Wesley Hamblin was at a crossroads. One path would have had her continue playing on the local Champions club team with her friends. The other presented a chance to play with the Utah Avalanche, a club with premier status but no known teammates.
Six years after choosing the latter, Hamblin is now the Utah Valley Player of the Year for girls soccer, an honor she credits to simply growing within the game.
“You get older, you get better,” Hamblins aid. “Everything gets just a little bit better. As you get older you get more opportunities.
Hamblin’s career-defining choice of competition over comrades held two major influences: her love for soccer and her parents’ influence. Both started at the same time, when Hamblin played for a three and four-year-old team her father coached. Since that time Hamblin’s life has been an inseparable series of soccer memories, culminating in a spectacular 2012 season at Lone Peak.
The junior midfielder scored five of the Knights’ 29 season goals, two of which came in the 5A state playoffs.
Hamblin made her mark with her feisty play at the midfielder position, where she would often frustrate opposing teams by disrupting their offensive flow. Hamblin admitted her competitive edge has grown to the point where she looks forward to throwing off her opponents
“I love when the big girls think they can mess with me,” the 5-foot-4 junior laughed. “I show them that they can’t.”
Hamblin’s on-field aggression goes hand-in-hand with what she says is a “loud personality,” though playing for such high stakes wasn’t an option until middle school. Despite her early affinity for the sport, soccer was still just a game.
“I actually didn’t go through any experimental stages,” she said. “I always just played soccer, but I didn’t get into competition soccer until seventh grade.”
That was when her parents encouraged her to try out for the Avalanche, a club team renowned for playing competitive games and producing even more competitive players. At first, Hamblin wasn’t sure if that arena was for her.
“My parents made me go to tryouts,” Hamblin said. “I didn’t want to. I wanted to be with my friends. I wasn’t looking to be competitive about it yet. I didn’t know anyone on the new team.”
The jump in competition and the drop in game action, Hamblin admitted, formed a huge adjustment to her play-for-fun beginnings.
“You’re always going,” Hamblin said. “You love the sport, but sometimes you really need a breather. it’s hard to keep having that drive and wanting to go to practice every day.”
Hamblin finally relented and ultimately made the team. She was anything but an immediate success, however, getting relatively little playing time at first. Aside from the lack of friends and fun, there was also the startling realization that she was no longer one of the better players on her squad.
“Actually, I was probably the worst on the team,” Hamblin laughed.
That was then. Now, Hamblin is committed to play at Utah State, where her older sister Maris just finished her freshman year with the Aggies. Hamblin laughingly admits her parents still try to give her advice about soccer despite the fact that neither played.
“They tell you what to do before the game and you’re thinking, ‘this time, I do know more than you,’” Hamblin laughed. “Just in this situation right here.”
She readily admits, however, that her parents may have known something she didn’t about herself six years ago, when they encouraged her to play for more than fun.
“That was the best decision I’ve ever made,” Hamblin said. “I’m glad my parents pushed me, because I don’t know what I’d do with my life.”
Matt Petersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen