Reagan Pomponio is intense, at least on the soccer pitch.
Everything the 18-year-old forward does — from passing and tackling to all-out attacking runs up the wings — is with an aggressiveness and energy that shows how much she wants to win.
Sometimes, she admits, she wants to win too badly.
“I get a little too competitive sometimes,” she said. “And when that happens, I’ll get aggressive and that can lead to me making bad decisions and fouls.”
In her young soccer career, Pomponio has played soccer from the grassroots level and up, competing in Prince Rupert’s youth soccer league, the Terrace provincial rep team and other tournaments with the Vancouver Whitecaps youth squad.
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Before playing for those teams however, Pomponio’s love for soccer developed as a five-year-old watching her father, Remo Pomponio, play the game.
Pomponio said watching and learning from her dad provided an opportunity for the two to become close, and, as a result, she learned to appreciate the game in a special way.
“My dad didn’t have any sons, so we would use it as time when we could bond with just the two of us,” she said.
The elder Pomponio played midfield in his youth and played with the same aggressive edge his daughter would eventually emulate.
“He is very defensive,” Reagan Pomponio said. “He doesn’t have a lot of the tricks that the other guys do, but he has a lot of speed and the ability to see the game.”
Pomponio’s skills developed under her father’s watchful eye. He taught her the basics of how to pass, shoot, handle the ball and cut off an opposing player who was trying to attack.
“And he didn’t sugar coat any of it,” she said. “I eventually got better every time we played.”
Pomponio joined Prince Rupert’s youth soccer leagues soon after learning how to play the game, and continued until she joined the Charles Hays Secondary School soccer team. She immediately noticed the difference between youth and high school soccer.
“There’s a new level of skill and intensity that you have to get used to,” she said. “It was pretty nerve-wracking because of how good the other girls were, but I had a good time with it.”
Practices usually involved constant running for conditioning, passing drills and mini-games with either two or four players. The team was small so Pomponio found herself thrust into games early as a young player.
“It was tough, but I learned how to take the game as it comes,” she said. “If I made mistakes, I recognized it and worked to get better.”
The only thing more satisfying for Pomponio than playing the games was spending time with her teammates, especially while on the team bus during road trips to play against rival schools.
“Everyone is tired at first, but when you arrive in the town you begin to get pumped up and look forward to playing and everyone gets excited,” she said.
Every team the Rainmakers play on the road has their own unique style of play and presents unique challenges. Pomponio pointed to a team like Smithers, whose ability to quickly turn defence into offence is an example of the talent in the region.
In addition to her play on the field, Pomponio has recently began to take on more of a role teaching younger players who to love and play the game the way she was once taught by her father.
Even as a younger player, Pomponio would help her father to coach his teams. In 2016, she became an assistant coach before taking on head coaching duties in 2017.
This year — her last before going to university — Pomponio has rejoined her father on the sidelines for one more season.
Pomponio acknowledges that the challenges of playing are different to coaching.
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“When you’re playing, you think about what you can do to win the game,” she said. “But when you’re the coach, you have to think about what each person can do. The coach has to have an entire view of the game and how to explain it.”
Reagan will attend the University of Calgary after graduating from CHSS. She plans to take a year off from soccer to get used to her new environment, but she plans to tryout for the school’s team in the future.
“It’ll be a pretty big change, but it’ll be something I’ll get used to,” she said.