Local student Alex Thomas chosen as La. Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year
27th May 2014 · 0 Comments
By April Siese
Benjamin Franklin High School sophomore Alex Thomas has been named the Gatorade Louisiana Girls Soccer Player of the Year. The announcement comes amidst media accolades and only adds to Thomas’ ever-growing list of awards.
Thomas, a sophomore at the school, has already been named Division II Player of the Year by the Louisiana High School Soccer Coaches Association, as well. Her clutch plays were pivotal in propelling the school into the Division II soccer championships, where she scored the winning goal against St. Thomas More.
The Falcons have gone undefeated since Thomas joined the team in her freshman year, along with a handful of players that had been on various teams together for years from recreational to club. Thomas got her start when she was eight years old thanks to the many sports classes offered by the Carrollton Boosters, a parent organization that included her first coach, Jeff Jones, now Vice President of the boosters.
“Jones was actually more of a softball person. He was a softball coach but also coached soccer,” Thomas’ mom, Erika Mann tells The Louisiana Weekly. “I don’t know if she remembers this but he told her, ‘you are such a great athlete but I think soccer is your sport.’”
Though a softball coach herself, Mann has been nothing but supportive of her daughter’s decision to pursue soccer, not least of which because of her commitment to raising awareness of the sport on a local and state level. It was within the Olympic Development Program for girls’ soccer that a fire was lit for her daughter.
Thomas and other players from the area were beating teams and consistently making expert plays that were often overlooked by not just competitors but seemingly everyone. Mann frames it as Thomas receiving almost a professional sports death sentence for simply being from Louisiana, something that Thomas was not content to be labeled as, thus the sophomore has already verbally committed to LSU and is even looking to graduate a year early, though a myriad of schools had been in contact.
Her decision is meant to inspire other girls who may be feeling that same discrimination just because Louisiana has never been traditionally known as a soccer state. “She wants to represent girls and let them know that there’s a future here if you want it,” Mann says.
“It’s a pride thing,” Thomas explains. “I’ve come to realize that we aren’t taken seriously. Students from Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas just weren’t getting credit for anything [in ODT]. After that experience, it changed my entire point of view.”
Since then, Thomas has further sharpened her focus on the sport that she loves as well as academically. A stellar student with a 3.98 GPA, Thomas is looking to spend her undergraduate years as a pre-med student, ultimately choosing to pursue anesthesiology.
She’s consistently busy with soccer practice, academics, and even volunteer work. Nevertheless, Thomas says she doesn’t feel as if she’s missing out on any of her high school experience. The social aspects of soccer have not only provided her with an opportunity to spend time with some of her best friends but has strengthened her fellow players, turning the Falcons into an even more cohesive team.
“Freshman year, we were really good together,” Thomas says of the bond between her and her close friends, “but we were less involved with [socializing with] the team. This year, the whole team has opened up so much. It’s made a huge difference because it’s really important for you to like who you’re playing with and get along well, especially for girls.”
That bond and positive attitude has made it just that much easier for Ben Franklin Girls Soccer coach Jose Ferrand who says that Thomas is incredibly humble and dedicated. “She’s really good, very easy to coach. It’s always been a team effort and she contributes so much,” Ferrand says. “If she continues to push herself, even at the college level, she’ll do well.”
Thomas is now eligible for the Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year, to be announced by the end of the month.
This article originally published in the May 26, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.