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September 10, 2013

Expecting Great Things

By: Marc Mullen

Jazmine Reeves has a career in management at Kohl’s lined up after graduation, but her immediate focus is helping the Tech women’s soccer team back to the NCAAs

Tech women’s soccer standout Jazmine Reeves has more work to do on the soccer field for the Hokies before heading off
to her new job in the professional world.

Most people have seen the NCAA ads and have heard the slogan, “There are over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes – and most of us will go pro in something other than sports.”

For Virginia Tech women’s soccer player Jazmine Reeves, the slogan was fitting. So this past summer, the current senior made sure to prepare herself for a career that did not include professional sports, even if it meant good-bye to her summer vacation.

“It was definitely a different summer than I’ve had in the past because usually I just go home and relax and work out,” she said. “But this summer, I realized that, next year, I have to find a job. I thought maybe I should do something about it. So I went to the career fair [at Tech], and I got an internship with Kohl’s for store management.

“I was working 40 hours a week, so it was like a real job, and it was tough. I was going to work from 8 to 4:30 and then going straight to the field to run and then straight to the gym to lift. So my days were really long, and I was basically exhausted all summer. It wasn’t super enjoyable, but in the end, it was definitely worth it.”

Reeves, who will earn a management degree in entrepreneurship, innovation and technology management when her time at Tech ends, made the most of her internship, as she made an impression on those at the company and was offered a position in its Manager-In-Training program following graduation.

According to the company’s website, a little more than 250 graduates a year are provided the opportunity to experience key areas of store management. And upon completion of the program, a person will be placed as an assistant store manager and running a multi-million dollar business within an area of the store.

“I had a great experience, and I appreciate them for giving me a chance and that opportunity,” Reeves said. “But I’m so proud of myself in a way because I was able to do that and also come in prepared [athletically] for this year, which I was a little worried about when I took the internship.

“I was hoping that it [her internship] wasn’t going to be too much for me because soccer is my priority. I have one more year of it, but I think I was able to manage both pretty well.”

Reeves knows all too well how preparation for a fall season doesn’t just start on the first day of training sessions.

In her first two seasons with the Hokies, she scored five goals in each campaign and added nine assists to her totals as a sophomore – which is the third-most assists ever in a single season at the school – and she expected bigger things heading into her junior year. However, during the spring of last year, Reeves ended up tearing a quad muscle and kept playing on it, making matters worse. For a player who relies on her quickness for success – one of the reasons why she stayed in the sport – she just wasn’t as fit as she wanted to be last season.

“It probably wouldn’t have gotten as bad as it did if I hadn’t kept playing on it,” she said. “I don’t want to make any excuses for why I didn’t have a great junior year, but I didn’t have a great junior year.

“I was still not at 100 percent until a few weeks into the season of last year, and I just don’t think that I ever got back to being myself. I’d never had an injury that set me back like that, so that was definitely an experience that I struggled through. I think I’ve gotten past that now, thankfully.”

She still scored four goals and added four assists last season. But that wasn’t good enough for the two-time Delaware Player of the Year (2008 and 2009) and the two-time Gatorade Player of the Year (2009 and 2010). She was used to doing so much more.

She wasn’t always that successful in her sport. In fact, years ago, maybe she would have taken a four-goal season when she first started out her career in the sport.

“Actually, I got into soccer because of my brother, Cody,” she said. “He played, like, kinder kickers, and I was a little older than him, but I wanted to play, too. So when I started, I was on the U9 team [under 9 years of age], and they basically only took me because I was fast. That was the only thing I had going for me. I was really, really bad at soccer, but obviously, I stuck with it and things came along for me.”

Reeves progressed up the soccer ladder, moving from the recreation team to a club team, and she credits the coaches she had for just continuing to give her chances. They gave opportunities because of her speed.

Naturally, she also ran track in middle school, but once she got into high school, the two sports ran into each other. Her athleticism enabled her to play other sports, such as volleyball and basketball, at Caesar Rodney High School in Dover, Del.

But it wasn’t until she made a switch to a Northern Virginia club team, the Vista Shockwave, that she started to believe that she shouldn’t try to be a two-sport athlete at a Division II school. Instead, she thought she had a legitimate shot at playing soccer at the highest level possible.

“At one point, I thought maybe I would go play D-II and play two sports because I didn’t think I was super good at one of them, and that was always in the back of my mind,” she said. “But once I went to play for that club team in Virginia and I started getting looked at even more, I think that’s when I realized soccer was going to get me to a school like Tech – a big-time school with football and basketball. That always appealed to me.”

Jazmine Reeves and her teammates have made it to the Sweet 16 twice during their careers, but hope to advance to the
Elite Eight and beyond this season.

But the adventure of being recruited was new to Reeves, and she said her mom, Katherine, and her were clueless on what to do. Fortunately, another person stepped forward and guided her and her family down the path toward Division I recognition.

“We had never been through this, so we were really lost. We had no idea of what to expect or what to do,” Reeves said. “But the manager of our club team, Nancy Santiago, she helped us tremendously. She gave us tips on what to do, on things we should be looking for, so that was great.

“We only visited four schools, and for the longest time, I really thought that I was going to Maryland. Then I visited here, and that was it. I didn’t have to think any more. I didn’t have to look any more. My decision was made. Luckily, we had the help of Miss Santiago. I committed early, in my junior year, and it was just stress free from there.”

Reeves has led an interesting life, as she was born in California, moved to Dover, Del., when she was 2 and lived on the Air Force base until she was five. She has traveled to many places thanks to soccer, including a trip to Costa Rica, where she got a weird allergic reaction.

“My lips were huge,” she said. “We went in the jungle, and then all of a sudden, I started reacting really weird to something. To this day, I have no idea what it was. All I know is that my lips started feeling really chapped out of nowhere. So I kept putting a ton of ChapStick on, and the next morning, my lips were huge, which was so embarrassing.”

However, she said that the scariest thing that she ever had done was probably choosing to play soccer at Tech. She wasn’t nervous about the ACC, or her new teammates or coaches, but the impending freedom.

“I’d have to say that my mom spoiled me a little because she did everything for me, which I love her for,” Reeves said. “But I was unsure if I could be independent when I got here. This is the perfect location because my parents can still come here if they need to, but I am still away from home.

“I was never really away from home [growing up] and had to fend for myself, so choosing to come here was a big step. It was separating and taking that next step to becoming an adult and having responsibilities that are my own – paying bills, filling out doctor’s forms –that was pretty scary for me. I never had to do that when I was at home. But I’ve managed.”

Now, the only thing that scares her is the Tech’s 2013 ACC slate, as she and her teammates eye another NCAA Tournament appearance and, what she hopes, is a run never seen before by the women’s program.

“My first thought of the new ACC, at least for this year, is that it’s really scary,” she said. “They are still only taking the top eight [teams] for the ACC Tournament, and typically, they [the NCAA selection committee members] only take the eight that make the ACC Tournament to the NCAA Tournament, so that’s scary right off the bat.

“But we’ve made the Sweet 16 twice now, so one of our goals would be to make it to the Elite 8, and then at that point, anything can happen on any day. I think last year we kind of ended our season a little too soon. I think we had a team that should have gone further. This year, hopefully we can all come together, and the Elite 8 would be a great goal to achieve.”

Fortunately, Reeves can focus solely on her role with the women’s soccer team for the next two months. Then it’s on to the next phase of her life, finishing her degree and going pro in something other than sports, starting her job at Kohl’s.

The slogan at Kohl’s is “expect great things.” Well, Reeves expects great things from herself on the field and off. Hopefully, those things come both sooner and later.