by Colton Campbell

When Abby Smithwick steps on the pitch, nothing else in her life matters.

“All of the stress, all of the deadlines and the expectations, they just go away,” said Smithwick, the center midfielder on the University of West Georgia’s soccer team. “Being a college student and an athlete has been the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken in life.”

Abby SmithwickThe UWG student-athlete has been playing soccer since she was 5 years old and, as a senior in her last year of eligibility, will be hanging up her cleats at the end of this season.

“I will always play and love soccer, but after this season, I’m probably never going to play at this level again,” said Smithwick, who plans to graduate in May 2020 with a degree in health and community wellness. “It’s just a weird, bittersweet feeling that you have to go out there and enjoy every minute because it’s going to be gone before you know it.”

In her position on the team, Smithwick is involved in every offensive play. If the person playing that position isn’t involved, she said, “that’s a problem.”

“I love the team aspect of this sport and how someone always has my back, motivating me to push farther and harder,” she said. “Being on the soccer team has made me a completely different person and allowed me to gain a lot of confidence in myself. I’m not at all the same person as I was when I started.”

Smithwick learned from adversity during her transition between high school and college, arriving on campus a few weeks before classes started in her freshman year and having to jump right into soccer practice.

“The season started in three weeks, so that took a lot of maturing in a short amount of time, figuring out how to manage my time and juggle the demands of being on the team with figuring out how I was going to live on my own,” Smithwick said. “But that adversity and those challenges made me who I am today – they molded me to push me out of my comfort zone.”

Smithwick’s mother – and best friend, she’s quick to add – was her coach growing up. She’s also an emergency room nurse. Smithwick will follow in her footsteps after graduation, also pursuing a career in the healthcare industry.

“I love the mission of healthcare environments that are constantly working to help people,” said Smithwick, a Fayetteville native. “I also love the adrenaline rush of the hospital environment. It’s kind of like how it is on the soccer field. Everyone has one ultimate goal: to help people in the hospital or to win the game in soccer.”

For now, though, Smithwick is training and practicing to make her senior year the most successful one yet.

“When this season is over, I’m going to lose a really big part of myself because my life has always revolved around soccer,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to it in a way, too. It’s going to be a huge adjustment, but I’m excited to see what’s waiting for me on the other side.”

Smithwick had one final piece of advice for freshmen just starting their college experience.

“Enjoy every single moment – even the hard tests and the huge projects,” she said. “It may not seem like it, but time will fly by, and you’ll be at the end of the experience wishing you had more time.”

Photography by Julia Mothersole

Posted on September 23, 2019