Simone Charley is three times a superstar

To be a great soccer player, you obviously have to possess skill on the ball. But, athleticism and intelligence are also crucial to success on the pitch. I’d like to introduce you to Simone Charley of Portland Thorns FC, a perfect combination of all three components.

Simone is entering her second full year as a professional with Portland. Before she arrived in the Pacific Northwest, she made a name for herself at Vanderbilt University. “I absolutely loved my time at Vanderbilt! The amazing people, the unique opportunities, and unrivaled experiences I had at Vanderbilt is what helped shape me into the person that I am today,” Simone told BGN. “Being able to compete at such a high level as an athlete as well as have so many opportunities given to me as a student is a unique experience that Vanderbilt provides. The Vanderbilt athletic department is like one big family, and I will forever be grateful to be a Commodore.”

During her time at Vandy, she excelled on the soccer pitch, leading the Commodores in points during multiple seasons, and also in the triple jump for the track and field team, where she holds a school record and was a multiple time All-American performer. “As for the triple jump record, I am grateful for the sacrifices of Coach Hump and Emil to help push me to be the best that I can be,” she said. “My cousin had the triple jump record previously, so it was a cool experience being able to keep the record in the family. Anchor down forever and always!”

With her ability in both track and soccer, you’d expect Simone to be the clear-cut choice for most athletic person in the family. But, she makes it clear that her ability has been passed down from the previous generation. Simone explained, “Of course my parents take the cake as far as athletic ability goes, as that is where my siblings and I get all of our athletic genes from!”

“My brother (Myles) who ran track at Troy University and my sister (Nicole) who ran track at Auburn and Samford inspire me daily. I attribute so many of my accomplishments to how well they modeled hard work, discipline, and perseverance for me,” she said. “As my brother and sister are older than me, my freshman year was when all three of us were competing in college at the same time. Often times track meets would double as family reunions for us as our teams would often compete at the same meets. It definitely made traveling for my parents a lot easier, and they would always make a point as to wear neutral colors! Overall, it was awesome being able to watch my brother’s and sister’s careers in track and field and their continued success off of the track. I aspire to be like them when I grow up!”

Simone didn’t just take a similar path as her siblings in sports but also in the classroom. In addition to her school record and other athletic accolades, she earned a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from Vanderbilt. She said, “For undergrad, I double majored in psychology and sociology and for my Master’s degree I studied medicine, health and society.” While getting any degree is a massive accomplishment, a Master’s degree is not something a lot of people can put their name on. “Yes, receiving my Master’s degree was a very special moment that I got to share with my family. Education has always been an important pillar in my family, so reaching this milestone was a welcomed expectation as I followed in my siblings’ footsteps,” she recalled.

The beginning of her professional soccer career and the Master’s degree actually intertwined. “I was still working on my thesis actually when I first moved to Portland, so I am grateful for my teammates who let me interview them for it! My Master’s program focused on the social determinants of health—analyzing factors that affect your health that are not genetic or biological,” she recalled.

While Simone looks destined for a great career in soccer, she isn’t done with education yet. “After soccer, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. During my time at Vanderbilt, I did an internship with a district judge that sparked my passion to make a change in the criminal justice system. I want to counsel at-risk youth who have gotten in trouble with the law,” she explained. “As our criminal justice system needs to take strides towards alternative sentencing, I want to be a part of that change— helping children not get lost in the school to prison pipeline, but rather give them the tools necessary to take steps towards a better future.”

On the pitch, she learned some great lessons as a rookie. In the NWSL, she recorded two assists and seven key passes during her 11 appearances for the Thorns. Then, she went down to Australia on loan to play with Canberra United in the W-League and scored five goals. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Australia as it helped me develop as a player and a person. This past winter (although summer in Australia) was my first time living in a new country as well, so it was an adjustment for me originally getting used to a different culture,” Simone noted. “The biggest difference being the amount of coffee drinking!”

“As for soccer, getting more games under my belt, as well as trying new positions helped me develop both technically and tactically. The different tactics from coaches as well as a different playing style in the W-League helped me grow as a player and develop my understanding of the game. Overall, I enjoyed my time in Australia and I am grateful for the awesome opportunity I had with Canberra United.”

Continuing to grow as a soccer player, Simone is helped by her track pedigree but not in the way you might expect. She explained, “I think track has been very helpful in my professional soccer career, but not in a conventional sense. As I was a triple jumper, the actual event and training does not apply to soccer; however, the habits I developed while competing have been most beneficial. With the margin of victory in track and field being so small, whether a centimeter or a millisecond, it is imperative that you pay attention to the smallest details when training.

“Having to be very meticulous and purposeful, whether on the track, in the weight room, or at the dinner table, forced me to develop the habits that now have helped me grow as a soccer player. Learning to value and even enjoy the monotony and tediousness that improvement requires was something I had to learn in track and field. The discipline and attention to detail is what makes the biggest difference in soccer at this level, so the habits that I developed during my track and field career have been most beneficial to my growth as a soccer player.”

Back in the United States, Simone will get to showcase her intelligence, athleticism, and ability in this summer’s NWSL Challenge Cup. Portland will kick off their schedule against North Carolina Courage, the two-time defending champions. The Challenge Cup will also give the Thorns a chance to wear their 2020 Dark Rose kits for the first time after they caught a lot of attention and rave reviews this offseason. “I am so excited to wear the new custom kits from Nike! They did an amazing job capturing the support of the fanbase, the excitement of Rose City, and the pride that comes with being a Portland Thorn,” she said. “I cannot wait to put them on soon!”

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.