Being an athlete at Joliet Junior College is hard work – but women’s soccer player Paige Dickison knows it’s well worth the long hours, dedication and commitment.
During the season, Dickison spends almost all of her time either in class or on the soccer field. Now that spring is getting closer, she’s looking forward to practicing with the team again.
“Being on the soccer team gives you a sense of being a bigger part of JJC. It gives you the connection and support of a family,” she said. “Playing soccer at JJC has taught me time management as well as communication skills. It has also helped me to really push myself to improve as a person.”
Dickison played soccer on community teams since she was six years old. She wasn’t allowed to try out for her high school team because she was homeschooled. But when the rules changed her senior year, she tried out and made it – without ever having been on a high school team before.
At JJC, Dickison plays defense as a center, sweeper or outside left.
Dickison said she’s passionate about soccer because of the competition and the motivation to do better, both on and off the field. She also thinks the team has a great coach, Larry Graiber, because he is enthusiastic, supportive of the team as a whole, and cares about each player individually. Graiber also understands that his players are not only athletes, but students, too. In 2014, the JJC women’s soccer team was recognized for having the overall highest team GPA, an average of 3.34.
“If we have a lot of homework or a big project to work on, our coach supports and encourages us to focus on our academic priorities,” Dickison said. “Playing soccer at the college level gives you more freedom, and you have to have passion and commitment if you really want to play. That’s why I think playing soccer at JJC has made me more accountable.”
Graiber said a big part of being successful in soccer is the competitive drive – something that Dickison demonstrates everyday.
“Paige is a great example of the type of person JJC seeks in their students,” the coach said. “On the field, she encourages her teammates to become better players by demonstrating her passion and determination at every practice and game.”
When she’s not on the soccer field, Dickison is in class, preparing for a degree in chemical engineering. She’s a part of the honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, and JJC’s Honors Program.
Taking honors classes has challenged her in different ways, just like soccer has. She’s become more organized, responsible, and serious about her studies – and as a result, she has turned into an analytical thinker.
“Being an athlete and an honors student at JJC, I’ve learned to fight for my grades,” she added. “Having a game or practice after classes, five days a week, is a challenge, especially when you don’t get home until late in the evening. So it’s important to let your instructor know what’s going on and get help early.”
Another unique opportunity Dickison experienced at JJC was being a part of a biochemical research project last summer that concentrated on the affects of amino acids on fish. She used the scientific method and took detailed lab notes on a daily basis in order to come up with a conclusion by the end of the research period. She worked with JJC professors, including Natural Sciences Department Chair Patrick Mills.
Dickison still has one more year at JJC, but once she graduates, she plans to transfer to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She hopes to play on their soccer team.
“I’m so glad I chose to attend JJC. Both academically and athletically, JJC has helped me become a more well-rounded student,” she said.