Paula Dadensky not only knows she wants to become a teacher, but she can even picture herself instructing elementary students.
“I want to teach Grade 1,” she said. “That’s my goal.
“I love working with kids and want to make a difference in their lives. Grade 1 students love their teacher, but they also have their own personality.”
Dadensky, a 20-year-old Stettler native, is in her first year of education studies at Red Deer College.
She’s already at the head of her class on the soccer field as a member of the RDC Queens, the bronze-medallists this past season in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
Dadensky was chosen ACAC rookie of the year and earned a berth on the all-conference team after leading the South Division with 11 goals in 10 games.
She ranked fifth in Canada.
When she received the awards at the league banquet in Edmonton, she was caught off guard while sitting with her teammates.
“It was just kind of a shock, and exciting at the same time,” said the five-foot-four striker.
“Everyone was excited and said I deserved it.”
Dadensky earned a $250 scholarship as the conference rookie of the year. She had a couple of ideas on how she might spend that money.
“I might buy myself a nice pair of soccer shoes, or save it for school or something,” said Dadensky, who picked up a spiffy — and colourful — pair of cleats last month.
Dadensky plans to study at RDC for two years and finish her education degree at the University of Alberta.
When she transfers to the Edmonton campus in the fall of 2014, she might step up and try out for the U of A Pandas, who compete at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level.
“I’d like to,” Dadensky said. “I want to try out. I think it’ll be a lot harder and tougher than playing for the college. But I’ll probably give it a shot and see what I can do — show ’em what I’ve got.”
Dadensky is a 2011 graduate of William E. Hay Composite High School in Stettler. She showed her stuff last fall as RDC’s lone striker and its go-to scorer.
“That was my goal this year — I wanted to be top goal-scorer in the league — and I managed to take the South Division (scoring title),” she said. “So that was one of my biggest accomplishments. It was exciting for me.”
She set the pace with a combination of speed and skill.
“You have to be very quick and always moving on and off the ball,” Dadensky said. “You can’t stand still and you always have to be thinking and looking for an outlet that you can run to space, or getting the ball and just placing it in the net.”
After finishing high school, Dadensky worked in Stettler last year to save money for college. In her rookie season with the Queens, her fellow first-year teammates included Stettler’s Terra Salmon, a 2012 graduate of William E. Hay.
Dadensky said her close friend, Salmon, performed well while playing a tough position.
“Terra did really well on the outside. It was kind of a high level, and she kept up really good with all the girls, playing an outside mid-position, because she was running a lot. She had to do both forward stuff and defence.”
The Stettler girls stood the test of an early winter as RDC captured the bronze medal at the conference championship, which MacEwan University hosted in Edmonton.
“There was snow on the ground and it was, like, minus-4 C the whole weekend,” Dadensky said.
Queens coach David Colley congratulated his players, including the two rookies from Stettler, for overcoming the winter-like elements at the end of the soccer season.
“Paula Dadensky, Tatiana Aspillaga, Terra Salmon and Kristi Lem ran through hail, snow, ice and the pain barrier to shut down folk and provide crosses,” Colley said at the time.
As a collegiate newcomer, Dadensky stepped into a familiar environment in Red Deer, where she had played with a women’s team last summer in the Alberta Major Soccer League.
“I had seen the coach before,” she said of the Colley. “I didn’t know I was going to play that much, but when I started playing, it was lots of fun.
“He had seen me play before, but I wasn’t actually on his team (before the past college season).
“And the (previous) coach, Dave McCarthy, he invited me to play a game for the Queens last year, because they were looking for players. He’s the one that told me, ‘Yeah, there’s a spot.’ And then I came and tried out this year.”
Dadensky, a softball player for much of her childhood, began playing soccer in Grade 8 with CASA United and later played with a Red Deer United team that travelled to Minnesota. She was with Red Deer at under- 16 and under-18 levels.
She warmed up for the college season by playing in the Alberta Major Soccer League, but her summer schedule was cut short because of an injury.
“I hurt my (right) ankle in the first month of soccer, so I was out for six weeks,” said Dadensky, who used crutches for a week. “I got better just in time for college.
“At first, I was kind of timid about going in, because I knew my ankle was kind of weak, but I just grew over time and I just had to be confident in myself, and then others would be confident in me, as well.”
Dadensky sampled soccer for one year in Stettler before pursuing the sport at higher levels out of town.
“I’d say the biggest impact for me was Humberto (Aspillaga), my coach from CASA,” she said. “He was the one who kind of got me started with soccer and taught me everything I know. So it was good to work with him, and I give him pretty much most of my credit.”
Dadensky is among three athletic siblings. Her 17-year-old brother, Justin, is a skateboarder and curler who played with the William E. Hay senior boys’ volleyball team this past season. Her 22-year-old brother, Devon, played football during his high school days.
She thanked Kevin Stewart of Stettler’s ID Apparel — where she worked last year — for sponsoring her.