JSU’s Sydni Wilson talks about soccer, school, and smiles

Jackson State University sophomore Sydni Wilson seems to be in the perfect place. She’s at a school she loves, plays for a team that values her, and is working towards a major that she is passionate about.

As a freshman at JSU, Wilson was called upon to start in each of the team’s 20 matches. Speaking about the impact that responsibility had on her, Sydni told BGN, “It made me a very confident player. At first, as a freshman, I was nervous playing that many minutes at the collegiate level. However, my coach always dictated that minutes are earned and not given.”

“Knowing that, I became very confident in my capability as a player. My coach continuously trusted me and played me almost every minute at the collegiate level. This made me raise the bar physically and most importantly mentally.”

Wilson’s sophomore season will kick off later this month after the 2020 season was postponed due to COVID-19. “I am so grateful for this opportunity to play soccer at JSU this spring,” she said. “Now that I am a sophomore, I’m going ten times harder because each season is very meaningful to me. One day I’ll be a senior and I don’t want to regret not going all in every single year.”

The Tigers will be looking to improve on their 8-12 record from the 2019 NCAA campaign. Wilson explained, “Even though our record was 8-12 in 2019, it was an improvement to the record the year prior, 2-16. Of course there are skills that each one of us need to improve upon to continue to get better. However, we contribute a continual improvement to our play style and our record because of our coach. Our coach stressed discipline, technique, and team chemistry.”

“With these three emphases, we noticed a gradual improvement in the overall performance of the team. Due to this uptrend of performance we believe that we should continue to follow our coach and put our trust in each other. If we continue to do this, we believe that we will play better and excel.”

When it comes to a soccer role model, Wilson found one that inspires her in multiple ways.  “A player I looked up to the most is Wendie Renard,” Sydni said. “She is the captain of the French women’s national soccer team. I love her because of how strong of a woman she is. Also, as a fellow defender, I relate with her a lot because she is a black center back. She made me feel as if I could be her and be the best.”

“That’s why I love everything that she is. From her beautiful black hair to her celebration after she scores. One trait that sticks out to me about Renard the most is that she gets the job done. Watching her play in the World Cups when I was younger motivated me to become a better defender myself. If she could go out and do it, why couldn’t I?”

Outside of soccer, Sydni finds some inspiration and entertainment in anime. “I love a lot of animes! However, there are some that I will watch over and over again. Some animes I love are My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul, Saiki K, Naruto Shippuden, and The Promised Neverland.”

With anime featuring such a great variety of characters, is there one that she especially connects with? “A character I feel as though I can relate to a lot to is Izuku Midoriya from My Hero Academia,” Sydni answered. “I relate with Midoriya a lot, because I am a great self motivator but I had to work very hard to get to the mentality that I am at now. Through many challenges and setbacks, I worked hard and pushed through adversity to get to where I am today. Yes, it was tiring and there were many times where I have questioned the process. However, I just kept working hard and put faith in myself.”

“Midoriya had a lot of odds against him and it would have been acceptable for him to give up. However, he had faith in himself and trusted the process. For that reason, he is one of the greatest heroes in his generation. That’s why I relate with Midoriya a lot because of his self perseverance.”

In addition to soccer and anime, Sydni is also excited about her major of Biomedical Chemistry-Pre-Dentistry. “What led me to the path of pre-dentistry was my passionate dentist,” she explained. “His name is Roderick S. Cooper and he owns Bella Dentistry. He is a very humble and grateful man. Working with him one summer made me want to take a page out of his book. One book that he literally gave me was 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin. This book had changed my mentality and outlook on life.”

“I have never met someone who is so engulfed and in love with their work. He is a mentor to me. He doesn’t just care about me as a student, but as a person. Everyday I was enlightened with something new while working with him. For this reason, it led me into choosing the career path that I am taking today.”

With Jackson State allowing Wilson to find perfect paths for soccer and her future career, how did she find her way to JSU and did she specifically seek out an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)? “Like many other students in high school, my initial goal was to find an institution that would put me in the best situation socially and economically,” Wilson said. “I applied to a plethora of institutions, many of which were not HBCUs. The best offer that I received was from JSU, which is an HBCU. Although HBCUs was not my main priority when choosing an institution, I am glad that I made the decision that I did.”

“I want to use my voice and social platform to uplift HBCU athletics and attendance. At my old high school they never mentioned HBCU’s to me or at the college fairs. However, now having the knowledge that I have now, I am so grateful to have chosen an HBCU. The experience to play with a pre-dominantly black team is an experience I know I can’t get anywhere else. In all of my career teams this is probably my favorite experience.”

She continued, “I was always grouped with 2-3 black girls because not a lot of minorities in America play national league soccer. So when I came to JSU and saw black women with amazing talent at a high competitive level, I saw that as a blessing. Of course you won’t get it until you experience what I have. HBCU athletics is often overlooked but slowly and surely we are making our presence known that we are here.”

“I hope that any soccer player reading this, regardless of race, has this unique experience. There is no other experiences quite like that as an HBCU. I feel like the best way to use my platform is to be a role model to underrepresented minority girls who seek to play soccer at the collegiate level. Hopefully other young girls can see my experiences and gain more insight into playing at an HBCU.”

Sydni will get to be back out on the pitch with her teammates on 2/25 when the Tigers’ 2021 season begins vs. Mississippi Valley State.

Carson A Merk

Reporting live from Sin City, I have covered both RGVFC and Las Vegas Lights FC since their inceptions. I also write profiles to highlight players from the NCAA to USL to NWSL and everywhere in between.