Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Reaching Goals on and off the Field

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Reaching Goals on and off the Field

Article excerpt

DANIELLE SLATON: Reaching Goals On And Off the Field

People around Santa Clara University know Danielle Slaton as a fierce competitor who won a spot on the U.S. Olympic women's soccer team last year. She is the kind of player who never gives out or lets up. And in the classroom, professors see that same intense focus. Despite all her traveling for soccer games, Slaton maintains a strong A average.

But with so many achievements early in life, Slaton has already learned a valuable lesson that many young stars never do -- it's all about balance.

"I'd go crazy if I didn't. Balance is the key," says Slaton, 20. "My friends help me keep my perspective on life."

Slaton was raised in San Jose, Calif., the oldest daughter of high school teachers. Her father, Frank Slaton, teaches physical education and is a high school track coach. Her mother, Sandy, teaches middle school. Her parents got Slaton started in soccer at the age of 5 -- she was the only girl on the team.

Through her school years she stuck with soccer.

"I come from a big track family," she says. "My father had run track, my sister ran track. But I always loved soccer," says Slaton. "I liked the creativity of it. It's not like basketball, which has so many more rules."

She played in YMCA and city recreation department leagues, eventually ending up on girl teams.

"I had good teachers. They made it fun," she recalls. The sport became more serious for Slaton at age 12, when she enrolled in an Olympic development program.

High school offers a bevy of extracurricular activities for teen-agers. And because of social activities, many lose interest in a favorite sport or activity. But Slaton had no intention of letting soccer go.

"Soccer has always been fun for me. It takes a lot of time and there are sacrifices. But it's worth it. There would be a real void if I wasn't doing it," she says.

At Presentation High School in San Jose, Slaton was captain of the girls' soccer team, and helped lead her team to a regional championship. As student body president, she was also a leader off the athletic field.

Slaton's soccer prowess, academic achievement and school leadership netted her an athletic scholarship to Santa Clam University, which has long boasted a nationally acclaimed soccer program. Santa Clam has been in the Top 10 of women's Division I soccer for the last 12 years. For the last seven years, the women's team has made it to the Final Four.

By all accounts, Santa Clara has been a good fit for Slaton. Jerry Smith serves as head coach of the women's program. Assisting him is his wife, Brandi Chastain, one of the stars of the 2000 World Cup championship U.S. team.

Another assistant coach, Rich Manning, recalls seeing Slaton play years ago When he was a youth soccer coach in Southern California. What struck him then, as now, is Slaton's competitive nature.

"She will do anything not to lose a game. She'll always go the extra mile," he says. But he is just as impressed with Slaton's strength of character.

She has made time for volunteer work, such as the Eastside Project, tutoring English to Sierra Leone and Vietnamese refugees. She helped out with the Read to Sued Project, sponsored by the university's athletic department. Slaton and other volunteers helped disadvantaged children with their homework. She also has participated in Nike "Yes" Clinics, teaching soccer skills to underprivileged children in the community.

At Santa Clara, Slaton is majoring in psychobiology, the study of mental functioning and behavior in relation to other biological processes. …

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