Sophia Kim played one year of junior varsity and three years on the varsity team at Issaquah High School in Washington. She is currently a senior and a physics major at the University of Chicago. Sophia is a captain of the women’s soccer team, where they are currently 12-1 and are ranked 7th in the country. After she graduates, she will be going to Korea for a year to do astrophysics research at Seoul National University.

Seeing these photos is strange because it seems just yesterday I was playing soccer for Issaquah High School and Coach Tom Bunnell. But it’s been four years since my last high school game, and it’s crazy to think of everything I’ve gone through and how I’ve grown in that time, as a person and a soccer player. Playing under my varsity coaches Tom, Jason Lichtenberger, and Lauren Dascenzo was what fueled me to continue playing soccer in college. I sought to continue that same fiery environment where we wore our passion on our sleeves and fought to do the best at what we loved, on a team where we knew we were loved and supported.  Looking back on these photos, I think about how purely but naively I threw myself into my team and how willing I was to be vulnerable for them. As three-time state champions at the time, we were hungry to add another title under our belts, but fell short with a second place finish in the state tournament during our senior year. Still, the group of girls and the memories we created are my most cherished moments in high school.

I still feel that hunger to win a title with my college team now, but I had a much tougher and humbling path to get to that level of passion that came so easily in high school. Looking back, I became extremely grateful for my high school coaches who were so good at fostering a culture of legacy and making us play for something bigger than ourselves. That was something I had to fight for in college, where I didn’t play much my first two years and needed to reevaluate why I played and who I played for. I knew if I quit, I would never forgive myself for giving up. I had not given up two summers practicing twice a day to hang up my sneakers simply because I wasn’t getting playing time. Instead, I trained for the next year with a new mentality:  I played for myself. I refused to give my coach a reason to take me off the field. And although I didn’t start games regularly my junior year, I scored game winning goals because I trained knowing I could make an impact whenever I went in, no matter how long I played for. Now, as a senior, this is the strongest I’ve ever seen our team in my four years. We are currently ranked 7th in the country and don’t plan to stop until we reach the finals. I think the best way to summarize what soccer has done for me post high school is establish a work ethic that prepares me to take advantage of an opportunity when the chance arises. It’s taught me more than anything that if you stick to your guns and put in the work, it will pay off.

“Looking back on these photos, I think about how purely but naively I threw myself into my team and how willing I was to be vulnerable for them.”

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This photo was from my junior year in high school. This was my first time being on the full team after splitting my time between JV and varsity my sophomore year. I remember just thinking I was so lucky to be playing with the varsity team.  I miss playing under the lights! When they turned on you could feel the intensity from the team, knowing it was game time. I could forget about everything and just play soccer.

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I was always a kid who took every opportunity to  be a goofball. Staying positive and not taking myself too seriously have been keys for my surviving college thus far. Making the people around me laugh makes me happy in turn.

This was my freshman year head shot (left). Compared this to my college senior head shot (right) just makes me think of everything I’ve been through the past eight years. If I told myself then what I know now, it’d be that you have a hard journey ahead of you, but everything will work out if you never give up.

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I actually remember this play. My touch was too heavy and I dribbled across the end line before I could get a cross off. I also believe I was swinging to the varsity team during my sophomore year, and I knew I had to show Coach Tom I could be a play-maker. I wished for a long time that I can have that one back, but I love the determination on my face.

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“We wore our passion on our sleeves and fought to do the best at what we loved.”

I started playing a lot more on varsity during my junior year, but I wish I pushed myself even more. Playing time means a lot more now than it did in high school because in college, I had to earn every second I got on the field—and that was a huge wake up call for me. I’m glad I took advantage of it in high school.

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This was from my junior year in college. It was the second game I had started all year and it was against one of our toughest opponents of the season. After having an uneasy start to our year, these regional non-conference games were key to ensuring a spot in the NCAA tournament. About 2 min before the start of the game my coach told me I would be starting since one of the starters would be coming late from class, and about two minutes into the game I scored the first and game winning goal of the match. This was a huge win for us as a team, and was a building block for my ensuring a clinical spot on the team as a reliable player who could impact the game.

“A Look Back: A Photo Journey” series uses memories, reflections, and photographs to explore the journeys of high school girl athletes and the roles sports play in shaping their future lives. This series will feature adult women looking back on their past photographs and reflecting on their experiences. Photographs are taken and donated generously by Don Borin at Stop Action Photography. This is the first installation of the series, check back soon for more!