Sydney Robinson, who was a captain this fall on the Frederick High School girls' varsity soccer team and took a leading role in responding to racially-charged incidents last year, was named the U.S. Army Impact Player of the Month for November.
Robinson, a junior, was nominated by Frederick High sports information director Brandon Brewbaker. He took notice of Robinson at this year's Golden Mile Soccer Classic, during which Frederick plays a rival school. The event occurred on a cold, wet night, and the well-attended game cleared out quickly.
"Sydney's staying behind and picking up trash from everybody with our custodians and a couple of her teammates," Brewbaker said. "And she's yelling, 'Hey guys, we've got to pick up the trash, we've got to pick up the trash.' It's just the little things that we try to pride ourselves in at Frederick High School."
"Those are the little things that kind of set her apart," he added.
Robinson has excelled at bigger things, too. She coaches elementary school kids with Golden Mile Soccer, a free program run by her club team, FC Frederick. She teaches Sunday school at her church where she also takes part in what she referred to as a "quilting club," which makes quilts and donates them to refugees and people in less fortunate nations.
And at Frederick High, Robinson is driven by the memory of a racial slur being directed at her teammate by an opponent during a game last year. Some observers at the game "kind of just brushed it off, which really frustrated me, so I got super passionate about it," Robinson said. She wrote a letter to a newspaper outlining her concerns, "and I talked to some people, but nothing really happened."
Later in the school year, the Frederick girls' basketball team experienced a similar incident, and this one made the news. During the team's game against Linganore High School in January 2018, racially-charged comments were allegedly made toward the Cadets by fans. After the game, Robinson got in touch with Frederick County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban, who posted Robinson's letter to her blog on FCPS's website.
Robinson's letter read in part:
"Frederick High is a diverse and unique school. It brings together people of all backgrounds and offers them support and opportunities for the future. The amazing teachers and coaches provide a safe space for individuals to nurture their talents and achieve beyond what they can dream. Please learn from these experiences that Frederick High School is not the punch line to a joke, but a multi-layered school that beats the odds every day."
Since getting in touch with Alban, Robinson has spoken with the Human Relations Commission of Frederick County, gone to a FCPS Board of Education meeting with other students to talk about forming a minority affairs committee and wants to do more in the future.
"Honestly, I didn't even really think about it until something happened to my friend," Robinson said. "I come from a very diverse school and after talking to my other friends and realizing that this is something they face … [I decided] to do something about it because they're great people and a lot of people judge them or have prejudices about them just because of their race and such. So it just got me really passionate."
Robinson was the starting center midfielder for the Cadets this year, and her coach, Jose Saldivar, described her as being particularly effective in transition when the Cadets are going on the attack. But for Saldivar, Robinson's impact on the team reaches far beyond her skills on the pitch.
"Every single student that comes to us [is] welcome to be there, and having her standing up in the school, it's good because it will make all the students come to us that are Hispanic or African-American," Saldivar said. "They will feel comfortable being with the team knowing that somebody can stand up in any occasion."
Robinson is comfortable with that role.
"I've worked a lot especially with my team because my team is very racially diverse," Robinson said. "A lot of kids talk to me, and I guess I've become a bit of a leader. I've been invited to a lot of meetings and stuff and people seem to look for me on these issues, which I'm really appreciative of and hope I do a good job." •