Kicking it

Maya Simon is looking to diversify her fall sports portfolio freshman year

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Kicking it

Kyle Pinnell

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Seven to nine a.m- soccer tryouts. Nine to twelve a.m- football practice. Five to eight p.m- yet another football practice. Southridge freshman Maya Simon’s schedule reads more like one of an athletic director, not that of a fall athlete. Eight hours a day in the grueling Oregon sun during the dog days of summer is enough to take a toll on anyone, but this was an average day for Simon who will play JV soccer while kicking for the JV football team this fall. 

Simon’s first love is soccer. She has been playing organized soccer since the age of three and currently plays for club team United PDX. Simon recalls relishing the competitiveness of the sport from a young age and enjoys the opportunity to get out and play with her friends. On top of trying out for two different sports, Simon is still trying to adjust to life in Beaverton. She spent the first fourteen years of her life in Southwest Portland where she attended St. Clare, a private catholic school in downtown, before moving into the metro area. 

Just five months ago, trying out for the football team didn’t cross Simon’s mind. She was more than happy to keep her sole focus on soccer and felt more anxious about adjusting to life as a high school freshman, especially after moving to a new school. However, when her mom brought up the idea of kicking for the football team, she was intrigued.

“I didn’t really think I was going to do it in high school, but I started kicking some field goals for fun, and my mom thought of the idea of trying out in high school, and so here I am,” Simon said.

Courtesy of Maya Simon

When the day of the football tryouts arrived, Simon put on a brave face but admitted that on the inside she felt a little bit of doubt. What if she didn’t get in or have a chance to kick? It’s easy to exude an aura of confidence when trying out for a sport you’re comfortable with, but football? Simon didn’t know what to expect. 

Day after day Simon found herself anxiously waiting for the roster to be announced until, finally, the moment arrived. She was watching a movie with her family when her uncle texted and gave her the news she had been hoping for. While she was excited that she made the JV football roster, she said that the initial feeling wasn’t relief. 

“It was more like ‘Oh my gosh. This is so real now,” Simon said.

While playing both high school soccer and football is a rare feat, there are examples of others in the state of Oregon who has recently trodden the path that Simon currently finds herself wandering.

Bella Bixby, who currently plays for the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League, played both soccer and football starting her sophomore year at Rex Putnam High School. She went on to play varsity football as well as soccer for the Kingsmen.

Balancing football, soccer and schoolwork has proven to require an early adjustment period, especially when it coincides with getting used to life in high school. While Simon wishes that she could be multiple places at once, she understands that her work in the classroom takes precedence over both football and soccer. What the overload of practices and games lead to is a more hectic schedule than what most freshmen face.

“It’s crazy,” Simon said. “I have a very busy schedule. I’ve had to work my time and organizational skills out with homework and figuring out school. It will be a challenge, but I think that I’m in control.”

After a few weeks of practice, Simon says that she is still striving to improve and increase her distance and leg strength, no easy feat for a high schooler. The longest Simon can currently kick a football is 27 yards, but she says that her worry is less about distance and more about consistency. 

“They’re definitely two different situations because you kick a soccer ball different than you kick a football,” Simon said. “It was an uncomfortable transition, but I learn new things pretty easily, and I thought that if I tried to do football it would be pretty simple.”

Simon says that she is excited to continue putting in the time necessary to develop as a kicker. Initially, she took up kicking because she wanted to “see how it feels and have fun.” Now with a few weeks under her belt, she is ready to build towards her ultimate goal: playing both soccer and football at the varsity level.

With Darik Salinas, the varsity quarterback, taking up varsity kicking duties as a senior there could be a role for her to play on the varsity football team in the future. For now, Simon is just looking to have fun while settling into her freshman year. No matter how you slice it, with opportunities both on the soccer pitch and on the football field, the sky’s the limit.