the local level, regional level, and national level. it was the coolest experience to play with girls from all over the country who just had an immense amount of talent. seriously skills pouring out of their ears. this was also a way for my future college coaches to know me as a player.
High school soccer. man, we had it good. I had a little bit of a rough start in the beginning but it was all meant to be. my soccer friends (the rage babes) and I tried out for the varsity squad our freshmen year. it was pretty intimidating trying out with seniors but I felt like we all had a pretty good try out. as I looked for my name on the list, I read through all my friends and didn’t see me. on the jv list, there read “Carlee Payne.” I ran straight to our car and cried. like not just i’m a little sad tears, but my life is over tears. I know this sounds super snotty since I made the jv team as a freshmen, but I was shooting for the stars. I set my goals high. I told my mom I was quitting soccer. she told me I could do what I wanted (with a subtle mom push to not give up). I ended up making myself go to that jv practice, so sad but very humbled. I asked the varsity coach why I didn’t make the team and he honestly (brutally honestly) told me I was too small and he didn’t think I would be able to hold my own. that was just fuel to my fire. I worked so hard the next couple weeks- becoming the most aggressive player on the field. scary feisty. we were only a couple games into the season when the head coach of the varsity team asked me to move up and play on his team. I was pretty pumped. pretty nervous. he started me in the first game and I scored two goals. all I wanted to say to him was “suck on that.” sorry but it’s the truth. I then started the rest of my career, but I never forgot that moment and the things I have learned. my high school team was talented. it was pretty much my whole club team. we went 21-1 my senior season (don’t want to talk about that 1. still not over it). but we were ranked number 1 in the nation by ESPN Rise. now I really sound like i’m bragging huh?
The day I got recruited for BYU. I remember my coach told me that the BYU coaches called him and wanted to set up a meeting with me because they were interested in having me play for them. at that time, I made my list of dream schools, and BYU wasn’t on the top 10. I had talked to some of the schools I wanted to play for and set up meetings with the coaches. I was in utah and figured I might as well see what they had to say. we met and seriously it was love at first sight. (not with the coahes- gross). I toured the school, the athletic facilities, met the coaching staff and all the girls. it. just. felt. right. there really is no other way to describe it other than it just felt like the place I needed to be. it felt like home. I told my dad I was going to commit there. he asked if I wanted to at least meet with the other schools to make sure it was the right choice and I said no. I canceled all meetings and committed to be a BYU Cougar. looking back, this may have been the best decision of my life. bold statement right? playing for this team and attending this university has changed me for the better. plus I met the man of my dreams who I will be married to for eternity. not a bad gig right?
My BYU soccer experience was one of a kind. it started off with a freshmen year of insane amounts of hard work, traveling lots, some girl drama, adjusting to the speed of the game, and last but not least the viral New Mexico vs. BYU game. yep.. poor #7 is me. my claim to fame is that I got beat up up national television. yikes.
Then ups and downs throughout the next couple seasons. so many memories and laughs with all of these girls. then came our senior season. I got married the summer before this season, so my support system was so much stronger. danny and I would go out multiple times a week and I would shoot on him. our class trained hard for this final year. we were playing amazing and beating all the teams we needed to beat. we won our conference and we were given a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. (if you don’t know soccer- only 4 teams are given a number one seed- so it was pretty cool). at that time we were ranked number 2 in the country. the highest BYU soccer has ever been ranked. am I bragging again? shoot. we went to the elite eight! also the furthest we’ve gotten. we barely lost (to the team who won the whole thing). it was a hard loss but I was so proud of all we had accomplished. it felt good ending on such a high note.
With that being said, it was not easy to finish. I still get sad thinking how I will never play on a competitive team again. it still breaks my heart knowing I won’t get to see my 20 closest friends every day for 2 hours. I still haven’t found that immense passion for something that I had for soccer. it is sometimes hard going to a BYU soccer game and cheering on a team that I was once a part of. it has been hard finding my identity post soccer. I had surgery on both of my feet from ongoing problems. but I would never take it back for anything. in fact, I would do it all over. the exact same way. I will cherish the memories I have had for ever and ever. the friends I have made will be in my life till we are old and wrinkly. I gained such a strong relationship traveling with my parents every other weekend. soccer shaped me into the Carlee I am today.
If you are a young aspiring soccer player, please remember to NEVER give up on your dreams. always work harder than those around you. play with heart and passion. practice on your own. ask questions and learn the game. but most importantly, don’t forget to have fun. the memories you will make with your teammates and family will be memories that you will share with your grand kids. when it stops being fun, stop playing. seriously. one phrase I would always tell myself before every single soccer game I played was “walk off that field with no regrets.” this applies to all sports and all aspects in life. live with no regrets.