When aerospace engineering freshman Sophia Brown arrived at Cal Poly at the start of the school year, she began her journey toward fulfilling her childhood dream.
At age 18, Brown is the starting goalkeeper for the Cal Poly women’s soccer team. In her first season with the Mustangs, Brown started and finished all 19 games this season while recording four shutouts and surrendering an average of just 1.3 goals per game.
One would think Brown dreams of playing alongside the stars of the United States Women’s National Soccer team, but she aims to reach a different kind
“My dream was to become an astronaut,” Brown said. “And who knows, it might still be in the books. Right now I’m just having fun doing what I’m doing.”
Her goal seems almost impossible considering the amount of time that is needed to train for soccer and to study for engineering classes, but a hectic schedule is nothing new to Brown.
“I think something that really helped me growing up was I always had a busy schedule,” Brown said. “I never really knew what it was like to have down time. I went from soccer in the fall, to basketball in the winter, to lacrosse in the spring and the entire time I was trying to balance school.”
Before coming to Cal Poly, Brown attended Foothill High School in Pleasanton, California. She had a chance to play soccer for the school but chose to continue playing for her club team, Rage Soccer Club, instead. In her senior year, Brown was selected as the overall CIF Farmers Insurance Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2015-2016, for which she was recognized at the state capital and awarded a $5,000 scholarship. Brown was also selected for the Olympic Development Program from 2011-2014 for her stellar soccer play.
But Brown didn’t just play three different sports; she excelled in all of them. In addition to her selection to the Olympic Development Program for soccer, Brown was an All-East Bay Athletic League First Team selection for lacrosse and the MVP of her team. She was also a captain on her basketball team. With the stress and time of constant training and practices, many high school students would push off homework and studying. That wasn’t the case for Brown.
“Growing up, I think my parents definitely taught me and all of my sisters to focus more on our schooling before athletics,” Brown said. “Especially at Cal Poly, we are known as student athletes which I think is really important.”
Today, to leave herself enough time in the day to juggle practices, games, classes and homework, Brown carefully maps everything out on a handwritten calendar pinned to her bulletin board in her dorm room, something the soccer coaches made every freshman do.
“Everything’s planned out: when I have practice, when I have class, when I have personal time, time to study, time to sleep,” Brown said. “It keeps me on my toes and keeps my head straight.”
While her parents helped her understand the importance of school, it was two of Brown’s four siblings, Elsa and Olivia, who were the primary influences on Brown’s decision to attend Cal Poly. Elsa, Brown’s oldest sister, graduated from Cal Poly in 2015 with a degree in architecture and played intramural soccer. Olivia is currently a junior liberal studies major at Cal Poly and helped found the women’s club basketball team.
“My sisters were a big part of why I chose to come to Cal Poly,” Brown said. “I had a ton of reasons going for me as to why I chose to come here. It’s a great soccer program and its an amazing engineering school. It just seemed like the perfect fit for me.”
Though Brown is working hard toward her goal of becoming an astronaut, she has not ruled out the possibility of continuing her soccer career if she has the chance to make it professionally.
“Playing soccer so much, as I have been doing the past three months, has really lead me to a greater appreciation of the sport,” Brown said. “Right now I’m still looking forward to my next three, who knows, maybe more, seasons here at Poly. Beyond that, I’d like to see where it would take me. I think it would be a really cool opportunity to look into after I graduate.”
The main improvement Brown wants to make is in her leadership ability, which may be a tough task for someone that’s captained multiple teams and served as Associated Student Body President her senior year of high school.
“Coming in as a freshman on a team that was half third, fourth and fifth years, it was kind of hard to get my voice heard, but that’s when my teammates really stepped in and helped me,” Brown said. “Especially having a back line that was a majority upperclassmen. They told me right from the start ‘Sophia, we depend on you to be a leader. We need to hear your voice and you’re really the cornerstone in the back.’ So that helped me kind of step out of my shell and assume the leader position that I’m still working towards.”
For now, Brown is trying to make it through her first quarter of college. Her freshman season wrapped up last Sunday in a 0-0 tie against UC Davis, so she may finally have some free time in her busy calendar. She’s taking these experiences one step at a time. Making that one giant leap into becoming an astronaut will have to come later.