Cleats, shin guards, tall socks, soccer practice, training, games — all things that revolve around the world of senior Gracely Briley. Ever since she was 6 years old, Gracely said she has grown to not only love soccer, but live a life full of it. Gracely’s mom, Meaghen Briley, said Gracely brought something new to the table, choosing a sport unique from the rest of her family to call her own.
“What’s really funny about Gracely and the whole desire to play soccer is that no one in our family has ever played soccer,” Meaghen said. “It’s always been a big family joke that she chose to play soccer so that [Gracely’s dad] Bart and I couldn’t coach her and that she could kind of do her own thing. Soccer is something she has selected to do and always been very self-driven in achieving her goals around that sport.”
Gracely was recently named Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year for the second year in a row, among other awards and titles she has earned throughout her soccer career. Gatorade Player of the Year is a distinction picked based on athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character, and is given to a male and female in each state for different sports. However, with her successes in mind, Gracely said she cannot take all the credit.
“I think the team and Coach [Jason Pendleton] this season pushed me and put me in the best position to be successful, so I think the award ultimately just reflects the team and the season that we had together,” Gracely said.
The girls soccer team won the 5A state championship in May for the second season in a row. Gracely’s brother, Noah Briley, said Gracely deserves everything she has received.
“She works her butt off,” Noah said. “She’s at the field or at training probably four, five hours. She’s got to leave school, go to training, come back, so I mean she just works harder than everybody else — then on top of God given talent — and it’s a pretty good combo.”
Gracely dedicates a lot of her time to further her abilities and skills in the soccer realm.
“During the summer … I probably do almost an hour a day, so like seven hours a week, with an occasional off-day, so six maybe, it just depends,” Briley said. “During the school year, I usually work out for an hour after school and then I’ll have practice for an hour and a half.”
With the countless hours spent playing soccer, Gracely said it is difficult to balance soccer and school.
“You’re so exhausted from the day already and then it’s like, ‘Oh, got to go to train,’ which is fun, and then you come back and you’re like ‘Oh, got to do homework,’ and it’s just an ongoing cycle, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Gracely said.
Meaghen said Gracely’s consistent dedication has fostered a willingness in Gracely to put soccer over most everything else.
“She really never viewed the sacrificing things socially as something that hindered her, but was just something that she needed to do so that she could get better at something that she loved,” Meaghen said. “Then I kind of realized, ‘Wow, she really loves the game,’ versus ‘Oh, she’s just playing the game.’”
Gracely has committed to play soccer for the University of Kansas after high school and hopes to continue her soccer career professionally if given the opportunity. Her family said they have faith in her abilities to carry her beyond the collegiate level.
“I would be shocked if she doesn’t end up overseas playing soccer somewhere,” Noah said. “She works so hard and she will go to KU and be the same player from Southwest and show off and everybody will know her. Hopefully she will go overseas and kill it over there and make some money playing.”
At the end of the day, although she hopes to create a career out of soccer, Gracely said the game means so much more to her. Gracely said soccer is her outlet and a way she connects with her faith.
“I’m a strong believer so I think that because I’ve been blessed with the talent to play soccer, I want to use it as much as I can as a platform for Christ and bringing others to Christ,” Gracely said. “Other than that, nothing else really matters, and that the awards on top of it [are] just extra blessings for putting in the work and grinding it out. I think that anything to further the Kingdom through soccer is what makes it all worth it and what I love about it.”