Payton Patrick doesn’t need to look far to find athletes to look up to or to serve as an inspiration. The sophomore forward on the South Carolina women’s soccer team has an amazing sports history within her own family. Her biggest hero is her father, Dave, who played golf at the University of Maryland and had to shoulder a lot of responsibility in raising Payton and her brother in the absence their mother.
“He is everything. He is my hero,” said Patrick, at native of Parkton, Maryland who intends to study marketing. “I don’t think I would be anything close to what I am now if it wasn’t for him. He puts me and my brother first, over himself. I’m so thankful for him. He’s the best!
“My mom is an addict who has been in and out of rehab since I was very little. She hasn’t really been a part of my life. She was completely out of our house when I was in kindergarten. I don’t think I’ve seen her since my sophomore year of high school. She is the reason why I am the way I am today about a lot of things. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t do drugs. I don’t see a purpose for it in my life because I’ve seen how it affects the people you love.”
In addition to her father playing collegiate golf, her grandfather, Dave, was a seven-time NCAA Champion at Villanova in track and field and a 1968 Olympian. He was the first runner in Maryland to break the four-minute mile, held the 880-yard world record in 1967 and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Patrick noted that the 76-year-old still has that competitive spirit.
“He runs about five miles a day,” Patrick said. “I’m not sure if I’ll ever beat him in that aspect!”
Patrick’s late grandmother, Denise Dawson, was a three-sport athlete at Towson State University, where she competed in basketball, lacrosse, and field hockey. Her older brother, Hunter, is a junior kicker on the football team at Coastal Carolina, and the two even played on the same soccer team for a while.
“I actually played-up two years on his club soccer team when I was younger,” Patrick said. “He loved it. We have a great photo of the two of us, and I look like a boy because my dad didn’t know how to do my hair, but we had a great time. I loved it, and I think he liked it to because I would run down the field and pass it to him, and he would score! He’s got that foot on him!”
“I didn’t feel any kind of bad pressure growing up. It was more of a support system. ”
With all that family history, sports were a pretty big part of her life growing up and still are today.
“I didn’t feel any kind of bad pressure growing up,” Patrick said. “It was more of a support system. Growing up, I was always playing sports with my brother. Playing with him always made me want to be better. We are both very competitive. I never felt like I had to out-do anything that they did. I know I always have their continued support. I have a lot of people in my corner who are very wise and know a lot of things.
“Even when we go on trips, a lot of our free time revolves around fun sports and games. We’ll play spike ball on the beach and things like that. When my grandfather comes down to watch my games, he’ll go and run four miles on the River Walk with my brother. It’s our way of spending time together and building a better relationship. We do a lot of fishing and crabbing, too. It’s always a competition to see who is going to catch the most or who is going to catch the biggest flounder.
“Nobody beats my dad in putt-putt! I’m horrible at it, but it’s hilarious. My grandfather is great at golf.”
Patrick excelled in several sports, including soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. She was a highly decorated soccer player coming out of high school, earning several high school All-American honors and was the Gatorade and USA Today player of the year in Maryland. She was also Hereford High School’s all-time leader in goals and assists. Now she’s adjusting to playing at a higher level in the SEC.
“The biggest adjustment is the film work and analyzing the other team,” Patrick said. “I feel like after watching last year, I’ve learned a lot and things are becoming more habitual. What I love about soccer isn’t so much the championships, but the moments that get you there. I love the underdog aspect of the game. It comes down to your team and how they’re going to achieve a common goal. Sometimes the better team isn’t going to win the game. The beauty of it is that usually there is another game, and you try to bounce back.”
Whenever she’s done competing on the field, Patrick hopes the legacy she leaves isn’t all about personal accolades.
“I just want to leave a good mark on everybody around me,” Patrick said. “I’m not focused on the awards. I’m more concerned with how I affected everyone while I was here. Obviously, we want to win an SEC and a national championship, but with the people you’re around and how you impact them could have an effect for the rest of their lives and your life as well. Hopefully, I’ll have some awards along the way, but that’s not my main focus. If you get to caught up in that, you lose sight of what’s really important, like the team.”
With her second season at South Carolina under way, she’s looking forward to making memories and having her hero there to cheer her on.
“My dad has done everything for my brother and me,” Patrick said. “He was at everything. He never misses a game. He came to all my games at South Carolina my freshman year. He has everything planned out on how he’s going to get to all of my games this season as well as my brother’s games.”