Puyallup: Sumner

Sumner High soccer players welcome new teammates the old fashioned way

Sumner High School girls soccer team captain Jordan Thompson, left, and teammate Hannah Rowan holds notes they wrote for girls trying out for the soccer team.
Sumner High School girls soccer team captain Jordan Thompson, left, and teammate Hannah Rowan holds notes they wrote for girls trying out for the soccer team. jbessex@gateline.com

The captain of the Sumner High School girls soccer team remembers her experience trying out for the team four years ago, when she was a freshman.

“It was very nerve-wracking,” said senior Jordan Thompson.

This year, Thompson had an idea to soothe some of that tension from the girls trying out for the team.

With the help of her teammate, senior Hannah Rowan, Thompson handwrote 63 letters for every girl who tried out for the team, personalizing each one.

“No one really writes letters anymore,” Thompson said. “Usually it’s just a text. It shows that we’re unified.”

The idea for the letters was sparked in part by Sumner High School’s Leadership group, which sends out letters to students and athletes throughout the year for encouragement.

“I remember getting (the letters) and thinking it was so cool,” Thompson said. “Sometimes you can think seniors are untouchable, and then you get one of those letters from them.”

We wanted to show (the players) that your team doesn’t matter, or what you look like or how you perform. We’re all going to treat you the same.

Hannah Rowan, Sumner High School girls soccer player

Coach Robi Turly didn’t even know about Thompson’s plan at first.

“She asked me on the first day of tryouts if she could have a list of the girls trying out,” Turly said.

Thompson and Rowan wrote the notes that night and handed them out on Aug. 23, the second day of the weeklong soccer tryouts.

“It was fun to see her personally hand them out,” said Turly, who has been the team’s coach for 13 years. “It was great to see the newcomers and the returners’ faces.”

Freshman Delaney Wiren wasn’t able to make it to the first day of tryouts. Her letter encouraged her to keep going.

“Even though I couldn’t tryout the first day, I could still make an effort and keep going,” Wiren said, adding that she used to play on teams that valued winning over anything else. “Here it’s mainly about friendship and being nice to each other.”

Lauren Churchill, another freshman on the C-team, had a letter that welcomed her to Sumner High School and said that she was going “to do amazing things these next four years.”

“It made me really happy that they’re so welcoming,” she said.

C-team player Kylie Wing had similar encouragements.

“Great job yesterday,” read her note. “Go out there and keep killing it! We know you’re going to do amazing!”

63 handwritten notes

“You made it through the hardest day at tryouts!” read another.

Inclusion was an important objective of the letters, and it was important to the senior players that their new teammates understood that.

“We wanted to show them that Sumner’s all about being nice and feeling included,” said Rowan.

At the end of tryouts, 47 girls made it onto one of three teams: varsity, junior varsity or C-team. This was the first year that the team handed out personal letters like this, and even though Thompson is leaving to play soccer at Gonzaga University next year, Turly hopes the act of kindness continues.

“We wanted to show (the players) that your team doesn’t matter, or what you look like or how you perform,” Rowan said. “We’re all going to treat you the same.”

Allison Needles: 253-256-7043, @herald_allison

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