You can't know Alice and not be impressed by this young woman. She's earned the love and adoration of friends as well as family. Of course her parents are proud, but the whole DSC family has reason to celebrate her story as well. Look closely - it's hard to imagine that she didn't just leave our fields this past Saturday.
I've known Alice for a few years now. She's always smiling, always helping, always picking those up around her, and just generally making the world a better place. I love when she marches with us through Damascus for the Celebrate Damascus Parade in July. She's got a ball at her feet. She wears our classic red and black with pride. She looks like she's having fun, and she's a hoot to talk with. She's the only girl I know who would offer to juggle a soccer ball 1,000 times just to inspire the girls from our Dolphins team an show them that it could be done.
Alice Walker dribbling the ball in a DSC academy game
Alice is the tiny girl in the foreground facing away from the camera in the middle. Small compared to her soccer peers, she has more than enough heart to keep up with whatever comes her way!
Alice Walker with the DSC Sparks - a Damascus Soccer Club Girls Select Travel Team
Alice started playing soccer at the Discovery Sports Center at the Maryland Soccerplex when she was three years old. Her mom and dad signed her up for the indoor tots program. They met once per week on Saturdays and Dad acted as Uber before it's time.
In the Fall of that year, she transferred up to the Damascus Soccer Club. She was 4 years old and according to her mom, it was chaos!
It looked like 20 kids were all running around and swarming the ball
- Cherie Walker, Alice's Mom
Alice loved it! They wore t-shirts that went to their knees and had a blast!
The following Fall, Alice played for what was then known as the DSC Kindergarten Academy. Her older brother played soccer & a family tradition was in the making.
Her mom related that Alice was frustrated because she couldn't understand why her older brother's team kept score and she couldn't play "real games" and keep score. Of course, she was too young to realize yet that development was disguised for her age group as many fun soccer-like games vs formally structured games. She played on!
For the next four years, Alice played for a variety of Damascus Soccer Club coaches. She played co-ed through the second grade and continued to play for girls teams through the fourth grade.
The summer before her fifth grade, she tried out for the DSC Sparks - the all-girls Damascus Soccer Club travel team for her age. She was still by far the smallest girls on the team. She told her parents over dinner that one of the drills the team did was kick the ball and try to hit the cross bar. She couldn't even come close! She just wasn't strong enough! She played on!
Her soccer team, the DSC Sparks became her soccer family for the next four years. The parents were great, the girls were awesome, and the team manager was "the absolute best" according to her mom. The coach emphasized Development - which was exactly what she needed.
Damascus had formed a relationship with the Washington Spirit Super Y - a summer club program that allowed Alice to continue to develop as a player and pursue her goal of playing in college. Super Y played kids in tournaments which gave Alice added visibility by college coaches.
Her final three years were on a team called Thunder that split between MSC and Rush in search of tournaments and exposure, and for her senior year, she got the opportunity to play for the Washington Spirit MD team where she was picked up by UNC Asheville.
Lest you believe that Alice was a one-sport athlete who was all about soccer, soccer, soccer, and nothing else: Alice played t-ball, softball, basketball, and swam all through middle school. She also tried horseback riding and ballet. She loves music, played the bass guitar, the ukelele, and sings!
I think playing music is a huge part of what helps her stay balanced today.
- Cherie Walker, Alice's Mom
Alice says she was very lucky to have the coaches she had. All the DSC coaches were very positive and encouraging. Her coaches didn't yell or use negativity to communicate with players. By the time she got to high school, she had developed enough confidence in herself to know that even if a coach did yell or say something negative, it wasn't usually a reflection on her as a player or a person. She had developed confidence and resilience!
We asked Alice what she thinks kept her grounded throughout this process and what made it fun. She laughed and said a lot of what kept it fun was that she just genuinely enjoys playing.
Sure, there are days I don't want to go to practice. But once I get there and start playing, it's fun and I like it. It's like any kind of exercise. The hardest part sometimes is just getting out of bed.
- Alice Walker
Chris Walker, Alice's Dad, showing the difference between two goal sizes
This story would not be complete without recognizing the many years of volunteerism that Alice's parents put into the Damascus Soccer Club. Stories like hers are not solo hero stories without support. Alice's dad, Chris Walker coached for DSC as a volunteer dad and served as our Club's Field and Equipment Manager for many years. Chris was always out on the fields making sure they stayed lined, on the phones reserving and returning fields from the County, in the sheds making sure the equipment was in good working order, and even taking a weed whacker to the grass to clean things up and make the look cared for.
Success like the one Alice has enjoyed is no mere accident. There is a correlation between this Walker-like family involvement and success of our most successful players (whether they go on to play soccer or pursue any career). When families volunteer and get involved with their kid's lives, they become role models and set a strong positive example.
And it's still working! As recently as this past year, Alice marched with us in the parade and even helped out with the Sandra Melgar fun tournament. She is truly a well-balanced success story for our community and for our grassroots approach to youth sports.
Alice Walker is an awesome example of what character, development, and fun through youth sports can do for families and for the lives of our young people transitioning into adulthood.
We celebrate Alice's recent success and hope to see her again when school lets out and she's got some time to come back and inspire more kids to follow in her footsteps!
Alice Walker signing to play Division 1 soccer for UNC Asheville - February 7, 2018
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