In the Locker Room with Soccer Superstar Belle Smith

Young Belle Smith stands in a goal.

College fourth-year Belle Smith has been playing soccer for the past decade and just finished up her final season as a collegiate athlete. As she moves on to the next chapter of her life, she reflects on her experience as a member of the Oberlin women’s soccer team and looks forward to having some much-needed time off from the sport. After graduation, she plans on pursuing graduate school and traveling around the world.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


I know playing soccer has been a big part of your life. How has the game impacted you and helped you learn about yourself?

Being a goalie in soccer is honestly one of the most stressful and anxiety-inducing positions on the field, and you don’t have a lot of success. We don’t really win games; we just keep the team in the game. I’ve been playing this position exclusively since I was the slowest 10-year-old on my team, so I’ve had a lot of time to learn how to manage that anxiety and create my own definition of success. That has definitely carried into my day-to-day life; I am not too critical of myself and can brush off daily anxieties pretty easily.


Your game this past Tuesday was a tough loss against Kenyon College, and I know you needed that game to clinch a spot in the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament. How are you feeling about it all?

I unfortunately had to sit out of the Kenyon game due to an ankle sprain that happened the night before. Obviously it was devastating to not be able to play in that last game, but I found so much joy and pride in watching second-year Zoe Maddox step up and crush that game with 11 saves. I found peace knowing that my senior game last weekend, in front of my family and friends, was my last time wearing the Oberlin jersey. I’m taking the ankle sprain as sort of a sign to “pass the torch.” I’m excited to let my body rest for a while and recover. 


What do you think the future looks like for the Oberlin women’s soccer program? The five fourth-years graduating, including yourself, are all core players on the team. Who do you think will step up to the plate next year and take on these leadership roles?

Over the last four years, upperclassmen on our team, including my class, have done an amazing job fostering a community of educated players through a number of workshops on diversity and inclusion within the athletics department and the broader campus. I’m hoping, along with the rest of the senior class, that this culture only grows deeper and continues indefinitely. Play-wise, it seems like the team has a lot of momentum going forward into the next season, so I can’t wait to watch them win more and more. I see Camille Franklin and Maia Minson leading that charge in 2022 as seniors along with the starting center backs, second-year Brynn Adams and first-year Sofia Mitchell, and keeper Zoe Maddox.


What are your plans for soccer and for the future, after you graduate?

I’m definitely taking a much-needed break from soccer. I’ve been playing this sport with little to no breaks for 16-plus years now, so I’m looking forward to seeing what life is like without an upcoming season looming over my head. I’m sure I’ll find my way back to it somehow. After graduation I’m hoping to go to grad school and travel. Soccer is a huge sport internationally, and I have a year of eligibility left, so that kind of works out. 


What have been some of your favorite memories with the team? Does your team have any traditions that you will especially remember?

Funny enough, most of my favorite memories of the team aren’t from games or practice but from spending time with everyone on the team. They’re all my best friends so hanging out together constantly is something I’ll for sure miss. When we’re in season, it’s definitely like you have a big family that you’re stuck with 24/7. You see each other every day, eat together, work out together, travel together, and sometimes live together. We have lots of little traditions that are really cute, like holding hands when we walk out to the field, that I’m sure will continue on. I’ll miss having all my best friends around me for soccer and hanging out after practice. But hopefully I’ll convince them to hang out with me even if we’re out of season, and I’m “retired” now.