Competing at the national level in one sport consumes plenty of a youth athlete’s time. But to do it in two sports, Boise’s Logan and Sammy Smith had to become masters of time management.
The two sisters play on FC Nova’s Elite U-14 girls soccer team in the Elite Clubs National League and suit up for Nova this weekend at Idaho’s State Cup tournament. But for all their success on the pitch, the two may have found more on the mountain.
Sammy, 11, qualified for the U.S. junior nationals the past two years in mogul skiing. Logan, 13, would have qualified for junior nationals in Nordic skiing this past winter after winning the U-16 Intermountain division. But national organizers deemed her too young for the national competition.
“It’s impressive,” said Jim Thomas, the Smiths’ FC Nova coach and the head coach of the Boise State women’s soccer team. “The amount of skiing they do and the amount of training they do for that — and the level at which they compete — you wouldn’t think they’d be able to find the energy nor the will to go out and train (for soccer).
“And obviously school is in there somewhere, and hopefully a life of fun. But they do it.”
The Smith sisters move to Sun Valley in the winter with their mother, Kristin, and younger brother, Tucker, to pursue their skiing passion.
Their typical day involves waking up at 7 a.m. They are homeschooled until 11 a.m., then it’s up to the mountain until 4 p.m. before official ski practice starts at 4:30 p.m. Hockey practice follows until 8 p.m., when they head over to the local YMCA gym for an hour or two of soccer training on their own.
“Efficiency,” Sammy said, “is a lot of it.”
The weekends pose another challenge. With the ECNL’s fall-to-spring schedule, the two constantly have to juggle which events to attend.
“There were a couple weeks in the winter where we had four states in two days,” Kristin said. “Logan in Wyoming for Nordic, Sammy in Montana or Utah for freestyle, and then the kids need to be in Seattle for soccer.
“Their little brother, we had to leave him stranded in Sun Valley begging people if they see him standing alone on the corner from hockey to pick him up.”
The conflicting schedules came to a head this year when Sammy reached junior nationals in both singles and dual moguls the same week as a pair of ECNL games. She competed in singles, where she finished 20th, then skipped duals to make it to both soccer games.
Logan and Sammy said they love both sports and that each one feeds a different desire. Soccer — where Logan competes up one age group and Sammy two — provides a team atmosphere and is more forgiving. Skiing focuses on individual achievements and requires intense focus because any mistake is exaggerated.
“For soccer, I love my team, I love my club, I love my coaches,” Logan said. “... For skiing, I also really enjoy my teammates, but I also kind of like that that’s an individual sport. It’s kind of on you if you don’t go your hardest. It just gives you more incentive to push yourself harder.”
Thomas said he was skeptical when he first heard of the Smiths’ loaded winter schedule. Missing three to four months of soccer training a year adds up quickly in long-term development.
But he said he can tell they haven’t strayed too far from the ball when they return to Boise for weekend matches and in the spring. He credits their college athlete parents — Kristin rowed crew at Stanford and their father, Steve, played soccer at Duke — for instilling the discipline required to pull off both sports.
“I hope they hang on to both for as long as possible,” Thomas said. “I really think it’s good for them as athletes. But whichever they choose, I’m sure they’ll be fantastic.”