When she was at Williston, Caroline Wysocki often did her homework and ate dinner in her car. It wasn’t by choice, or a distaste for the dining hall, but rather a necessary, exhausting part of the sacrifice of playing youth soccer at the highest level.
Now a junior and starting outside defender at the University of New Hampshire, Wysocki, 21, was both a star on the Wildcats and a key member of FC Stars of Massachusetts, the Acton-based soccer club. She often, after a full day at Williston, hit the road twice a week for 6 or 7:30 p.m. practices in Boston. Games were on Sundays.
She maintained this schedule all year, for all four years. Until she got her license, those Mass Pike rides, and car dinners, were shared with her parents. Wysocki is eternally grateful.
“It was insane,” Wysocki, an Agawam native and 2016 graduate, said. “My parents are amazing.”
Reflecting on the rigors of her schedule, Wysocki admitted, it was a “crazy” time and mileage commitment, but “it was just what you had to do.”
And it paid off; Wysocki was scouted as a freshman and committed to play college soccer for Division I UNH–also the Wildcats–following sophomore year. She was more than ready when she showed up on campus.
“Academically, when I first got to college,” she said, “all my friends were like, ‘It’s so hard, it’s so much work.’ It was, but I was so prepared. Work ethic, time management, striving to be best I can–I think that mindset came from Williston.”
Williston also taught Wysocki to make relationships with her professors the same way she did with her teachers when she was here. She fondly remembered classes with Kurt and Janine Whipple, Amber Rodgers, and Erin Davey, who also coached her freshman through junior year.
“They were awesome,” Wysocki said.
The admiration is mutual.
“She was one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever coached,” said Davey. “She was the epitome of strength.”
Rodgers agreed: “She was unreal. She showed up every day ready to compete.”
Whipple was Wysocki’s basketball coach her freshman, sophomore, and senior years; Wysocki took junior year off to do Athletic Performance. “She didn’t have to compete in basketball,” Whipple explained. “She could have stayed with AP, [basketball] wasn’t her primary sport, and she had already committed to UNH. But she came out and gave us defense we needed.”
After her senior year at UNH, Wysocki’s soccer eligibility will officially be up, but she’ll have some more time to hone her academic and professional skills.
She’s majoring in Occupational Therapy, a five-and-a-half-year program. A portion of that remaining time will be spent doing fieldwork, maybe in Agawam, she said, or maybe in Boston. She’s not sure where, but she’s fully committed to the field.
“Being able to work with tons of different kinds of people, it’s such a diverse field, and I love all the options,” Wysocki said. An added help, she said, is that she’s “such a people person.”
Occupation Therapy (OT) has deep roots in Wysocki’s family: both her parents are lifelong special education teachers. Her mother, Colleen, works in the Intensive Learning Center at Roberta G. Doering Middle School in Agawam, and her father, William, just retired from a career in Springfield’s Public School system.
After her field work is finished, Wysocki said she’s eager to get into the OT world, but isn’t going to put soccer completely aside.
“When I was younger I definitely thought I wanted to [play professionally], but I don’t know,” she said. That path would most likely require her to play overseas, and she’s not sure she’s ready for that commitment, especially when her professional life of helping others is on the horizon.
“I’m really into OT, and I also don’t know if I could leave my family,” she said. “Soccer is still a huge part of my life, but there is a time to move on. That’s where I am right now. I haven’t decided anything.”