WCU soccer girl beat the odds and continues to play

“I’m very mentally strong, and I feel I can play in my head but my body really doesn’t want me to, sometimes. I have to make sure I get enough rest time and get enough treatment to keep my body healthy to stay on the field.”

Samantha Hodge never expected that following her passion for soccer meant so much pain.

The 22-year old WCU senior and soccer player for the WCU Catamounts is playing but that comes at a price.

Hodge started playing soccer when she was 6 years old because her parents wanted her to get more involved.

“Neither of my parents knew anything about soccer when I started,” Hodge said, “so my dad took a coaching course to learn all the rules and we both ended up really liking the sport.”

Every step of the way, Hodge had support from her family, giving her parents the title of her “biggest fans.”

“My parents come to every game, either one or the other is there and if they can’t make it, which is rare, they will watch on Gametrackers Online or call and text other parents.” And it’s been that way for the past 16 years.

The hard work and dedication Hodge brought to the sport allowed her the opportunity to play at a collegiate level, but not without sacrificing her body.

“The biggest difference I didn’t expect from high school to college is the absolute toll it takes on your body. Its day in and day out, and even when you have a day off your working on your diet or going to treatment.”

Treatment is something Hodge has become quite familiar with after knee surgery in February 2010.

“My sophomore year, I started having knee injuries where my patella would slip out of place and I had to have knee surgery.”

From her surgery she got MRSA, a staph infection that is antibiotic resistant, putting Hodge back in the hospital for five weeks, followed by seven knee surgeries and one chest surgery to remove to infection. However, after all this Hodge’s recovery was far from over.

“After surgery I was on a walker for six months and on a permanent IV at that time as well. I also had to drop out of school to recover.”

When Hodge returned for what would have been her junior year of school, she red shirted that year so she could focus on school and getting healthy. Hodge returned to the field for the 2011 season but after getting to know her body better the previous year she had to be more cautious than an average 22-year-old. Many said that she would not come back to play, but she did.

Hodge is one of many players who face injury during their college career. However, the issue of head trauma and concussions in women’s soccer has become a hot topic as the USA Women’s Soccer team brought home the gold this summer.

Recently NBC Nightly News did a story on head trauma within women’s soccer. They reported that girls are twice as likely to get a concussion compared to boys and that women’s soccer is second to reported concussion rates behind football.

Hodge has also had her fair share of concussions, as she suffered two major ones and a few minor ones in high school.

Hodge also elaborated what Western does if a player has a head trauma or concussion.

“If someone does get a head injury they wear a special helmet to protect them from further injury. We had a center back last year get a serious concussion, and she wore the helmet so she could play and not hold back. Because once you have had a concussion, you are really timid to go into another header or go into a air fight for the ball.”

Hodge also has personal experience with wearing the protective headpiece and isn’t a huge fan of them. “ I don’t like wearing it because it’s something you’re not used to, it’s kind of like wearing glasses for the first time. They are hot, and make you feel like your head is roasting. I don’t like them, but I will wear one if its what I have to do to get on the field.”

As Hodge grew older she began to see the hard work and dedication the sport required, but it also taught her more than just teamwork.

“Soccer has given me a lot of leadership qualities that I have been able to instill in other parts of my life.”

These qualities Hodge is talking about include being President of the Western Carolina University Student Athlete Advisory, a senator for Western’s Student Government Association, member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Council, and was the only student on the WCU Athletic Director Search Committee.

As far as after college, Hodge doesn’t plan on wandering far from the athletic scene.

“After WCU, I would like to go to grad school for sports administration and would really like to work at a different college and possibly become an assistant athletic director, hopefully working in finances.”

The Olympic gold for women soccer team inspiration to WCU woman soccer

At the London Summer Olympics, the USA Women’s Soccer team took home the gold, giving the Western Carolina University’s women’s team a lot of inspiration.

“We were in preseason when the women’s team won, so our whole team got to watch it and it brought us together. It gave us a chance to watch the best of the best play and it was very inspiring for us because some of those girls we’ve played against and grew up with.”

Hodge is hoping that inspiration will take her team far, and she craves a championship.

“I think my team and I have set our goals really high and we have high expectations for ourselves and I think we’re good enough to compete at that level.”