Blakely Mattern came to South Carolina to be a difference maker. She was certainly that for the women’s soccer program and continues to be that for others in her professional life. Mattern is one of eight in the 2022 class to be inducted in the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame later this month.
Mattern has been back in her hometown of Greenville since 2012, and she is the co-founder of 11.11 Training, a business she started with a friend, India Trotter, who was also former collegiate soccer star at Florida State, in 2015.
“There are two sides to the business,” Mattern explained. “One side is 11.11 Soccer, and the other is 11.11 Elite Training. On the soccer training side, we do supplemental training for soccer players. We’re personal trainers for players who can come in. We teach them technical skills, and they have a place to work on repetitions, with speed, strength, and agility mixed in that is soccer-specific. We do anywhere from age 10 through high school, and then we do a college program in the summer and winter. We were also partners with the local W-League team, a semi-pro team.
“Our other side, we do elite training for athletes that do other sports. We do strength and conditioning work, and also work with endurance adult athletes who do races and marathons.”
Mattern noted that the business has grown greatly over the last seven years.
“We started in a pretty small industrial space,” Mattern said. “We outgrew that space and moved to a 6,000 square foot, indoor turf space. Then our Elite training is out of separate building in the same complex. It’s been fun! To be back in my hometown and to be able to make a difference in the community I grew up in by helping young athletes go on to maybe do some of the things I did, means a lot. If I can help the next generation in some way, that’s the most meaningful thing in what I do.”
Mattern (2006-2009) started at defender in 92 matches during her four-year career and was the first All-American in program history. She was a three-time-All-region and four-time All-SEC selection, while also being named the 2007 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and 2009 SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year, graduating with a 3.9 grade point average and earning a degree in international business. She helped the Gamecocks win their first ever SEC Championship as South Carolina won the league tournament in 2009, and helped the team reach the NCAA Tournament in each of her final three seasons. She was a third-round pick in the 2010 WPS Draft, the 21st selection overall.
“Some of the best times of my life were there,” Mattern said. “It’s the people and the place that meant so much to me. Seeing the program where it is now makes it even more special. I set out to do something special with my teammates when I was there, and it has carried forward. To see the program as successful as it is now, it’s really cool to know that in some way you helped pave the path in a little way.”
“It was the career I had hoped to have. ”
Following a great career as a Gamecock, Mattern began her professional career after being selected as the 21st overall pick by the Atlanta Beat of the Women’s Professional Soccer League in the spring of 2010. Later an acquaintance of Coach Shelley Smith provided the opportunity for her to play professionally in the Netherlands for FC Twente in city of Enschede.
A torn ACL brought her back to South Carolina where she helped out as volunteer coach with the Gamecocks in the fall of 2012 before continuing her professional playing career in 2013 with the Carolina Elite Cobras of the United Soccer League’s W-League in Greenville and later played professionally in Sweden.
“Playing overseas was a life-changing experience,” Mattern said. “I don’t miss playing now. When the time came to stop, it was one of those things where my heart told me I wanted to be around the sport, but it doesn’t feel the same to play anymore. I think I was almost 26 at the time. I think if I hadn’t started a business that allowed me to be around the sport, I probably would have missed it more. I know I’m not old, but my body feels old.”
Looking back at her collegiate career, Mattern has a long list of memories.
“My sophomore year our first game of the year was at North Carolina,” Mattern recalled. “That’s one of those games that you just can’t forget. We won the game 1-0. I just remember the fight that we had. There, you’re looking at all the signs for their national championships, and we gave them their first ever season opening loss at home in their history. I was a huge Tar Heel fan when I was kid. One of reasons I went to South Carolina, I think the school is great and I love Jamie and Shelley, and they had conversations with me about putting South Carolina on the map. When we won that game, I felt like we were doing what I came here to do. Right there in that moment, it proved we were capable to taking the program somewhere. It was special
“The NCAA bids that we got were also huge. That was also putting the program on the map. As we started to get those, they were definitely special. We were beating teams that used to dominate us.
“My senior year was a year that I’ll never forget. The seniors I came in with, we had a meeting my freshman year, and we were determined to win an SEC Championship before we graduate. We lost three games in the regular season, then we beat all of them to win the SEC (Tournament) Championship. To take it to PKs, and have it go to the ninth kicker was amazing. I remember feeling completely fulfilled and satisfied. It was the career I had hoped to have. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Then we went to the NCAA Tournament and made it to the sweet 16. Getting to play in front of that many fans at the Graveyard under the lights were moments I’ll never forget.”
It took a while for Mattern to find out she had made the Hall of Fame as she deals with a lot of coaches through a recruiting service with work, and when “Coach Tanner” appeared on her phone, she was busy with clients and thought it was someone else, so she would call him back later when she was done. That call came at four different times when she was working with clients, and she realized she had better return the call sooner rather than later. That’s when she found out it was the South Carolina Athletics Director on the line. Needless to say, she was excited.
“I finally checked my voicemail and realized who it was,” Mattern said with a laugh. “I was wondering why he was calling me. Hall of Fame wasn’t even on my radar. That’s a whole different level. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I would love to be in there sometime, but it’s not something I thought about during my career. When I left, I didn’t know if I had done enough, but I thought I had a pretty good career. I wasn’t expecting it. It’s a huge honor.”