BHS athletes who commute for sports face long road to the top


Some BHS students travel to Orinda for soccer, Dublin for lacrosse, or San Francisco for volleyball. Three students in particular travel even farther, to San Jose, driving over an hour to regular practices three days a week. 

Savannah Johnson, a senior at BHS, initially began playing hockey for the Oakland Bears hockey team, based closer to home. However, over time, the team did not seem to be serving Johnson’s competitive spirit, due to the club’s limited opportunities for female players. “I was getting stuck at these low level teams that weren’t enough for me,” said Johnson. “I’m not allowed to play on varsity because it’s contact and they don’t want girls to be playing with six foot guys,” said Johnson.

Wanting a more competitive sports environment, Johnson made the decision to join the San Jose Sharks hockey team, which has its own designated competitive girls program. Johnson noted the sacrifices her parents have had to make in terms of transportation in order to play for the Sharks. “Commuting from the East Bay to San Jose can be (about) an hour if there’s no traffic,” said Johnson, “(but) sometimes we’ve had to turn back because we were already in the car for two hours and we were only in Fremont.”

The sacrifices she and her family have made to cater to the trip to San Jose has taught Johnson essential time management skills as a student and athlete. “There were times where I did not set myself up to leave on time, and I missed half of my practice,” said Johnson, “I’ve had to learn how to organize my day and my time better because I wanted to prioritize this team.”

Prior to joining the Sharks, Johnson saw her future in hockey playing in an adult league or another non-competitive setting. However, after playing for a team with higher commitment to the sport, Johnson discovered her desire to take her involvement with hockey further by continuing to play her sport through college. 

On the other hand, some other BHS students develop plans to play their sport in college earlier on. Teammates Terren Davis and Mia Sieminski, both sophomores at BHS, play for Bay Area Surf, a competitive soccer team based in San Jose. The team competes in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL), a league with strong college exposure in the form of nation-wide showcases and top level training environments. “The last Arizona showcase that we went to, there were like forty coaches at each of our games, so that was really helpful,” said Davis. 

Due to the team’s uniquely high level of play and collegiate opportunities, Sieminski and Davis are not the only ones who travel far to attend trainings and games. “There’s some people who come from two and a half hours away (…), I don’t know how they do it,” said Sieminski. Teammates coming from various locations leads to difficulties with team bonding, as the only time the team really spends together is during practices, games, or tournaments. “It’s definitely more challenging when you can’t really hang out with them outside of soccer,” said Sieminski. Thus, the teammates take full advantage of any time they are able to spend together. “I just try to talk to a lot of people at practice and hang out when I can,” said Davis.

In addition to being part of the ECNL, the club also offers other benefits that make it unique than other more local soccer teams. “I really like the play style and the coaches, (…) It’s more possession oriented and focuses on building up before going to attack.” The team’s strategic philosophy and successful competitive reputation makes it a good fit for the players. “It’s really good to be challenged every day at soccer so you can keep working to get better and try to achieve your goals as a soccer player,” said Siemenski.

In the end, it’s the dedication and passion that Davis and Sieminski hold for soccer that contributes to their continued commitment to their team in San Jose. “If you really love the sport, then do whatever it takes to keep playing the sport. For as long as you want to,” said Sieminski.