Local Enterprise Select Soccer star Evelyn Holmes-Smith may be young, but she’s proving that success in sports is not just for the boys.
The twelve-year-old athlete from Dauphin Junior High School was recently selected for the Region 3 Olympic Development Pool program for talented soccer players across the United States, becoming one of only three girls from Alabama in her age group to achieve such an accomplishment. Region 3, the South Region of U.S. Youth Soccer, includes Alabama, Arkansas, North and South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas, and players from all 11 states will attend the Region 3 ODP program.
According to Marco Lascano, club director for Enterprise Select Soccer and one of Holmes-Smith’s coaches, being chosen for Regional ODP is an accomplishment that can lead to a bright future in soccer.
“You have to qualify for State ODP first, and if you get chosen for that pool, if you do well enough, they invite you to the regional camp -- and not every camper who makes state will make the regional camp,” said Lascano. “The more tryout dates you make, the more they can see you and the more training you get. How you perform in the regional camp means you can be chosen from the regional pool, and if she does well at the regional camp she could be selected for the national pool someday. A lot of people on the U.S. National Team got there through the ODP program.”
Holmes-Smith first began playing soccer at age five through the Miracle League, though at the time she had her choice of sports to participate in.
“When I was younger, I liked soccer and I did the Miracle League with my brother, so my mom gave me the option of soccer or baseball,” Holmes-Smith said. “I said soccer because I like soccer way better than baseball. It was a lot of fun. It just really stood out to me back then.”
Holmes-Smith gained experience with the sport through a number of area soccer clubs, including the Wiregrass Futbol Club and the Dothan Shockers, before coming to Enterprise Select Soccer two years ago. Her time on co-ed and girls teams helped her learn to play many different field positions well, according to her mother Marla.
“I think she’s the kid that you can put in any position,” Marla said. “She’s good at distributing the ball, she’s a good team player, she’ll pass the ball, she scores a lot… She’s good all around. She even played goalie for a while.”
“I can’t play goalie anymore though -- I’m too short,” Holmes-Smith said. “My favorite position to play is attacking mid.”
Lascano said Holmes-Smith is an impressive athlete due to her natural tenacity on the field.
“She is very coachable -- I ask her to do things and she always does it to the best of her ability,” Lascano said. “She’s strong but she doesn’t have to be the biggest; her physicality on the field means she never backs down. She’s always a great listener, a great player and person, a great teammate… I just need more kids like her.”
Holmes-Smith’s athleticism is not confined to soccer alone -- she is a nationally-ranked female wrestler with Enterprise Assassin’s Wrestling and is also set to run with the Enterprise High School Cross Country team this fall. However, soccer remains a passion that she plans to explore in the future.
“I do want to play professional soccer, because these camps changed me every year,” Holmes-Smith said. “I really want to go to Auburn and play soccer, or stay in wrestling, and then I’ll probably do sports medicine or be an engineer -- I haven’t decided yet. After that, my mom thinks I’m going to coach one of the sports, and I might, but I’m probably going to get a different job.”
Though no dates for the Region 3 ODP camp have been announced, Holmes-Smith said she is excited to see what she will learn through the program when the time comes next year. In the meantime, she is preparing for fall season travel league soccer and is planning to try out for the high school soccer team.
Holmes-Smith is athletic and successful, but she’s also a humble and down-to-earth pre-teen who has “cool hair, can surf, and (wants) to swim with sharks.” She encouraged other girls to keep practicing and striving to do their best in any sport they’re passionate about.
“Even if you’re not the best at sports, keep trying to get better,” Holmes-Smith said. “When you get better, you’ll have an advantage, because some people don’t practice on their own, and they may be really good, but if you’re the person that does practice on their own, you can be the same skill level as them. That’s what I tell myself.”