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Carlyn Baldwin chasing full-time soccer dream

Carlyn Baldwin is foregoing her last year of eligibility to play professionally in Sweden (Photo By Andrew Bruckse/Tennessee Athletics)

Carlyn Baldwin is foregoing her last year of eligibility to play professionally in Switzerland. (Photo By Andrew Bruckse/Tennessee Athletics)

It’s not too uncommon this time of year to see former college players announce they’ve signed contracts to play in Europe. With the 2017 NWSL draft over, it makes sense for those players who weren’t among the 40 draftees to look for a place to play.

Former Tennessee Volunteer Carlyn Baldwin’s announcement on Monday that she had signed with BSC Young Boys in Switzerland was different though. Baldwin, a 20 year old from Northern Virginia, wasn’t even eligible to enter 2017 NWSL draft as she still had a year of college eligibility remaining. For Baldwin, the decision to forego her senior season at Tennessee centered around her development.

“I mean it was a tough decision but ultimately, I want to play soccer full time,” Baldwin said in a phone interview Tuesday.  “That’s always been my dream as a player to be able to  fully dedicate myself to my development and I explained that to the staff, to my team there (and) they were extremely supportive.”

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About three years prior, the feisty, technical midfielder made another difficult decision about her soccer career that was markedly different than her peers. In the spring of 2014, Baldwin trialed with Olympique Lyon and considered skipping college and going straight to the professional ranks.

After her trial with Lyon, Baldwin spoke with Lindsey Horan, the first U.S. woman to skip college completely, and U.S. Technical Director April Heinrichs about the possibility of going pro. In the end, she felt drawn to Tennessee and made the decision to enroll.

Although injuries sometimes hampered her impact on field for the Volunteers, Baldwin spoke positively about her college experience and credited the Tennessee staff for helping her get fit and avoid having to take a red shirt season.

“College athletics is great, being a student athlete is great, being able to play a sport and get your education at the same time is something really special, but for me, at least at this time, it’s about fully dedicating myself to my development,” Baldwin said. “I know I grew tremendously there from the coaching staff and all players but I just thought it was kind of next step in my career.”

While Baldwin is focused on her development and career as a professional soccer player now, she is planning for the future. When she hangs up her cleats in what she hopes will be a long time from now, she wants to be a coach. To that end, she understands the importance of earning a degree and will take classes periodically online to finish.

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Right now, her scholarly pursuits focused on learning some German, the language her soon-to-be BSG Young Boys teammates speak in Bern. Despite not knowing the language, the midfielder said it wasn’t difficult to communicate with her teammates and staff during her trial.  Her teammates typically took English in school and the head coach Marisa Wunderlin, who was at Lyon when Baldwin trialed there in 2014, speaks English.

Baldwin, who also considered JIF United in Japan, said it was her conversations with Wunderlin that really sold her on coming to Bern.

“When I went over there she just made me feel wanted and that I could not only grow there but help the team there, help her accomplish what she wants the team to do and what she wants to achieve as a coach,” she said. “Then I also felt like she was going to invest a lot in my development so just going there and helping her and then the team they were so welcoming and it just seems like a very good environment to grow as a player.”

As Baldwin seeks growth as a player, in one sense her decision signifies the growth of the women’s game. While Baldwin isn’t concerned with or even sure if she’s the first American to leave college early to play professionally, she understands what her departure for the norm may mean for future players.

“I think for younger kids that maybe want to explore this different path maybe it shows them that there’s different avenues in the game that you can pursue whether that’s spending all 4 years in college, whether that’s not going to college at all, whether that’s going for a little bit and wanting to do something else, she said. “ I think it just shows there are different paths for different people.”

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