On what was deemed senior night, Amber Higdon gave the Greene County soccer faithful one more reason to jump from their seats.
Well, three more reasons.
Higdon scored a hat trick on April 14 to finish out her high school soccer career.
Interestingly, her career was only supposed to last one day.
During her freshman year, Higdon made an agreement to try out for soccer for the first time in her life. Prior to that, Higdon had no inclination to play a sport in high school. She just wanted to focus on academics.
Then a friend kept pushing her to try out for the high school soccer team. She finally agreed to do so, but only for one day.
That all changed when she stepped onto the field.
When she arrived at her practice, Higdon felt like she was already part of the team, which convinced her to join the Greene County Lady Tigers permanently.
“It was friendly and welcoming when I got there,” Higdon said. “The girls were very quick to teach me how to dribble and pass. It had a family feeling on the team.”
From that point, it didn’t take long for Higdon to make her mark on the Lady Tigers’ program.
She even broke the status quo.
Most of the time, players have to wait until their senior season to have a chance at team captain. Higdon’s performance was so awe-inspiring that she received the honor as a junior.
With that, though, comes an added pressure.
Former head coach Mike Smith was reluctant to place that pressure on her at first but later recognized that it was, indeed, the correct decision.
“She’s inspiring to others,” Mike Smith said. “Whenever it was time to run suicides, she would be the one to jump and say, ‘We got to do it.’ While everyone else was moaning and groaning, she would start doing it. Then, once everyone saw her, they’d get up and follow her.”
But Higdon didn’t become an inspiration overnight. She has had to continuously work at developing her skills on the field, too.
Higdon said she spends approximately 12 hours per week playing soccer in some fashion. She’s missed very few practices, has never missed a game and continually trains after school and on weekends.
All because she loves to play the sport.
Her commitment to soccer is evident to everyone around her. Including her current head coach, Robert Smith.
Robert Smith said her work ethic is unparalleled. Sometimes, Higdon even beats him to practice.
“She’s usually the first to get to practice and the last to leave,” Robert Smith said. “She’s willing to teach, learn, and she’s not afraid of failing. When she fails, instead of quitting, she works at it.”
The source of her great work ethic stems from someone very close to her: her father, Eric Higdon.
Eric Higdon has to work long, strenuous hours for Plains Logging.
Higdon had a front row seat to her father’s dedication over the years, which has influenced her to do the same.
“Ever since I’ve been growing up, I’ve always known him to get up at 4 a.m. to go to work and not get home until it’s dark,” Higdon said. “So, I definitely think my work ethic comes from my father.”
Higdon’s father has provided more than just an example of a strong work ethic to her. He’s also led a support group for Higdon’s career.
Eric Higdon, his wife Danielle, son Codie and youngest daughter Madylynn all go out of their way to show their support.
Whether it’s showing up to games, helping her practice or discussing Atlanta United matches, Eric Higdon has made it a priority to show support for his daughter, even when the weather conditions are not perfect.
“It was 32 degrees out [at Tiger Stadium] one February morning during her sophomore year,” Eric Higdon said. “She wanted to come run and shoot goals. I told her I couldn’t stay out here long and we ended up practicing over an hour.”
What started as a one-day agreement blossomed into a storied soccer career for Amber Higdon.
And, though her high school career is now over, Higdon isn’t hanging up her cleats just yet.
In a few weeks, Higdon plans to sign an academic scholarship and play at Wesleyan University in Macon, Georgia.
While she feels overwhelmed by the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level, Higdon realizes she wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for playing in high school.
“I’m going to miss playing in high school,” Higdon said. “But I want to use my high school career as a way to improve further in my life.”