Whenever Leesville Road senior Mary Kate Bowers feels the world closing in on her, she pulls out her knitting needles.
Bowers, who is one of the best girls high school soccer players in the state, currently is co-president of the Prides Knitting Club. She didnt know how to knit when she joined the club, which was established as a way for college aspirants to demonstrate initiative and leadership.
The other girls, including co-president Claire Collins, taught her the basics and she produces scarves and headbands on a regular basis.
I think knitting is a great stress reducer for some of the girls, said Leesville soccer coach Paul Dinkenor, who doesnt knit. Several of the players enjoy it.
Bowers said they keep it light. Cookies and juice boxes are mandatory at meetings. The girls listen to Disney Princess songs as they knit.
The knitting has nothing to do with her soccer skills, but the way she approached her new hobby shows a lot about the way she does things.
She practiced her knitting so much during the first two weeks that she had to ice her fingers to reduce the swelling.
Bowers has shown the same determination in soccer, academics and the theater, her newest pursuit.
She took a theater class at school during her freshman year and enjoyed it so much she signed up for advanced theater this year. She was a party goer in the schools fall production of the The Great Gatsby and was a principal player, Regina, during the winter production of Mean Girls. This spring shes working with the hair crew during the production of Grease.
The theater has been wonderful, she said. I love it so much. I have soccer practices in the fall and spring so I miss rehearsals, but I have more time in the winter.
One of the best things is that I have a new set of friends. Im making friends with all of these people who I have gone to school with for all these years and never really got to know.
She sat near the front of the theater for the N.C. Theatres recent production of Les Miserables and was overwhelmed. It was just this incredible experience, she said. I was so touched.
Dinkenor said he had never seen a student with as much energy and as many diversions.
She is an outstanding dancer and she is involved in everything. Even the Stray Cats Club, which has named and nurtured the stray cats in the neighborhood, Dinkenor said. She gives the impression of being a Disney Princess, but then she changes when she steps on the field. Appearances can be deceiving.
All of her interests have helped prepare her for her final season of soccer. Her greatest role this year is being a leader, and she is using the determination, leadership skills and drive that she has shown in other endeavors.
A year ago, she was surrounded by seniors as the Pride built an 18-5 record. This year, she is playing on what Dinkenor jokingly calls his kindergarten team.
The youthfulness of the team didnt really sink in until the first scrimmage. She was surrounded by new faces, and the close teamwork of last year had not been developed.
Weve got a lot of freshmen and sophomores, Bowers said. I think one of my biggest roles is to be an encourager. I tell the girls that they made the team for a reason. They are starting because they earned it. Encouragement sometimes goes a long way.
She said she was startled by the Prides play in a season-opening 2-1 victory against Green Hope, the 2013 4A state champions.
If we can keep improving as much as we did from the first scrimmage to the first game, we can be good, Bowers said. I think we are working harder than ever. Were having Saturday practices, and everybody wants to get better.
Bowers scored 20 goals last year, and Dinkenor said she needs to be a scorer again this year. She has always had speed and agility and made the varsity as a freshman, but has developed more skills. She can go by you with speed now, he said.
One constant, though, is attitude.
She is undoubtedly the most positive person I have ever seen, Dinkenor said.
With her history of embracing new things, her choice of College of Charleston, a school she knew nothing about before it recruited her to play soccer, isnt a surprise.
I went to visit and how could you not fall in love with that school, she said. Charleston is such an incredible place.
She was impressed by the schools academics, the soccer program, the campus and the city.
And the city also will give her an opportunity to pursue another of her loves.
I love to shop, and the shopping opportunities in Charleston are amazing, she said.