Barker focuses on character

By Andrew Singer

When recruiting players, coaches often regard good character as an ancillary trait. To Carrie Barker though, nothing could be more essential.

Barker, NIU women’s soccer team head coach, has always looked for players interested in developing as people in addition to growing as soccer players.

“We look for a certain character to be a part of this team,” Barker said. “Players that want to make an impact in all aspects of their lives. On the field, off the field and in the classroom. We want these girls to excel in all aspects of life.”

It is no coincidence then that Barker leads a 2010 squad that features five players that have performed mission work. Most recently, senior Mo Smunt traveled to Chile over the summer with her W-League team, the Charlotte Lady Eagles.

“I wanted to do something different,” Smunt said. “So, when everyone on the team was given the option to raise money to go over there, I jumped at the chance. I was able to raise about half of the $2,600 in about a month.”

Smunt didn’t have to ponder long to decide on her favorite aspect of the trip.

“The little kids,” Smunt said. “Even if they had nothing they were so happy. A soccer ball meant the world to them, and we were happy to give it to them.”

Looking at a map of South America, just above where Smunt was, one can find where teammate Megan Harry took her efforts in 2007.

“My senior year of high school, we went to Peru, and we basically built them a church,” Harry said. “We were also able to build them some houses and play with some of the children in the area which was really fun.”

Sophomore Kaylee Heller visited South Africa in 2006 with her group to play against some local teams. The purpose of the trip ran much deeper than the games, though.

“We brought over a lot of school supplies and soccer equipment to the kids,” Heller said. “We went to some orphanages and were able to play soccer with some of the kids.”

Prior to becoming a Huskie, freshman goalkeeper Emily Mulder made a trek of her own.

“I went over to Uganda a little while ago to visit an orphanage that took in kids whose parents had died of AIDS,” Mulder said. “We actually opened a classroom for the fall session, and built a soccer field and got a tournament going. The kids work so hard and we just wanted to give them something fun to do.”

Regardless of place or work done, all of the girls came home with a once in a lifetime experience. In addition to that, senior Annie Wyer was also able to come back with a little career training.

“I went to Thailand to work with a gibbon rehabilitation center a couple summer’s ago,” Wyer said. “It wasn’t just something I decided to do though, because that’s what I want to do some day as a career. I want to become a veterinarian after finishing up here at NIU.”

According to Barker, a team rich in character creates a cohesive unit hard to take down on game day.

“When you take a look at this team,” Barker said. “You can see that everyone brings a little something different to the table, and that makes us a really strong team to be dealt with.”