Ambrose University

Hard Work Leading to Success

Sierra Smith grew up on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River in the city of Prince Albert, where she commenced her outdoor soccer journey at the young age of six. The middle child of a family of four daughters, Smith stopped playing soccer when she was eleven years old due to difficult circumstances within her family. Pushing soccer to the sidelines, she went on to be an impressively well-rounded and versatile athlete at Rivier Academy, where she competed in basketball, volleyball, badminton and track and field, among other activities.  

Taking a year to earn her way

With her high school graduation approaching, Smith was quite sure that she wanted to attend a Bible college, but it was equally important to her that she would be able to work toward a university degree. She can still clearly recall the specific events that unfolded one day, involving a request from one of her friends to “check out Ambrose,” followed by a similar and seemingly random recommendation from her mother on the same night to “consider what Ambrose has to offer.” It was not long after these meaningful conversations that she made the decision to head west to Calgary.

However, before doing so she would need to earn enough money to pay for her upcoming year of education. Taking a gap year, Smith worked full time at a job that she enjoyed very little to work toward something that she would soon get to enjoy a lot. Happy to be where she feels she belongs now, Smith believes that it was the excitement of what was to come in Calgary that motivated her to get through the long days of work. In her words: “Everything worked out for me to come here. I guess it was meant to happen!”

Since arriving, Smith has enjoyed the holistic development that she has experienced through the balance of education, athletics and new friendships that Ambrose offers. The twenty year-old is currently in her second year of General Studies and has hopes of becoming a high school teacher.

Putting in extra hours

Having not played soccer since 2007, Smith was invited to try-out for a rebuilding 2015/16 Women’s Futsal team. Overcoming her nervousness, Smith attended try-outs and was promptly accepted onto the roster. She says: “I noticed a difference in my skill level compared to the other girls so I started going to the gym on Saturday mornings. I would practice passing the ball against the wall by myself, or pull out a net and work on my shot.”

#5, Sierra Smith

She spent many extra hours in the gym working on ball handling and shooting. A season full of hard work behind the scenes helped Smith to improve her skills, increase her strength and grow in confidence. Her passion and determination did not go unnoticed by Lions Head Coach Paul Barnett, who rewarded her with increasing opportunities and playing time as the season progressed. Coach Barnett says, “she is such an inspiration. Her endurance in working hard last year set her up to be an amazing example this year for our newer players.”

Overcoming difficulties within the program

Late in the 2015/16 season the future of ACAC Futsal became questionable. With few teams in the league and a tight budget, the players were unsure if they would see another season. Thankfully, through the heartfelt dedication of a few individuals, the program that is so valued by its athletes has been kept alive. In response to this struggle Smith says, “seeing the dedication of coaches Paul and Mike really motivated us all to not let futsal fall off the grid.”

She also notes that, through overcoming this adversity, the futsal athletes have become more unified and that she is even more grateful now for the opportunity to play. Smith is especially thankful for her coaches and the time that they have dedicated to the team, and for her teammate, Michelle Holmes, who played an important role in helping create the opportunity to compete within the Calgary United Soccer Association (CUSA).

The season to come

The Women’s Futsal team thrives on mutual respect between athletes and a supportive and encouraging environment that “makes you want to be a part of it,” as Sierra Smith explains. Smith typically plays as a striker or a wing, but is prepared to step into “whatever position the team needs” on a given night. As the team is currently struggling through a list of injuries, Smith’s selflessness and team-first mindset will be especially important and appreciated by her teammates and coaches.

As her team’s Athletic Leadership Team (ALT) representative, Smith is growing as a leader and learning how to use her strengths and talents to serve her teammates well. She describes her role as being that of a “mediator”; as a second-year athlete, she is the unifying element between the freshmen and the veterans. Her role on the court is similar; as she explains, “I’m just trying to help make things happen for others.” Her hope for this season is that her “team’s hard work and dedication will have a lasting impact on the future of the futsal program at Ambrose.”

The Lions kicked off their year with a blow-out victory of 11-2 over the Prairie College Pilots. Following this they played in a tournament at Prairie College in which they were thrilled to beat a strong team of Rattlers from Medicine Hat in the semi-final, and went on to lose a hard-fought battle 4-1 against the Red Deer College Queens. The Lions will be playing in CUSA throughout the season in preparation for the ACAC Futsal Championship which will take place in the Lions’ Den on March 2-4, 2017.

Mark your calendars and come hear the ROAR!

- Madyson Kerr