Texas A&M senior Sarah Shaw is most enthusiastic about the future. The twist is it's not her own future that's exciting her, which has been her approach to life since her elementary school days.
The four-year letterwinner on the A&M soccer team is in the process of starting her own charity that will give children an opportunity to play soccer while hopefully doing it on a full stomach. She is establishing the nonprofit organization Goals for Bowls, which will provide soccer balls and meals for children in Nepal and Ghana.
"I'm excited about it because it blends my two biggest passions," Shaw said. "I've played soccer since I was 6, and I've volunteered at the food pantry since I was 10. It's always been one of my biggest goals to have a nonprofit, so why not start now?"
Shaw's idea is much like TOMS Shoes, which matches shoe purchases one for one and donates the second pair to children in need. For every soccer ball Goals for Bowls sells or donation it receives, the organization will donate a soccer ball and meal to a child in Nepal or Ghana.
Charity work runs in Shaw's family, which has logged more than 1,000 volunteer hours at the Community Enrichment Center in North Richland Hills in Fort Worth, where her father serves on the board.
"It's always been a big part of my life, volunteering and giving food to people," Shaw said. "I interned there to get the feel of how to run a nonprofit, and it's been one of my biggest goals to have a nonprofit, so why not start now."
Shaw has filed papers with the IRS to establish Goals for Bowls, found a soccer ball supplier and met with lawyers to ensure her involvement with the nonprofit isn't in violation of NCAA rules.
She specifically picked the two countries she hopes to help.
"I have connections with people in both of those countries, and it's two places I really want to help," Shaw said. "I helped co-found a soccer team in Nepal called Sarah Soccer Cub with a missionary that is a really good friend of the family, and then just growing up I've played soccer with a dozen or so guys from Ghana that have come from academies in Ghana through soccer camps."
That Shaw is giving to others doesn't surprise A&M head coach G Guerrieri. Shaw has played in only 21 games over her career and started just four (all as a senior) but has been the ultimate teammate.
"We initially discovered her in our camp, a real solid skillful player, obviously a little bitty thing [at 5-foot-1], which is a concern of ours when we are playing [physical] teams," Guerrieri said. "We knew whether she broke into our starting lineup or not she was going to be a good member of the team. Sarah is straight shooter, great student, great person from a great family, so we knew she would only make our chemistry better. When that type of player goes in, it lifts the spirit of the team."
Shaw has done more than give her teammates a spark when taking the pitch, including her heroics in the ultimate cameo appearance last season that will be remembered by the program for a long time. Without having played in regulation or overtime in the Aggies' NCAA Sweet 16 matchup against Ole Miss, Shaw converted the game-winning penalty kick to put A&M into the Elite Eight.
"You are always the 12th Man on the sidelines, in the weight room, doing whatever you can to support your team, and everyone is needed, all 26 players, but its nice to be able to step up and solidly contribute," Shaw said. "It's been a long time coming, a lot of injuries, which is not fair but it's what happens, and I was lucky enough that when my name and number was called I was able to step up and do it."
A&M and Ole Miss traded first-half goals, then each made four of five penalty kicks in the shootout after overtime, sending the shootout into sudden death. With the entire season on the line, Guerrieri knew Shaw could handle the moment.
"From the midpoint of the season we start practicing for the postseason, and Sarah took that penalty kick probably 5,000 times on her own and in her mind before she stepped up and made it," Guerrieri said. "I told her she could go in the second round rather than the initial round of five, because other players were warm and had been in, but I was 100 percent confident she was gong to make it, because she is a steady character."
Shaw was confident, too, even as she improvised in a mental chess match with Ole Miss goalkeeper Marnie Merritt.
"On the first few PKs [Merritt] would leave her line and then go the left or right before the ball was kicked, so in my head I was thinking maybe I should go down the middle, because she moves so fast to the left or right," Shaw said. "Then as I was running up to kick it, I saw that she stayed, so I was like, crap, and I converted back to my normal PK, and luckily she went the other way. I don't even remember the ball going in the net. I was already turning around and celebrating."
The celebrations have been few and far between in Shaw's senior season with the Aggies (7-7-1), who have made the NCAA tournament 21 consecutive years. At 2-5-1 in Southeastern Conference play, A&M will have to work just to make the SEC tournament.
A&M has three regular-season matches remaining beginning with a Senior Night match against Kentucky at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
"It's definitely different, but the team is handling it well," said Shaw, whose lone regulation goal gave the Aggies a 1-0 victory over Georgia for their last SEC victory on Sept. 16. "We know what we have to do. It's Senior Night and everyone wants to play well to save our season. It's all still in our hands, and if we just get a win or two, then we'll be in the [SEC] tournament, and then it's a whole new ball game."
NOTES -- A&M will honor Shaw, goalkeepers Danielle Rice and Taylor Saucier and defenders Grace Wright and Ashlynn Harryman before Thursday's match at Ellis Field. ... A&M is 10th in the SEC standings with seven points. The top 10 teams make the SEC tournament. Two of A&M's remaining three matches are at home and two are against teams below them in the standings.