For Shannon Pawlak ’15, soccer is not just a game—it’s a lifestyle.
Pawlak and her twin sister Emily ’15 began playing the sport at the age of three for the Police Athletic League in the summer and played for a myriad of different club teams growing up, including a local team for which their father was a coach.
“[My dad] just wants to be a supportive figure no matter what,” said Pawlak. “It happened to be that he coached, but he didn’t put any pressure on us to stay on the team. He also just knew that we were going to pursue it no matter what; he could see that.”
Pawlak became increasingly involved with soccer as she grew older, joining her school team in sixth grade while continuing to play on club teams year-round. Still, for many years she dabbled in other sports, trying her hand at swimming, water polo, and lacrosse. It was during her seventh and eighth grade years when she truly committed herself to playing soccer.
“That was a big decision in my life—when I decided I really wanted to get competitive and wanted to pursue [soccer] in college,” said Pawlak. “That was when I had to quit everything [and] say, ‘Okay, soccer [is] what’s important to me, not hanging out with certain people on weekends, because what am I going to remember? I’m going to remember the big soccer tournament, not the one time I hung out with someone.’”
Pawlak now works regularly with a trainer on getting in shape through sprints and on technical aspects of her game, such as different types of dribbling and shooting. She estimates that she spends around 20 hours a week on soccer-related activities. “I only ever want to be either watching soccer or playing soccer,” she said, adding that her sister is her companion in many of these activities. “Soccer is a huge part of my life because I have to sacrifice a lot for it … You need to love it in order to do it as long and as much as I do.”
“I love competing,” she said. “I want to win, but I don’t think I need to play soccer with people. I just feel very comfortable playing and having the ball at my foot … I guess it’s this whole sport that I like.”
So far in her high school career, Pawlak has scored 51 goals and was one of the state’s top-scoring individuals coming into the 2014 season. In a recent practice, however, she fractured a bone in her ankle and will be out for most of the remainder of the season.
Despite this abrupt interruption and possible end to her high school career, Pawlak plans to continue playing soccer next year at Colgate University, something she is very much looking forward to. “I feel like everybody who is there is playing soccer because they want to and they’re going to do their very best every single game,” she said. “Instead of it being an obligation it’s more like people want to be there, people want to work their hardest, and people want to win, and that’s what I want.”