Chilliwack soccer star Jordyn Huitema coming home for the holidays

After a crazy-good year with the Canadian national soccer program, the teenager deserves a break.

It’s safe to say that no Chilliwack soccer player has ever enjoyed the type of success Jordyn Huitema experienced in 2018.

The latest accolade for the teenager came last week when she was named one of Canada Soccer’s Youth International Players of the Year.

That on the heels of captaining Canada’s U-17 squad to its best ever placing (fourth) at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

And that on the heels of a breakout performance with the Canadian senior women’s team at CONCACAF World Cup qualifying — including a four goal game against Cuba.

It’s impossible to pump the brakes on the hype now as people start attaching ‘the future of Canadian women’s soccer’ to Huitema’s name.

Home in Chilliwack last week accept a commendation from MP John Martin and visit with friends and family, the 17 year old flashed her trademark ear-to-ear smile as she talked about the year that was.

“I enjoy the memories you create on and off the field,” Huitema said. “The whole Canadian (soccer) environment — the players are amazing and the culture is so enjoyable, you can’t help but smile.

“You need to find joy in every moment because they don’t last very long. It’s gone within the blink of an eye and if you play without a smile on your face, do you really love the game?”

If that sounds surprisingly reflective and a touch melancholy, it’s because Huitema has just said goodbye to a big part of her life.

She played her last game as a U-17 player Dec. 1 in Uruguay, a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to New Zealand in the bronze-medal match.

“The first time I ever felt a door shut for me was when I was too old to play for the U-15 team, and now the U-17 door shuts too and it feels weird,” she said. “But, and I know it’s cliche, whenever a door shuts a new one opens. It’s a sign that I’m progressing. The fact that I ever was a U-17 player in the first place is really cool, and now it’s about the seniors and the U-20s.

“I’m happy knowing there’s more for me. There’s bigger things to come.”

Huitema thrives under the glare of the spotlight, having people watch her every move on the soccer pitch.

With each game that spotlight shines brighter and brighter.

More and more people are viewing her as the next big thing in Canadian women’s soccer, and she’s embracing it.

“I’ve never been a person who shied away from big crowds and big moments, and I just think of it as an opportunity that I need to grab,” she reasoned. “I think I’ve done quite a bit, achieved quite a lot for the amount of time I’ve been playing, but it’s about not getting content and not stopping because there’s work to be done.

“I have the potential to be what people think I can be, but there’s a lot I need to be doing to reach that.”

That said, it’s nice to pull back once in a while.

It’s easy to forget that she’s still in high school, balancing the typical concerns of a teenager with the jet-setting life of an international soccer star.

You couldn’t blame her if she sometimes feels like a boat being tossed around in a storm, and that’s why she loves coming home.

“My family has been so supportive and they’re the ones I think of as my life-raft in the storm,” Huitema said. “They’re the ones who continue to lift me up. If I reach any point where I hit a rough patch and I’m having a hard time, they’re the ones to re-focus me on what I’ve done and what I need to do.”

Christmas in the Huitema household will be ‘super chill,’ which she loves.

“Life is so busy that when you finally get to relax, it’s amazing,” she said.

Huitema has no greater wish right than to spend some quality time with her parents and siblings before she dives into another crazy year.

“I always come home on the weekends whenever I’m in the country to see my family and my friends, and what I love most is that they treat you like a normal person,” she said. “As that spotlight grows everywhere else in my life, it shrinks in my family and friends group because they see me for who I am, and not what I’ve done.

Huitema actually has one more wish, and here’s hoping this article helps make it happen.

“My uncle makes this really good casserole with potatoes and cheese and stuff,” she said. “But I haven’t had that in a few years.So get on it Uncle Tyler!”

eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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