Col. East Bay State goalkeeper and Douglas High alum Jordan Smith poses at midfield during a San Jose Earthquakes game Saturday, March 25. Smith was honored with the CalHope Spirit Award for February 2023, by the College Sports Communicator and Associated Press.
College football was always a dream for Douglas High graduate Jordan Smith.
After settling in Hayward, Calif., Smith came to East Bay State, Cal.
It didn’t take her as long as the starting goalkeeper for the freshman.
The pressure of starting at the Division II level immediately pushed Smith to experience anxiety for the first time in his life.
“I got the starting position when I came in and I was really overwhelmed by the amount of pressure that collegiate football has,” Smith said. “I think it’s important for others to know that anxiety is something that a lot of athletes experience.”
Sticking to what works best
Smith graduated from Douglas in 2019 after earning all-region honors as a pitcher.
After his rookie job at Col. East Bay State, a pre-game panic attack prompted Smith to seek counseling from a therapist.
“We came up with a meditation practice. That really helped me. I really don’t have anxiety or panic flying around at the time,” said Smith.
The initial decision to pursue therapy, and to have a lasting impact, was when Smith opened up to more willingly sharing her vulnerability.
With success he found a confidence in him where he was comfortable enough to go out and be gay.
“It gave me so much confidence and helped me really develop into the person I always dreamed of becoming. It was isolating my first year of college when I didn’t know how to reach out for help,” Smith said in a news release from the CCAA. “Fortunately, my coaches and leaders recognized that I was struggling and helped give me the tools and support I needed to improve my mental health.”
The award nomination came from the coach at Cal State East Bay, Robin Hart.
On Saturday, March 25, Smith was recognized with the award at midfield during the San Jose Earthquakes halftime game.
“I just can’t believe it. It was really special that so many of my teammates came down to support me and my family,” Smith said.
In the field, Smith would only live in that place.
She was given an honorable mention in the interview.
As a sophomore, three penalty kick saves allowed the Pioneers to advance beyond the opening round of the conference tournament.
This past fall, Smith was named team captain and played every minute as East Bay’s goalie, posting a career-high 15 saves against Stanislaus State.
Smith also received honors in school, where he majored in kinesiology with a minor in psychology.
“I’m a lot different from my freshman year. I’m probably 10 times more. I’m a pretty talkative goalkeeper,” Smith said. “I’m very aggressive coming off my line. I think confidence gives me the ability to reach my potential.”
He serves as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and wants to help raise awareness about mental health.
The starting guard will return in the fall of 2023 where he will play his final season before graduating in December.
Upon graduation, Smith hopes to be a graduate assistant for a college coach.
She has already started her coaching journey, serving at the helm of the under-12 girls’ team in the Bay Area.
“Even though Gardnerville is a small town, it has given me many great role models and leaders,” Smith said. “It makes me want to be like them and coach and be a role model for other girls.”
Of the award
The CalHope Spirit Awards are presented by College Sports Communicators (formerly CoSIDA) in association with The Associated Press.
“CalHOPE is honored to recognize student-athletes across the state who, despite life’s setbacks, overcome life’s challenges to achieve their best as scholars and athletes,” said Dr. Jim Kooler on behalf of the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) who oversees CalHope.
At the end of the year, the two student-athletes who received the monthly grant will be recognized and a $5,000 donation will be made in their name toward mental health at their schools.