We are super excited to introduce Evann Smith, the co-creator of Athletes4CHNGES, a student-athlete led organization that is dedicated to promoting community, humanity, news, gender, equality and solidarity. Evann is a D1 women's soccer player at the University of California Santa Barbara where she is studying Economics Accounting with the goal of helping professional athletes manage and invest their wealth.
We interviewed Evann about @athletes4chnges, how it started, what their mission is and what their plans are for the future. To get involved or support their mission, you can find them on Instagram @athletes4chnges or by clicking here.
When did you realize you wanted to play college soccer?
I realized I wanted to play college soccer when the USWNT won the Olympic gold medal in 2012. Before, I just played soccer recreationally, but seeing how amazing and strong these women were on a national stage was very inspirational. My goal was to be the next Hope Solo, but that goal slowly became blurred when I realized how much I loved school and how I wanted to live a life beyond soccer. My college recruiting story started pretty late compared to most of my former teammates and current teammates. This is due to the fact that my parents and I had no clue how it worked. I thought coaches would find you or they would come to your highschool games like the movies; I was rudely awakened to my ignorance. I tried out for Real So Cal’s ECNL team at the end of my freshman year and I was the starting goalkeeper until I graduated high school. Throughout that time I was recruited by many D1 programs and eventually UCSB found me by chance, I committed a few months after I took my visits. UCSB is now my home and my teammates are my family, I’m so excited to continue my journey here.
How has race played a role in your athletic career? Was your experience with high school/club soccer different from your college soccer experience?
I can’t say race has been a factor in my athletic career, and if it did I didn’t notice. My experience from club soccer and college soccer has been different in the sense that there was an elevation in competition and responsibilities. I also didn’t start or play the majority of my freshman season, which was a complete shift from my entire career before college.
What compelled you to create @athletes4chnges?
May 25th, 2020 shifted my world and the world around me forever, George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis police. For a week I was consumed by sadness, anger, and frustration. On June 1st I was given an idea from my teammates, a fundraiser where I could pour my heart and soul into, an outlet for these emotions. So I worked tirelessly day and night, because the Black Lives Matter movement means and meant so much to me, so I wanted to contribute and make a tangible impact. This event showed me that it’s possible for me and other athletes to create the change we want to see and that we can make an impact together. Athletes4CHNGES was born out of our 8.46 miles in remembrance of George Floyd, we needed a platform that could post notifications and share content about the event. I didn’t create Athletes4CHNGES alone. It is a collaborative group of student athletes that is continuously fighting injustices and using our platform to spread awareness of inequalities and how to help reduce or eliminate them. To be specific there is Hannah Wendelken (UCSB W Soccer), Caleb Simmons ( SJSU M Basketball), Darrian Reed (SJSU W Soccer ALUM), Natahsa Harris (SJSUS W Soccer), and Jenny Chuang (UC Irvine). I am extremely grateful for my coworkers in this group, we all equally pull our weight and are passionate about our mission to create lasting change.
Meet the co-creators of Athletes4CHNGES
Hannah Wendelken - Senior, UC
Santa Barbara Women's Soccer
Caleb Simmons - Senior, San Jose State Men's Basketball
Natasha Harris - Senior, San Jose State Women's Soccer
Darrian Reed - San Jose State Women's Soccer Alumni
What are you short term and long term goals for @athletes4chnges?
Some short term goals are to continue to use our platform to educate people on the social injustices, to create avenues for athletes and others to actively fight against social injustices and to inspire athletes to use their platforms to support various movements
Our long term goals are to create a website as a resource and become a nonprofit
Do you feel like college athletes have enough support in areas beyond their physical performance (mental health, academics, injury/recovery, career development, etc.)
I think collegiate athletics are heading in the right direction. I grew up watching sports documentaries on collegiate athletes. In the past I think student-athletes were seen as just products that didn’t have a life outside of their sport. Today, I think our coaches and conferences, even the NCAA, are evolving towards the fact that student-athletes are in fact young adults that are trying to figure everything out on top of all their academics and sports. You see this with the increased support for mental health and job opportunities that are offered to student-athletes off the field. My school, UCSB, is amazing with supporting their athletes and I'm so lucky and grateful to go here.
What do you see yourself doing once your playing career is over?
Once I’m done with my collegiate career, I’m done playing forever, and that’s why I am pushing myself to be the best. I want to leave soccer without any regrets. I plan to have a career in the financial industry and eventually move to Washington once I graduate.
What is one message you would love to deliver to current college athletes?
A message that I would love to deliver to my fellow collegiate athletes is that we have more power than we realize, and if we work together we can create a limitless amount of positive changes for ourselves, our communities, and for the athletes that will come after us.
How has your mindset and overall perspective changed since the quarantine started in March of 2020?
On a personal basis, I feel like the quarantine has completely changed the way I approach and view life. In the past I used to take moments and people for granted and I truly did not live in the present. Today, I see myself making the most of all the opportunities and moments that come into my life, I truly appreciate them. I also have lost the urge to worry about things that I can’t control and rather put my energy towards my reality and goals.