Sept. 30, 2008
By Scott Kotick
FSU Sports Information
Leadership is a quality few possess. It requires hard work, experience, dedication, and a passion unattainable by most.
But once someone obtains that ability to lead, they shine brightly both on and off the field. Their words and actions become the demeanor and goal of a team–those leaders become a consuming fire that teammates follow. When a leader speaks, people listen with open ears and hearts, and absorb everything like a sponge.
Senior Erika Sutton is a leader in the truest sense. Yet her path to assuming a guiding role on the Florida State soccer team took more turns than a Rocky Mountain road in Colorado.
Sutton began her college career at San Diego State University in 2005. Instead of playing defender as she does now, Sutton played forward for the Aztecs for two seasons.
But something inside told her that Southern California was not the right place to be, guiding her to Florida State during the spring of 2007for her junior year.
“The atmosphere at San Diego State is not the same at Florida State,” Sutton said. “When I got to FSU, we had a bunch of fans at our spring game even though we only had one that year. It was just a completely different mentality.
“Moving to Tallahassee was a very hard process and just leaving all my friends behind at San Diego State. I just had to develop a positive attitude in order to restart my life.”
Fortunately, her friend and longtime club teammate, Sarah Wagenfuhr, was already a seasoned veteran when Sutton arrived at Florida State. Their friendship was something that was used to not only make the transition easier, but also brought out the leadership qualities in Sutton that Wagenfuhr had seen all along.
“Erika has provided a different type of leadership that we haven’t had before,” Wagenfuhr said. “While she might not be the most out front and vocal leader, she’s a leader with her actions and just how she conducts herself.”
Sutton arrived at Florida State for arguably the most successful season in Seminole soccer history. She was thrust into the starting role against North Carolina and never looked back. Sutton has played more minutes than any Seminole during the 2008 season with 681 minutes played. Now, that quiet leader is a fixture on the Florida State defense.
“Erika has come in and been a very good leader through example and she shows up every day with a worker’s mentality,” head coach Mark Krikorian said. “She comes in, trains hard, and makes her teammates that much better.”
While her leadership qualities are certainly palpable both on and off the field to her teammates and coaches, Sutton is not actually the leader most people think of. In fact, she is not even the leader of her own life.
The burden of moving cross-country to Florida State from California was completely eased by Sutton’s faith, as she credits her belief to carrying her to where she is today and being the light that guides her life.
“It’s played a major role in the person I’m becoming and the person I can be after soccer,” Sutton said. “When I got to FSU, I found a really good church and just got back into pursuing that relationship with God. It has been a really important thing for me since I’ve been at FSU.”
And that belief in Christ has resonated through Sutton’s heart into an outpouring of love for her fellow teammates. Not only has she gained a leadership role on the team, but she also has stepped up her play on the pitch to an entirely new level.
“Erika’s a multi-dimensional kid who can play any position, and fortunately for us, she’s developed into an elite-level defender,” Krikorian said. “Not only is she a superior athlete, she’s a great defender who also brings a lot to our attack.”
“She’s gotten better in all aspects of her game and stepped into more of a responsibility role, which is a role she’s wanted to take on,” Wagenfuhr added. “I think she’s progressed as a person, as a player, and as a leader.”
After completing her degree in child counseling at Florida State following the 2009 spring semester, Sutton’s plans include being involved with soccer in some capacity or going to graduate school to further her education in child counseling.
Yet whatever direction Sutton follows, she knows the principles that will stick with her throughout her journey in life.
“I love my family, I love the Lord, and I really try to help people around me,” Sutton said. “I really want to help the community and I just have a heart for people.”
Erika Sutton is not a leader because she helps the team to be successful. She is a leader because of her selfless nature and ability to turn her teammates’ dreams into a reality on the soccer field.
Now that’s a leader that the Seminole soccer team can rely upon.