February 1, 2017 - By Mike McGinley (click here to view and save a PDF version of this article)
At the beginning of February, seven student athletes from San Ramon FC celebrated a milestone event in their young lives: Signing a letter of intent to play college soccer. February 1st, known as “National Signing Day” in college athletics, represents a day of celebration for the players, families and their clubs.
After years of hard work in the classroom and on the soccer field, these seven student athletes - Katarina Brekalo, Sofia Escalante, Kaitlin Groleau, Autumn Halvorsen, Ashley Siwik, Mary Swisher and Kayla Wyrsch - achieved a goal that many seek and few accomplish. Only a small percentage of youth soccer players in the United States continue on to play college soccer.
Making the moment even more special, these seven young women are all teammates on the same San Ramon FC team, coached by Luke Enna.
To commemorate the event, San Ramon FC held a National Signing Day ceremony to celebrate their players’ difficult, dual achievement: Academic and athletic excellence.
The club decorated the Russell Room at the Rancho Community Center with banners, balloons and a signing table where each player’s name appeared on a placard. Next to their placard, each player had a commemorative “National Signing Day” pen from the club. A gift wrapped in soccer ball wrapping paper – what else? – awaited each player too.
As players, parents, family, friends, SRFC coaches and staff arrived, a sense of excitement and anticipation filled the room. Everyone realized the uniqueness of this moment. The players found their place at the signing table and family and friends readied their cameras from their seats.
San Ramon FC’s general manager, Andy Mittler, opened the ceremony by thanking everyone for attending and congratulating the players on their achievement. Before turning it over to Coach Enna, Zlatko Tomic, the club’s Girls Technical Director, spoke next about the special collegiate experience that awaited each of them.
Coach Enna then spoke fondly about each player. He credited them for their hard work, dedication and determination. He noted that some these players had been with the club since they were 5 and 6 years old, starting in the recreational program. Some were “late bloomers”, ascending to the top team in their age group only a few years prior, now poised to continue their playing career in college.
He explained that a few players encountered various obstacles unique to their playing experience. One changed positions only a couple of years ago, from goalkeeper to defense, and thrived. Another disproved a common misconception that goalkeepers must meet certain physical requirements to be college level players. He proudly noted that her presence at the signing table tonight refuted that idea.
Coach Enna was also quick to credit all of the coaches who helped these young women in their youth career. He also thanked San Ramon FC’s College Coordinator, Travis Clarke, for his extensive work helping these players along on their journey to their college programs.
Later on social media, one of the players’ parents, Kathy Groleau, shared her appreciation on the club’s Facebook page:
“Thank you coaches for all their dedication to training these girls over the years and supporting their future goals, and to all the San Ramon FC staff for supporting these girls in their college search and recruitment process and allowing their dreams to come true!”
After signing to the applause of their parents, family and friends, the players unwrapped their gifts from the club; sweatshirts from the college they will attend. The young women pulled them on over their soccer jerseys and smiled for many, many photos. They took selfies, huddled together for a private moment and literally jumped for joy in celebration.
It was an evening none of them will forget and one that the club expects to repeat for more players in the coming years. With experienced and dedicated coaches for boys and girls and an effective College Services program, players who dedicate themselves to achieving the goal of playing in college will find a wealth of resources available to them at San Ramon FC.
February 28th will be the club’s free College Information Night, where players and families can learn detailed information and tips about the college process. In March, San Ramon FC will host separate girls and boys College ID Camps, where players (7th grade and up) will meet and train with college coaches from various colleges in California and beyond.
2017 SRFC National Signing Day Players
Katarina Brekalo – Stanislaus State
Sofia Escalante – Cal Baptist University
Kaitlin Groleau – St. Mary’s College
Autumn Halvorsen – Stanislaus State
Ashley Siwik – Sierra Nevada College
Mary Swisher – Humboldt State University
Kayla Wyrsch – Mid-America Nazarene University