GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Sarah Widderich’s upbringing has been heavily influenced by sports.
"I played softball, basketball, I swam, but soccer was the one that I really stuck with,” the 16-year-old said.
Now at Eastern Alamance High School, living in Mebane, Widderich travels 40 minutes several times a week to go to NC Fusion practices and games at Bryan Park Soccer Complex in Greensboro.
"Soccer pretty much controls my whole life,” she said. “I look forward to it every day.”
Today, Widderich’s decision to pursue soccer has her leading her team in goals. But it’s the benefits off the field parents and coaches notice most.
"They kind of had a knack for it, so we went the next step to club ball,” said Paul Aubee, whose daughters – Bethany, 14, and Lillian, 8 – both play for Fusion.
Aubee adds competition and camaraderie are two benefits his daughters have seen playing team sports.
"Obviously the physical fitness component, coordination is very obvious, when you play more, you practice more, you get better,” he said. “But, I think the most noticeable is confidence."
It’s a sentiment echoed by those tasked with training the athletes.
"The way the girls carry themselves on and off the field,” said John Pardini, NC Fusion Girls Triad director.
In addition to the added confidence the athletes compile, the routines they develop on the field and in team sports helps them navigate through other aspects of life.
"From an academic standpoint, it teaches them structure,” Pardini said. “It teaches them how to manage their time."
Many of these athletes have aspirations to play soccer professionally, which are heightened by the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
"My youngest actually has kind of a World Cup sticker book with her right now,” Aubee said. "If she wants to be Alex Morgan, then go and do your thing."
"The Women's World Cup is a huge aspect,” Pardini said. “It's on TV, it's the first time I remember seeing a live game."
But even if they don’t go pro, many of these athletes plan to pursue careers in soccer. If not, what they’ve learned from soccer will likely help them with their careers.
"If pro doesn't happen for me, then coaching, just, you know, volunteer coaching even at a small local program just something where it's always gonna be a part of my life,” Widderich said.
You can watch the FIFA Women’s World Cup on FOX8. For FOX8's TV schedule, click here.