Kicking Around All Options

Feb. 4, 2011

Big Ten Black History Month Website

By Larry Watts

Cassie Dickerson is a young woman with several options.

Dickerson, who is currently wrapping up a sports law internship, will receive her degree from Ohio State next month. Her plans changed during the past school year, switching from veterinary school after graduation to entering law school. She has taken her law school admittance test and has applied to various schools including, Kansas, Missouri-Kansas City and Ohio State.

“I thought I did well on the test, but I could have always done better,’’ she says. “Vet school had been my primary interest until a few months ago, but law school had always been in the back of my mind. I talked to my parents about it and felt like law school would be a better move for me. I just think I had been saying I was going to vet school for so long that I think I was just saying it instead of wanting to do it. I feel very passionate about going to law school and want to concentrate on medical law.’’

Another possible option for Dickerson is Women’s Professional Soccer and even playing with the U.S. Under-23 National Team. Although she went undrafted this past January, she has been invited to the Boston Breakers’ preseason training camp in March. She also spent a week in January training with the U-23 National Team and could be invited back.

Since the professional season runs from March until August, it is possible for Dickerson to play pro soccer and attend law school, beginning in late August. But there is still the possibility the 5-foot-6 center back, who turns 23 this month, could return to play for the Buckeyes since she still has two years of eligibility remaining because she missed nearly three years with three torn ACLs.

“It’s a huge decision,’’ says the Kalamazoo, Mich. native. “I have never been a quitter in my life and certain parts of me think denying those last two years of eligibility makes me seem like I am quitting on my team. I have a chance to come back with those girls. It’s an awesome program and I love the school. We’re going to have an amazing team next year, so that weighs heavily on me.

“At the same time, I want to get my graduate work started because it means another three years of school. And if I get the opportunity to play professionally, there are only so many years you can do that. Coach (Lori) Walker has told me the door is still open for me to return, so it’s a heavy decision, but it will all turn out the way it is supposed to.’’

If Dickerson’s Ohio State career did end last fall, she certainly made the most of it. The first first-team All-American in the program’s history and the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, she helped the Buckeyes post 12 shutouts and claim their first conference title. Ohio State (17-5-2) advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Soccer College Cup before dropping a 1-0 decision to eventual champion Notre Dame.

“It’s a lot of fun playing against the best players in the country,’’ she says. “That was my first NCAA Tournament because I missed our only game (high ankle sprain) the previous year.

“Notre Dame was a great team and just wanted it a little more than we did. You don’t want to lose, but there is some pride in losing to the national champion. We played some good soccer and you always dream of making it to the Final Four.’’

During her two years as a starter at center back, the Buckeyes posted a record of 31-8-4 and collected 25 shutouts.

“We had a no-shot mentality on defense,’’ she says. “We always felt the defense set the tone and the momentum would push its way forward.’’

Dickerson still finds it hard to believe she is the first first-team All-American at Ohio State.

“I was shocked when I was told because there have been so many great players who have come through here before me,’’ she says. “I never thought I would get more accolades than they got. It’s a great honor for me, but also a great acknowledgement to our team. Without my team doing as well as it did, that wouldn’t have happened.’’

Growing up in Kalamazoo, her mother, a former ballerina at Western Michigan, had thoughts of her daughter following in her footsteps. She enrolled her Dickerson in a ballerina class she was teaching, but that didn’t last long.

“I was also taking Tae Kwon Do at the time and my mother got tired of me karate chopping and kicking the other girls in the class,’’ she says. “She had to kick me out of her own class, which was kind of embarrassing. Maybe if I had done a pirouette, I could have avoided that third ACL injury.’’

According to Dickerson, who holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, her experience in the martial arts has had its rewards while playing both soccer and basketball.

“It’s given me a lot of discipline and respect for the environment I’m in,’’ she says. “I think it’s made me a fighter. It’s funny when we sit around in film sessions because I feel like letting out one of those Tae Kwon Do noises when I make a good kick.’’

When it came time to make a college decision, one thing was certain, there was no way Dickerson was headed to Ann Arbor. Her father, Van, grew up in Elyria, Ohio, before playing football at Western Michigan and had groomed his family to be Buckeye fans.

“I never looked at Michigan,’’ Dickerson says. “My dad (now an athletic director at Kalamazoo Central High) said he would never pay a cent to Michigan.

The disdain for Michigan in the Dickerson household even goes down to the dog, a Rottweiler named Rico.

“He sits to ‘Buckeye,’ lays down to ‘touchdown’ and plays dead when we say ‘Wolverine,’’’ Dickerson laughs. “Why not be different? As long as we (Ohio State) are better, I’m good.’’

But Michigan State was heavily in the picture for Dickerson’s autograph. Several of her club teammates were headed to East Lansing and strongly encouraged her to follow.

“I loved them and their coaching staff,’’ she says. “One of the assistants was my state Olympic Development Program coach. It was very hard to break away from the people I had been playing with, but we still remain close friends.

“However, I wanted to get away from home, far enough to be away but not too far so my parents couldn’t see me play. Five hours is perfect. My mother has been to every one of my games, even when I was injured, and my father makes it here on Sundays.’’

Dickerson loves to talk to opposing players, especially former club teammates at Michigan State.

“It’s always a lot of fun and they know I’m not afraid of them,’’ she says. “I’ll talk to them all the time and keep egging them on. I keep encouraging them to show me something different because I know all their tricks. I want them to show me something new.’’

Dickerson says her trash-talking, which is never derogatory, is a carryover from her days on the basketball court.

“I’ll hear a song on the radio and I just start singing it to the forwards,’’ she says. “Anything I can do to throw them off their game and make them think about me is good. I can sing, talk and keep my focus at the same time. But if I can get them off focus, then I’m doing my job.

“A lot of people take the game so seriously when they are out there. I always say, ‘Take the game serious, but don’t take yourself seriously.’ I’ve never been afraid to have a chat with someone; it keeps it fun and the excitement going.’’

Dickerson admits it will be a huge relief once she makes her final decision on her future.

“It’s better to have options than none at all,’’ she says with a laugh.