College soccer had always been a dream for Douglas High graduate Jordan Smith.
After deciding upon Cal State East Bay in Hayward, Calif., Smith wanted a chance to play early on.
It didn’t take her long as she was named the starting goalkeeper for the Pioneers as a freshman.
The pressure of starting at the Division II level right away pushed Smith to experience anxiety for the first time in her life.
“I got the starting spot when I came in and I was just really overwhelmed by the amount of pressure that collegiate goalkeepers have,” said Smith. “I think it’s important for another people to know that anxiety is something that a lot of athletes experience.”
Figuring what works best
Smith graduated from Douglas in 2019 after earning all-region honors all four years on the pitch.
After winning the starting job at Cal State East Bay, pre-game panic attacks pushed Smith to seek advice from therapists.
“We came up with a meditation routine. That really helped me. I don’t really have anxiety or panic attacks around at the moment,” said Smith.
The initial decision to pursue therapy, and the lasting impact since, has opened Smith up to be more willing to share her vulnerabilities.
The success she found brought her confidence to a point where she felt comfortable enough to come out as gay.
“It has given me so much confidence and has really helped me develop into the person I always dreamed of becoming. It was isolating my first year of college, as I didn't know how to reach out for help,” Smith said in a news release from the CCAA. “Fortunately, my coaches and peers recognized I was struggling and helped provide me with the tools and support I needed to improve my mental health.”
The nomination for the award came from her coach at Cal State East Bay, Robin Hart.
On Saturday, March 25, Smith was recognized with the award at midfield at the San Jose Earthquakes’ game at halftime.
“I just couldn’t believe it. It was really special that a majority of my teammates came to support me and my family came down,” said Smith.
On the field, Smith has only continued to settle into the position.
She has twice been recognized as an all-conference honorable mention.
As a sophomore, three saves in penalty kicks allowed the Pioneers to advance out of the opening round of the conference tournament.
This past fall, Smith was named team captain and played every single minute as East Bay’s goalie, posting a career-high 15 saves against Stanislaus State.
Smith also received honor roll honors in the classroom, where she majors in kinesiology with a minor in psychology.
“I’m very different from my freshman year. I’m probably 10 times louder. I’m a pretty talkative goalkeeper,” Smith said. “I’m very aggressive coming off my line. I think the confidence has given me the ability to reach my potential.”
She serves as the president of the Student-Athletes Advisory Council (SAAC) and wants to help ease the stigma around mental health.
The Pioneer keeper will return for the fall of 2023 where she will play her final season before graduating in December.
Upon graduating, Smith hopes to be a graduate assistant for a college coach.
She’s already started her coaching journey, serving at the helm of an under-12 girls team in the Bay Area.
“Even though Gardnerville is a small town, it gave me a lot of great role models and mentors,” said Smith. “It makes me want to be like them and coach, and be a role model for other girls.”
About the award
The CalHope Courage Award is presented by the College Sports Communicators (formerly CoSIDA) in association with the Associated Press.
“CalHOPE is honored to recognize student-athletes throughout the state who, despite setbacks, have overcome life’s challenges to continue to perform their best as both scholars and athletes,” said Dr. Jim Kooler for the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), which oversees CalHope.
At the end of the year, two student-athletes who received the monthly award will be recognized and a $5,000 donation will be made in their name toward mental health services at their schools.