K-State women’s soccer player has finally found her burning passion
California native and redshirt sophomore Rachel Harris landed the role of team captain on the women’s soccer team after only one season with the Wildcats. However, the transfer student and former goalkeeper for the University of Arkansas hadn’t always planned for a leadership position at K-State.
Harris, a business administration major at K-State, began her soccer career at the early age of four. She played various positions on the field for around six years, until the age of 10 when she went in for a teammate and played her first game as a goalie. From that day on, she was hooked.
This soccer player immediately knew that she belonged in front of the goal, and one game turned into hundreds. She went on to play competitive soccer in her home state of California and across the country. By the time she started high school, college coaches had their eyes on her. After almost three years of the recruiting process and various visits around the country, she committed to the University of Arkansas.
“Going through the recruiting process was a lot,” Harris said. “Arkansas came into the picture kind of out of nowhere. [Things] with other schools had kind of fallen apart so I was like ‘Ok I’ll go look.’ I loved Fayetteville on my visit. [Committing to Arkansas] was a combination of actually loving the school, and also just wanting to be done with the recruiting process.”
As the starting goalie at Arkansas State University for two years, Harris pushed herself to her physical and emotional limits. Although she was a high ranked and sought-after soccer player, her personal life was lacking. She realized that she gave more time, energy and attention to the sport than was healthy for her and it often took a toll on her.
Like many student athletes, Harris had the demands of school, her sport, trying to develop friendships and participating in extracurricular activities. The balance and the pressure that came along with each of these caused her stress and feelings of isolation.
After time and consideration, Harris decided transferring schools would be what was best for her wellbeing. Here’s where Kansas State came into the picture.
The goalkeeper knew of K-State’s soccer program as she had long been in contact with head coach Mike Dibbini.
“Dibbini, our head coach, had previously recruited me to go back to the school he was coaching in California,” Harris explained. ”But at that time I said no I don’t want to stay in California.”
Soon after that exchange, however, Dibbini reached out to Harris about the newly established K-State women’s soccer team that he had accepted a head coaching position with.
Harris had to respectfully decline Dibbini’s offer as she had already committed to the University of Arkansas, but no love was lost between the two soccer fanatics.
Once the star player officially decided to leave Arkansas, she reached back out to Dibbini and visited K-State. Within three days of her visit, she was sure that she belonged with the Wildcats.
Harris’s choice to commit to K-State was based on the team atmosphere and attitude rather than accolades or playing time.
“I just wanted a fair opportunity,” she said. “I mean I played my freshman and sophomore year at Arkansas but I just wasn’t happy … At the end of the day I didn’t care if I was going to get to come here and play, I just wanted to be treated right.”
Once she visited, it became apparent that K-State could offer her the family she had long desired at Arkansas.
“They all talked about the whole family atmosphere and I was like, ‘Yeah I’ve heard [about] that,’” Harris explained. “But I didn’t really realize it until I got here. If I could do it all over again I would have started here.”
Her time with the team proved her first impression to be correct. After only one season with the team, Harris had made 30 best friends and was named team captain by her teammates.
Emily Crain, kinesiology major and defender for the K-State women’s soccer team, explained that naming Harris team captain was a “no-brainer.” The soon to be junior and friend to Harris had only praise for her.
“Rachel is just a natural born leader,” Crain said. “She understands the game so well and since she’s in a position where she can see the whole field, she is able to direct us efficiently through tons of communication. In her free time, she’s always watching soccer and keeping up with every game that is being televised or streamed. She’s one of the most passionate players on our team.”
Joining the women’s soccer team at K-State and living in Manhattan has allowed Harris to flourish beyond just her athletic career. After graduation, Harris hopes to become a firefighter. The profession appeals to her because it incorporates physical activity as well as a focus on helping others in urgent need. While she wants to complete her degree in business administration, she has known that she wanted to be a firefighter since her girl scout troop took a field trip to a fire station.
The goalkeeper spends what free time she has volunteering with the Manhattan Fire Department. When her schedule allows it, she takes calls from the department and occasionally rides along with the firefighters.
When Harris first stepped foot in front of the goal at 10-years-old, little did she know how much the sport would shape her life. Playing soccer has given her a determination and can-do attitude that rubs off on everyone around her. She is the first to practice and the last to leave. Harris noted that her primary goal in life is to make better the things she encounters. As team captain, volunteer firefighter and member of the K-State family, she has certainly done just that.