When it comes to sports, most teens can only dream of representing their country internationally. Having the natural talent and skills to succeed as an elite athlete is one thing, but the time and dedication it takes to reach that level also needs to be taken into consideration. Almost every high-school student knows it’s incredibly tough to find a balance between school and sports. However, 17-year-old Summer Clarke – a senior at R.C. Palmer Secondary School and a forward for the Richmond Red Hot Selects youth soccer team – hasn’t let that stop her from following her dreams. This year, Clarke was selected to help represent Canada at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. She embraced the pressure, scoring the one crucial goal that secured Team Canada a spot in the quarterfinals. Clarke took time to chat with Youthink about her love for “The Beautiful Game” and what it felt like to represent her country.
YT: When did you start playing soccer and what made you fall in love with the sport?
SC: I started playing soccer when I was five years old. From a young age, I’ve just enjoyed [being] on the field and have had a lot of fun.
YT: When did you find out you were named to Team Canada’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup team and what did it mean to represent your country?
SC: I found out at the end of August  at a training camp in Toronto. It meant a lot because not many people get to say they played on a national team, so it was a huge honour.
YT: The Word Cup tournament was held in Azerbaijan. What was that experience like?
SC: It was an awesome experience! It is a beautiful country and I really liked it there.
YT: What are some of the most memorable awards you’ve received?
SC: I was runner-up for the U-17 Girls Player of the Year award, which was really cool. Also, I won the Outstanding Personal Achievement award from the City of Richmond and the Richmond School Board.
YT: When things aren’t going your way as a soccer player, what motivates you to keep pushing forward and keep playing?
SC: I’ve gone through that a lot, and I just tell myself, “This isn’t going to last forever. Just get through it and I’ll be fine.” Also, my parents and my friends are really encouraging and it helps when you are surrounded by supportive people.
YT: What are the strengths of your game?
SC: Since I play forward, I’d say I’m good at scoring goals, making runs and playing passes past the opposition’s defensive line.
YT: What are your plans after high school?
SC: I’m planning on going to Louisiana State University and playing on the soccer team there. I’m not sure what I want to study yet though.
YT: What hopes do you have for Canadian youth soccer in the future?
SC: I hope that Canada can make a name for itself in soccer on both the men’s and women’s side, so that we are a threat on the field to everyone else.
YT: Do you see yourself going to the pros in the future?
SC: I’m not too sure. I haven’t really thought a lot past university, so I’ll have to wait and see.