More Than Just for Kicks

“At this point in my life soccer has single-handedly given me the best and worst moments of my life…soccer can really do that, y’know?” – EBHS Senior, Charlie Smalley

Smalley+shows+off+her+new+varsity+jacket+to+commemorate+her+time+on+the+EB+Girls%27+Soccer+team.+

Caroline Serpico

Smalley shows off her new varsity jacket to commemorate her time on the EB Girls’ Soccer team.

Caroline Serpico, Bear Hub Staff

For any hard-working student-athlete, recounting their experience with a sport will often be confined to one season, and described as a cherished mere couple of games. However, Senior Charlie Smalley’s experience on the EBHS Girls Soccer team proves to be much more than a handful of games – she’s been able to practice a lifelong passion surrounded by her family forged from the field. 

When I first reached out to Charlie to answer some questions about her incredible experience playing soccer, she couldn’t have been more thrilled. Those close to her know that Smalley has lived what seems like a lifetime on the field, facing some of the most challenging and triumphant moments of her life on the turf. 

Smalley’s passion for the sport began young: “I started playing at four-years-old for the East Brunswick soccer club. I was put on a team called the fairy princesses.” Once starting as an EBHS student, she regularly played as an outside forward for the girls’ soccer team.

Caroline Serpico
Charlie Smalley, 12, poses in front of the goal post, smiling so naturally from the memories associated with the turf.

A common misconception, Smalley notes, is the dedication she has learned it takes out on the field for hours at a time: “I think that a lot of people think this sport is super easy. It gets a lot of hate from other sports for being ‘easy,’ but it really takes a lot of work and conditioning. None of what we do out there on that field is easy.”

In fact, Smalley faced one of the most challenging and memorable moments of her life during her senior night game, as she struggled to score a vital penalty kick: 

“One thing I am very confident in is Penalty Kicks, but man – I could not score [that night]. I had a running joke with the girls that Charlie repellent was being sprayed on the fields…I don’t know if anyone can fully understand how badly I wanted to score. Every inch of me wanted it…I will never forget watching that ball hit the back of the net. Instantly, tears came rolling down my face and I was swarmed by everyone…I felt like I had the whole town behind me.” 

This was Smalley’s first goal that night, and a time she remembers as the “best moment of [her] life.”

“At this point in my life soccer has single-handedly given me the best and worst moments of my life…soccer can really do that, y’know?”

With the euphoric highs and heartbreaking lows that unpredictably come and go each game, I wondered what it was that makes it all worth it at the end of the day. To Smalley, the answer is simple: everything. 

“13 years is a lot to give to one thing. I’ve devoted every weekend to play soccer games all over the east coast…but the reason I kept going is my passion for this game. I can’t really put it into words, but it gives you this rush. Nothing in the whole world can compare to jumping in a huge swarm of your teammates after the first goal of your entire varsity career or defeating a rival in a double-overtime golden goal game.”

The bond created between the team of more than thirty people seems to be a key component of the teams’ motivation, as the girls continue to grow and share every emotion on and off the field. 

“We come from many different friend groups, families, backgrounds and grades; but it does not matter in the slightest…we sing and dance and eat dinner together. We cry together over the hard times and jump and scream and celebrate the happiest.”

To Smalley, soccer is more than just a sport – it’s an extreme physical, mental, and emotional journey that has shaped her into the person she is today.