By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Friends and family came to the campus of Brighton High School Dec. 14 to share in the milestone of Lady Cardinal Soccer senior Karsen Waddell’s signing to Dyersburg State.
As this Lady Cardinal prepared to make the transition to a Lady Eagle, the BHS Gymnasium Lobby was buzzing with praise about Waddell. Terms like “Passionate soccer player,” “Willing to always learn,” and “Natural to the game,” kept echoing off the walls. Gravitating to the game of soccer in a softball-rich county like Tipton County, Waddell said she just couldn’t shake her love of futbol.
“It was something I’ve always loved to do — kick the ball,” Waddell said. “Plus I couldn’t catch it. And (running) helps me clear my head when I run. Soccer is my dream sport.”
Along her journey to the college level, her family including parents Eric and Tonya invested the time, money and resources into their daughter. “She’s been playing soccer since she was 4,” Tonya recalled. “She’s only really played soccer. She’s done track and cross country but soccer is her main sport.”
Eric said when her younger brother Ty entered the picture, he was hoping soccer would become the family’s fame.
“It was one of the things we give them — a choice,” he noted. “We tried to find something they both enjoyed the same. We were hoping to be at the same parks and things. Both her and her brother got into competitive ball. “We had to end up splitting up at all times,” Eric continued. “So that goal wasn’t achieved. But seeing that she had talent and ability, and the dream of wanting to play at a higher level, we wanted to invest in allowing her dream to come true.”
Part of that investment led to Karsen connecting with her future college coach at Dyersburg, Robert Luttrell.
“I am excited about it,” she said. “I played for him on my first club team. I’ve played in Covington but we traveled to Jackson. I’ve played in Arlington and I’ve played for Bartlett. I’ve seen the best in West Tennessee.”
Luttrell said he knows Karsen has the skill set but best of all the right mentality to play on the collegiate level.
“I have known her for a while,” he noted. “I’ve coached her in club back in middle school going into high school. She’s a hard worker and one of those types that will do anything a coach asks her to do. Very smart, quick and versatile player who can play any position on the field. But I know her character, she’s a high-character, great work ethic.
“Honestly she can end up being a starter anywhere out there,” Luttrell added. “And that’s partly to her work ethic. If she ever gets beat on something, she will learn and adapt to get better.”
Her willingness to keep learning the game made Waddell a vital part of Head Coach Kelsi Williams’ Lady Cardinals. Playing midfield and forward for Brighton, Williams and Assistant Coach Guillermo Diaz-Hidalgo enjoyed working with Waddell.
“Very aggressive, very smart and thirsty to learn,” Diaz-Hidalgo said. “She is always eager to improve her skills. She’s very committed. It is a passion of hers and you can tell. She’s very committed to what she does.”
Karsen said her dedication to the game was sharpened by watching her parents invest in her dream.
“My parents and my family have fought for me,” she said. “They have continued to put in the money and work hours to get me where I am today to the next level to play competitively. Mom is always there for me, Karsen continued.
“They tell me how I am doing to help me play better. I am not the best with criticism. But she’ll tell me what I need to do to get better. Dad would tell me the same thing and then we’ll go practice out in the yard. Going around trees acting like they’re players. Just like with my brother Ty. We were in the yard a lot when we were younger.”
With Ty nearby Karsen added another position to her soccer career — role model. Having her little brother watching her moves on the field, Karsen worked harder to achieve her dreams in order to share the experience with him.
“I would just let him know he has it,” Karsen said. “I’ve seen him play his whole life in the ODP program which is getting into the Olympic trials. If you want to get into the Olympics, you have to go through ODP. He’s already there I believe. He is as good or even better than where I am right now. And he’s just in middle school.” As for Karsen, her next school is Dyersburg State. And the other topic of conversation at the signing ceremony was making plans to head up the road to see Karsen in college.
“This is the perfect landing spot because she didn’t want to go too far from home,” Eric concluded. “She wanted to stay within a couple of hours from the house. All the schools on her list were within a two-hour window. And it makes it a lot nicer for us, we get to go watch her.”