By Mikey McCareins
Self-admittedly, Chandler Wilson was never the best, or biggest soccer player, but she prided herself on being the most driven. That drive led to her ultimate reward, as Wilson’s dream of playing for a Big 12 women’s soccer program came to fruition in 2014 when she accepted a scholarship offer to play for Kansas State.
Now, Wilson is a senior at The University of Oklahoma, no longer playing the sport but still using that same determination and persistence to discover her true callings in life.
I sat down with Wilson, an Edmond, Okla., native, to hear about the journey soccer took her on and to discuss the challenge that tested her faith three years ago – saying goodbye to the game she grew up with.
Q: When did you start playing soccer?
A: I started playing soccer when I was five and I was like born into soccer, my sister played so basically from the time I was born. I started playing and I immediately knew I was good at it from a very young age. I played on a rec team and when I went and played competitive I realized everyone was better than me and I wasn’t as good as I thought I was.”
Q: You started at an early age, but what made you love the sport?
A: I’m naturally competitive and love sports in general. I played all sports, but what made me love soccer was the camaraderie and the athleticism it took to be good. Everyone played, but there were very few people who were good at soccer. I tried to chase those people who I knew were going to play on the national team and play at some of the best colleges in the country. Eventually over time, every other sport fizzled out and I quit everything else. I was actually probably better at track than soccer, but I just loved the game and loved my teammates.
Q: Give us some background on your career before you received the offer from K-State:
A: I wasn’t always that incredible at soccer, but I was good and worked hard. In middle school, my teammates started getting recruited and I wasn’t getting recruited at all. I was tiny and nobody thought I was good enough. Beginning of high school at Edmond North, I started getting talked to by some mid-major D-1 schools, which was really fun because I was kind of important for the first time ever.
Playing in the Big 12 was always my dream, but sophomore year, I tore my ACL, MCL, PCL, meniscus and patella. I thought my career was over – the doctor told me it could take 18 months to be fully recovered, and right then I thought my chance of playing in college was gone.
But by the grace of God, I was back in five months playing with a knee brace.
Q: What was your recruiting process like?
A: Because of that injury, I didn’t get recruited to K-State until the beginning of my senior year. Recruiting is terrifying. There’s the pressure of getting one chance in one game and if you don’t impress them, they’ll never talk to you again, but I guess I did enough.
Q: Talk about your 11 months spent at K-State:
A: When they recruited me and when I went on a tour of campus, I told myself that I loved it, because it was basically my only opportunity left and I forced myself to fall in love with the idea of being there. I had to take the offer because I’d be wondering, ‘what if,’ for the rest of my life. I went and tried to get involved on campus, I joined a sorority, but it quickly became evident that I was only there for soccer.
I ended up dropping my sorority, got out of all of my involvements because my grades were falling apart and all I had was soccer. I loved the early morning practices – it was never too hard. I thrived on that stuff. I loved pushing myself and proving I was better than people.
I knew I wanted to transfer in September, but I stayed the entire year. That was hard. I was in this limbo period of both transition and waiting to be happy. I told my family in December but didn’t tell my coaches until April.
My coach actually pulled me aside before the last spring game once he found out I was transferring and he said, ‘hey, you’re going to go in and play the rest of the game. You’ve shown you’ve given a lot to this program, and we’re not mad at you,’ and I cried on the sideline before I went in. That meant a lot to me. But, it ended up being the best thing to happen to me.
Q: Talk about transferring to OU:
A: When I transferred in, I was excited to leave my freshman year at K-State behind because I felt relieved that after waiting months, it was finally here. But then, it sucked. I had so many doubts and thought I made a big mistake because soccer was the one thing I was really good at and left best friends at K-State behind for here where I had no friends. I regretted ever having gone to K-State, but I also regretted transferring, and my faith disappeared and that was a really big part of my life. I remember declaring that I didn’t believe in God anymore and I was so unhappy.
But once I stopped having a pity party and put myself out there, I did settle into the university and ended up loving it here. I became involved with Soonerthon, Crossover and campus ministry and I’ve found friends. Every once in awhile it still hits hard, but looking back I have best friends from all over this campus and that would not have happened if I would have gone here as a freshman, rushed a house and immediately been in a sorority.
Q: How have you changed since you came to OU?
A: I think it really shaped me into who I am right now. I don’t think my faith would be as strong as it is if I hadn’t experienced such a low, so it’s ended up being such a big blessing.
Q: Do you still have regrets?
A: That’s honestly a really good question that I still struggle with. I wouldn’t say I have regrets, but if I could go back I maybe would change it, and that sucks and I hate feeling like that because I would not have the life, friends, faith or experiences that I have now. I wouldn’t want to trade those, but if I could go back I maybe would have gone to OU as a freshman.
I hate feeling like that because I feel so blessed and I love how my life is now, but it could have been simpler and maybe coming here first wouldn’t have actually have been better, because the grass isn’t always greener. I have to remind myself that when I sometimes start thinking how it could have been different and be at peace with my life.