At the end of soccer practice on an early October afternoon, Mazama senior Aydin Smith leaves practice and heads across the Mazama parking lot to the football field for special team’s practice. On his way out, he grabs a bag of soccer balls and tosses it into his soccer coach’s truck.
When he shows up to football practice, his black soccer shorts stand out among the white padded pants of his teammates. He runs through kick-off and points-after-touchdown situations with the football team, wearing practice pads with a blue penny thrown over a Mazama soccer shirt.
And that’s just a Wednesday.
Smith is a soccer captain and center midfielder, the kicker for the varsity football team and a member of the cross-country team, making him a three-fall-sport athlete.
“He plays with passion,” Mazama soccer head coach Sergio Cisneros said. “And these other guys are like, ‘Man, he’s playing hard and he’s got to go to football right after this.’”
Smith started playing for both teams last year after choosing soccer over football his freshman year. He played football in middle school and didn’t think he’d be able to do both since the seasons overlap.
“Freshman year I played only soccer, but I always wanted to kick for football because in middle school I played football and I loved it,” he said. “I personally like soccer better, but I love the atmosphere of football and love being around these guys.”
Head football coach and Mazama athletic director Vic Lease worked with Smith, Cisneros and Taylor Penrod, the cross-country coach, to figure out a schedule where he could do it all.
Lease said he believes in encouraging students to be multi-sport athletes and that he doesn’t want athletes to silo into one sport; that’s how he runs Mazama athletics, it’s how he was when he was a student, and it’s how he’s raised his children, he said.
“If an athlete wants to do more than one sport, we sit down with the coaches and we have a conversation,” he said. “That’s the direction we’re gonna go.”
Cisneros especially wanted to make sure that Smith was able to pursue his goals of being a three-sport athlete while also making sure he was committed to his teammates and his responsibilities as a senior captain on soccer.
“First and foremost, we talked about is this something where you can compete, be healthy, be safe and truly make a difference,” he said. “And we came out with yeah.”
Smith’s after-school schedule is loaded. On Mondays and Thursdays, he has soccer games. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, he practices with the soccer team from 3:45 until 5:45, before heading to the football field for the last half-hour of practice, which Lease has structured to be special teams’ practice.
And Friday nights, Smith is beneath the lights.
“It was cool to see his passion to want to be competitive in not only soccer but in other sports as well that he’s gifted in,” Cisneros said. “As a coach, when you see that passion and that desire to succeed and contribute, it translates to you as well and you get excited about it.”
Cisneros called Smith the pillar of the program, who embodies the team’s values and work ethic; and at center midfielder, he’s the team’s pulse on the field.
At soccer practice, he’s passionate, talkative – encouraging his teammates and getting onto them when he expects better.
“Aydin is a passionate individual who is selfless,” Cisneros said. “He is someone who genuinely cares about not only his success but the success of his teammates, the success of this program because he’s proud of what he’s a part of. He’s proud of this school, he’s proud of his community, his family.”
Meanwhile, on the football field, Smith holds all the Vikings kicking responsibilities, Lease said.
Last year, he started out just doing kick-offs for Mazama. Lease’s daughter was kicking PATs and another student was punting, but as the new season rolled around, they needed Smith more, according to Lease.
“We kicked our very first field goal two weeks ago against Phoenix and he’s hit all of his extra points,” he said. “He’s just done a great job for us.”
Smith has even had several touchbacks – when the kicker kicks the ball all the way to the end zone during kick offs.
“He’s really flexible. He has the ability to do a lot of different things,” Lease said. “He just carries himself really well. He doesn’t get down on himself if he doesn’t kick it just right. He stays focused and takes care of business.”
Smith says it’s a lot to manage, especially with school, but that his coaches’ flexibility, support and their willingness to work through scheduling is the reason he’s able to do both.
“I love that they all help me out and they all want me to succeed,” he said.
Which is a value Cisneros said he tries to live out: “It’s always important for us as a coaching staff to echo that we support him and want him to be successful.”
For example, Smith’s cross-country coach, Penrod, lets Smith come to practice when he can, but mostly Smith finds time to run on his own, on top of the running he does for soccer.
“I don’t know what it is, but I’m one of those weird kids that likes running,” he said, laughing.
Earlier this year, he took first place at the Mazama mud run.
Even with all his commitments, Smith still has high hopes for his senior seasons.
“For soccer, I definitely want to be one of the best teams in the basin,” he said. “For football, I want us to go all the way. I have confidence in them. I’ve seen how they play. I love their enthusiasm and I think they can go all the way.”
In the meantime, Smith keeps up with the day-to-day of being a three-sport athlete in one season, which he says means focusing on eating right and staying hydrated.
“He’s doing a great job, just a great kid too,” Lease said. “He’s just an exceptional young man.”
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