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Fall 2008 - Soccer

Destination Purdue > Fall 2008 - Soccer

Soccer standout still scoring off the field

By Heather Crabtree

In her very first soccer game when she was 5, Shauna Stapleton bent down and picked up the ball with her hands, violating one of the first rules of the game. "No one had told me what to do," said Stapleton, a senior entomology major and member of the Purdue women's soccer team.

Soccer Standout

Photo provided by Dick Myers-Walls, Purdue Digital Imaging Services

Shauna Stapleton runs through a line of her teammates. The senior entomology major from Springfield, Ohio, was captain of the women’s soccer team and received the Flora Roberts Award, which honors the outstanding senior woman student at Purdue.

She’s learned a lot about soccer, teamwork and leadership since those youth league days in Springfield, Ohio. She knows what to do, and she is dedicated to helping others learn and do better.

Last spring, she received the Flora Roberts Award, which recognizes the outstanding senior woman student at Purdue. The award recognizes more than Stapleton's good grades, it also honors her exceptional character, service to the community and leadership. "A leader is somebody who pursues excellence on a daily basis, who leads by example and stands up for people," Stapleton said. "I grew up around people who worked hard and taught me to do the best I can."

Members of the award committee aren’t the only ones who recognized Stapleton's hard work and leadership. "She is driven to maximize her own potential and relishes the work and sacrifice it takes to do so," said Rob Klatte, head coach of the Purdue women’s soccer team. Her teammates relied on her, too, and selected her to be team captain last season. It's an honor Stapleton said she’s especially proud of. "It was my teammates showing how much they respected me," she said. "They wanted me to be their leader."

With Stapleton as captain, the women's soccer team came off one of its most successful seasons in history. One highlight was a win over then top-ranked Portland, a game in which Stapleton scored the only goal - but she's quick to point out that teams win games, not individuals.

Stapleton's leadership goes beyond soccer. She is a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Wabash Valley, and has participated in a soccer camp for children. She enjoys teaching kids the fundamentals of soccer, but really appreciates the other things they learn. "It's great when you teach children something simple and they get it and start to believe in themselves," she said. "They realize they can do something they couldn't do before and that's important, especially for little girls."

Girls face different challenges and playing sports like soccer is a good way to overcome those challenges, she said. "Soccer teaches them that your body isn't just something to look at," she said. "Go out there and get dirty and get sweaty. It's good to learn how to slide-tackle an opponent, and to learn sportsmanship and to learn great life skills."

Stapleton has also taught in Purdue's Super Saturday program, which offers courses in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and other areas to fourth through eighth-graders. "We talked about bugs," she said, which is appropriate, since her major is the study of insects. As it turns out, she is just as passionate about entomology as she is about soccer. "Ever since I was little I wanted to be a scientist and I always thought insects were cool," she said. "Insects have changed the course of history. They may be small but they’re important."

She thought about becoming a veterinarian, but now hopes to pursue a doctorate in medical entomology, and then teach and perform research on insect-borne diseases. But she still has one more year at Purdue. She is interning at the Epcot Center in Florida through December, where she's helping raise beneficial insects in the greenhouses and giving tours to visitors.

This spring, she travels to Spain to work with a researcher who studies insects that carry diseases to plants. After school, she wants to continue to lead and give back to the community. Her plans include applying to Teach for America, a program that places recent college graduates in schools in dire need of teachers.

Her desire to work for and with others is demonstrated by her conduct on the field. "Last year we were playing for each other, not for individual awards," she said. "That's why we did so well." Although she may have earned many individual honors, Stapleton's focus remains on her teammates - whoever they may be.

Other staff writers contributed to this story