Name: Laurel Ivory
Occupation: High School Student
If you ask Laurel Ivory what she has her mind on these days, you will not get something that sounds like a typical high school Freshman response. In fact, Laurel has a sense of purpose and a talent that is unique even when compared to most adults that I know. Wise beyond her years, talented beyond measure, passionate about soccer, Laurel is dedicated to becoming the number one goalkeeper in the country.
This is not just a kid with a dream. This is determined young woman who's got a real shot. Laurel was playing Varsity High School soccer as a middle school student, has been on the ODP Team (Olympic Development Program) since 2011, and was recently selected to attend the Women's Youth National Goalkeeper Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. Her ultimate goal is to make the National Team and attending this camp means she's in the running. Laurel's second goal is to make the Women's Olympic Soccer Team. Let’s just put that into perspective for a sec – her second goal is the Olympics.
Laurel began playing soccer when she was 4 years old. By age 12 she was getting phone calls from higher level teams. It was at this time that Laurel also began to realize that she was doing things on the field that other players in her league simply couldn’t do.
I spoke to Laurel and her mother Jacque about what it’s been like to be on this journey. Both Laurel and her mom emphasize the fact that this is 100% Laurel. There is no parental pressure at all. Jacque says that Laurel has no “shut off valve” when it comes to the pursuit of her dream. In fact, by the time she was in 7th grade, Laurel was the one asking her coach to stay an extra hour after practice to train. This type of discipline from a 7th grader sort of blew me away. So I asked Laurel, when did you start initiating your own workouts?
“When I found out I had a chance to be the #1 goalkeeper in the country. I was going 100 mile per hour. I just kept telling myself: ‘I gotta get better.’ I don’t care how long it takes.”
In the summer of 2013 Laurel was cut from the Regional Team which took her out of the running to advance to the next level and ultimately the National Team. Even though she made honorable mention, she was destroyed. Her mom stepped in at this point and reminded her “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.” Laurel picked herself up and refocused on making the National Team with fierce determination. She was so focused on achieving this goal that she did not realize how quickly she was improving. The hard work she was putting brought some unexpected opportunities.
Laurel was selected to attend US National Camp later in 2013. The camp, coincidentally, was being held at the same time that the Regional team was playing (the team Laurel had been cut from). One door closes and another opens... but this is only true because Laurel was able to persevere, and because she was strong enough to rise above the disappointment that came with being cut in the first place. Yes, she has an incredible talent, but she also has mindset of a champion whether she realizes it or not.
“She really is in the moment,” her mom says. “She doesn’t get flustered. She’s only 15, she doesn’t have anything to compare it to. It’s a crazy concept – we barely get it. She gets to the top of the heap, and then there’s a whole new mountain to climb.”
And Laurel is always ready for the next mountain. In fact, often times she is seeking it out herself. She takes the initiative to contact coaches, to fit in extra workouts, and to make sure she stays on top of her school work.
Laurel’s next step is to decide what college team she is going to play for. Women’s soccer is extremely competitive and the scholarship money dries up quickly. Players start getting recruited in 8th grade, and Laurel is one of those players. Her top picks at the moment are UVA and Stanford. By her Sophomore year that decision will be made and Laurel will sleep a little easier.
All of these incredible opportunities have made for a unique high school experience. She misses a lot of school and has to figure out how to make up the work. If her grades slip, she’s not allowed to play (mom’s rule). And then there is the social aspect - Laurel rarely has a conversation that does not revolve around soccer and sometimes the other kids at school just don’t understand.
“I don’t care what other people think. I realize I’m on a different path. It comes down to what I think of myself , what the coaches think of me, and what I can do to improve. I take in the good and I take in the bad and then evaluate myself. What people say isn’t going to change what I think.”
If only all 15 year old girls could think like this. I asked Laurel where she get’s her confidence and her perspective. Can we bottle it up and pass it around in school cafeterias?
“I get it from my mom. My mom is a strong woman.”
As a mom, this statement gets me teary eyed and fired up (in a good way) at the same time. It makes me realize what an important job Jacque has, what an important job all parents have. Laurel is blazing her own path, but Jacque has been there to help guide her and offer wisdom beyond what Laurel’s 15 years are often capable of. It’s incredible.
I know what Jacque means when she says this is “100% Laurel” – the drive, the dedication, the pure love of soccer. But Jacque has taken on the responsibility of facilitating this dream in any way she can. A lot of the time this requires dealing with logistics, paper work, schedules, etc. But we can’t forget the impact we have as parents by simply being present, demonstrating strength, and offering love. This is who Jacque and the rest of the family, including her brother Cameron, have been for Laurel.
“In no way would I be where I am today without Cameron. No matter what I do or say to him he always has my back and supports me as well as gives me advice that helps a lot when I'm stressed out.”
Another role model is Laurel’s best friend’s dad and coach from when she was 4 years old - Coach Sean Flynn.
“Every time I see him I find the girl who fell in love with soccer at the age of 4 and to keep myself grounded. When he coaches me for brief moments over the summer I realize that not many people are in the same place as me and coach Flynn puts everything in perspective for me.”
Laurel knows where to go to get the support she needs as she grows as an athlete and a young woman. The relationships she has built have not only made her a better soccer player, they have helped her become something of a role model herself. I thought I'd give her the opportunity to dish out some advice to young girls who want to compete at an elite level:
“Analyze what you want to accomplish, realize that there will be sacrifices made, and don't stop working until you become the soccer player you want to be. You need to love the sport in order to be where I am and if you don't have the one true passion it's going to be much more difficult.”
We are very proud to welcome Laurel to the "Fashletics Family" and we can't wait to see how far she goes in her soccer career. If I had to guess, I'd say she'll go as far as she can dream.