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Iron Blade

The Student News Site of Ferrum College

Iron Blade

Is There Something in the Women’s Soccer’s Water?

For three years running, the team has had the highest grades on campus
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Erin Saleeby
Thinking both inside and outside the box, the women’s soccer team from left front are: Haley Woodward, junior; Kayla Fedison, junior; Jadyn Patton, sophomore; Anna Milliron, sophomore; Alondra Vera, freshman; Jessie Howison, freshman; Ashlynn Mitcham, junior. Row two from left are: Allyson Tubbs, freshman; Chrissy Russell, freshman; Bri Bitz, junior; Jenny Ruiz, freshman; Madison Cruz, junior; Aubrie Hixson, junior; Camryn King, senior; Amber Gillen, junior; Rachael Deffenbaugh, freshman. Back row from left are: Aubrey Billings, senior; Sayda Rojas-Campbell, freshman; Anna Blaine, sophomore; Sarah Crawford, senior; Ashli Wuss, sophomore; Jamie Adams, junior.

It takes 11 players to field a soccer team. The women’s soccer team here has almost that many in the Boone Honors Program alone.

Per capita, the Panther women have the highest representation in the honor program of any sport on campus, with 10 members out of 23 rostered players. 

More specifically, 44% of the women’s soccer team is in the honor program, and the team has finished with the highest GPAs on campus three years in a row.

Head Coach Erin Saleeby wants it to become the norm.

“It’s definitely a great source of pride for us. We want to be a standard-setting program in many ways, and this is one of them,” Saleeby says.

It can be difficult at times for coaches to make players understand that there’s something else after a player finishes a collegiate career.

I really want my players to be well-rounded people,” Saleeby says. “I want to have great soccer players that also understand that there is more to life and college than playing a sport. I want them to understand that they can do many things while at Ferrum. This includes being good at soccer but also getting a top-notch education. I want them to set themselves up for success past college. Having good grades is a very big part of that.” 

Being the best for three years means that the coaches have found a key to success, but what could that be?

“Recruiting good students is part of the process, but I won’t say no to students that don’t have a great GPA or SAT score,” Saleeby says. “I think that there is room for giving students a chance to succeed and grow.”

She says it’s not about what they did in the past–it’s about what they do when they’re here.

Boone Honors Program Director Lana Whited praises Saleeby’s recruiting efforts and the caliber of student she attempts to bring in.

“I have joked that Erin Saleeby does more recruiting for honors than anyone except me. She consciously looks for students who will fit her team’s high academic ethos, and obviously she finds them,” Whited says.

Once the student is here, the academic piece is a very large part of Saleeby’s program and culture.

“We do study hall for all first-semester freshmen or anyone that falls below a 3.0 GPA at any point during their four years. This is something my assistant and I proctor. We make sure they are getting their work done, and that they are staying on top of what needs to be done,” Saleeby says.

Like any player in any program, there needs to be investment.

“I believe that to be successful in many areas, you have to have a buy-in from the team. The academic piece (as well as most things in our program) are team led. The team believes in what we are doing, and they want everyone to be successful everywhere in life, including academics,” Saleeby says.

The link between academics and level of play may not be as big a difference as people might think.

“I do see a correlation. In order for you to do well academically, you have to be able to have a strong work ethic. You have to be able to have a good balance and good time management. It’s the same for soccer. Players who work hard and take pride in their school work will also work hard and take pride in their sport,” Saleeby says.

Off-the-field issues are sometimes a problem for some schools, but Saleeby’s team isn’t something she worries about. 

“I think our culture is really good, and I trust the team to make good decisions. It is definitely easier to coach knowing that the team is full of good people who are actively trying to make themselves and each other better,” says Saleeby.

One of the players who has bought into Saleeby’s culture and philosophy is Sarah Crawford, senior and member of the Boone Honors Program.

“I am really proud to be a part of a team that values academics so greatly,” Crawford says. “It is always expected of us to try our very best in the classroom and on the field. I take it as an honor to have the best GPA average for three years in a row. The girls on the team are so incredibly smart and kind, and I am so proud of them.”

Crawford sees how the team is on and off the field.

“We strive to be the best people we can be on and off the field. Seeing the girls’ hard work in the classroom directly translates to the field. They are passionate about their education and passionate about the game.”

Haley Woodward, junior, was on the All-ODAC Academic Team this past year, an honor that requires at least a 3.25 GPA and a nomination. Also a Boone honors Program member, she says that academic and athletic dedication are a given. 

“Hard work is a standard on our team,” Woodward says. “Whether that’s on the field or in the classroom, a good work ethic is expected. I think it is really important for us as a team to hold each other accountable in all aspects, not just working hard on the field. However, when hard work is expected at practice and games, it carries over into work in the classroom.”

Woodward says it’s the cooperative spirit within the team that makes them successful.

“We all know who can help who with similar classes. For example, a player on our team is a math major, and everyone knows that they can go to her for help with math work. We all use our individual strengths to help each other and the team,” she says.

While Woodward is proud of the All-ODAC honor, she quickly points to the team.

“It is really rewarding to see all of your hard work pay off. It is also exciting to see your friends and teammates make it alongside you. Individual success is team success in our program,” says Woodward.

President Mirta Martin has also taken notice of the team’s success in the classroom.

“Excellence–in the classroom and on the field–has become a way of life for the ladies of the soccer team,” Martin says. “They lead all athletic teams in academic performance while consistently seeking to improve their performance on the field. I am beyond grateful to have these ladies and all Ferrum College students as ambassadors for the institution.  I can think of no one better to showcase the meaning of excellence than our Panther family.”

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About the Contributor
Cody Gibson
Cody Gibson, Sports Editor
Hi, my name is Cody Gibson but everyone on campus calls me “CG”. I’m currently a junior here. My major is Mass Media and Communications. I’m from Salem, VA which is about an hour away from here, so Ferrum feels like a second home. I play football here. I play Free Safety, wearing number 20. The job I want to pursue after college is a game day announcer or have a podcast that either talks about football or something else that interests me. Some of the things I like to do are working out, being outside, watching football, and chill on the weekends.
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