It is not uncommon for an athlete to have a backstory of overcoming the odds, and freshman soccer player Erica Bechtold is no different. Through broken bones and heartbreaking loss, Bechtold has been pushed, yet time and time again, she pushes back even harder.
As Bechtold entered Jersey Community High School in Jerseyville, Illinois, she used her freshman season as a “feeler year” to determine just how serious she was about soccer and whether or not she wanted more. However, near the end of the season, she broke her hip, leaving her with a tough decision. Eventually, Bechtold came to the realization that “there is some reason out there that I do this.”
While many may have walked away, Bechtold came back stronger than ever. She began to strengthen her core with ab workouts every morning and night and running two miles every day. As a result, in her sophomore season, she earned a spot as a defender on both the junior varsity and varsity soccer teams.
As Bechtold began to find her groove on the soccer field, the course of her life changed forever. Just a few weeks into her junior season, tragedy struck the Jerseyville community when the team lost one of their own, 15-year-old Anna Hausman, in a car accident. “It was absolutely devastating. I was surrounded by these girls that needed somebody and we didn’t know how to process it. It was that absence on the field, that person that was missing… it changed my life from that point on and I stood up. I became a different person,” Bechtold said as she reflected on the memory of her former teammate.
Bechtold still carries the weight of that loss, and most likely always will, but she has since gained a new perspective on life. Never one to let an opportunity pass, Bechtold refuses to quit and never accepts failure. “I don’t accept failure, failure is a drive and a motivation for me, it’s just a reason to try harder, to put in more effort in, to create more opportunity.”
Bechtold’s positive mindset and belief that things happen for a reason is in large part what brought her to Blackburn College. After head coach of the women’s soccer team, Sohaila Akhavein, first contacted her, she spoke with her mentor, her high school soccer coach, who pointed out to her that challenges she has been forced to face may be a part of something much larger. “He told me, ‘it seems like God keeps putting these cliffs in front of you, and he’s like ‘you know what, if you just trust me and jump, I’ll catch you.’ That’s what I did. I jumped.”
Bechtold’s leap of faith may have led her to Blackburn, but it is her character that has been the biggest reason for her success. Blackburn midfielder Skylar Burgar spoke highly of her teammate stating, “Erica is a very kind person, super sweet and always concerned for her other teammates’ health. She may be nice off the field, but on the field, she shows no mercy for the opposing team. A hard worker and loving heart are just a couple of assets Erica brings to the team.”
Bechtold shows not only a passion for the game and for her teammates but also a burning desire to never back down. “I’m challenging because of my size, but it’s not the only threat because I get back up and I try even harder. I’m not one to just give in. I never give up and I’m always improving.”