If you ask Springfield’s Molly Smith about her favorite soccer player, you will get a brief history lesson on former U.S. women’s national team star Michelle Akers, who scored 107 goals for her country from 1985-2000.
Never mind the fact that Smith wasn’t born until 2004. She knows her soccer, and she wants to be like Akers someday.
“She was such a warrior on the field,” Smith said of Akers. “She might not have been scoring all the time, but I think she was the most influential player in women’s soccer. I really want to be like her.”
That may not be as much of a stretch as it sounds. The 15-year-old sophomore is already making her mark on various record books. Smith scored 41 goals to set Springfield’s single-season record last year, and she tallied 10 goals against Kenwood last week – a TSSAA record for most goals in a game by a single player.
“I was just trying to go out and play my game and do the best that I could,” she said. “Scoring 41 goals was great, but I’m trying to top that (this year).”
Smith is the best player on her team and the best player in Robertson County, and she has a chance to be one of the best players in the state by the time she graduates from high school in 2022.
Much of Smith’s success can be attributed to her work ethic. The forward wakes up at 5:30 a.m. each weekday to run and practice technical skills in her backyard or garage, even on mornings after games.
“She’s the real deal,” Springfield coach AnnMarie Turpen said earlier this season. “She works really hard. This is her life – she spends her spare time getting better at soccer.”
Molly’s father, Chad Smith, said that drive comes from within. Molly began playing indoor soccer at the YMCA at age three, and she quickly distanced herself from other players in various youth leagues.
“That’s just how she is,” said Chad Smith, the executive director at the Robertson County YMCA. “All five of our kids played sports growing up, but the other four were just playing for fun. They didn’t have that competitive drive. I think Molly got all their competitive drive.”
Molly Smith’s dream is to play soccer at a Division I school – preferably a Power 5 school in the South (she isn’t a fan of playing in the cold). That’s why she tries to better her craft every day.
“It’s where I want to end up,” said Smith, who also hopes to play professional soccer and eventually become a college coach. “I know soccer is what’s going to help me get an education. I really want to push that dream as far as it will take me.”
Smith knows she must play a high level of competition to earn major college interest. She changed her club team this summer, moving from Tennessee United to Tennessee Soccer Club, which is based in Williamson County and travels to tournaments around the U.S.
“I just needed a little different environment,” Smith said. “I think this team has a lot of talent, and they’re really going to push me to be my best. Getting to see how people all over the country play has really helped me develop.”
But she also enjoys playing for Springfield. Smith already has 24 goals through nine games this season.
“She loves playing with the girls,” Chad Smith said. “She loves the school pride and all of that.”
College coaches can begin contacting Smith next June, per NCAA recruiting rules. She has already been to several college identification camps, including at Belmont and Vanderbilt.
For now, Smith said she is focused on improving as much as possible. Reaching the level of Michelle Akers is going to take time.
“I can improve pretty much every aspect,” she said. “My technical ability, my speed of play, my shot, my field vision. Nothing’s ever going to be perfect.”