Since she was three years old, Addie Chester’s life was lived through the game of soccer.
“I feel like as a kid, it's just kind of what you're good at,” she said. “If you're good at something, you'll keep doing it.”
But when she was about to attend Delta High School, she was on the cusp of being done.
“Anybody who's played a sport for that long gets burnt out at different times,” she said.
But it wasn’t just the fact that Chester was tired of running up and down the pitch or that she had been kicking a soccer ball since she could walk.
So, what was it?
It was what the sport had become and who she was playing with.
“I was playing with Indiana Fire at the time, and they didn't age switch,” she said. “So, the teams were by birth year now instead of by grade, so the team that I had been playing with for a really long time switched… It was just one of those things where practice wasn't super fun.”
Still thinking of walking away, her parents thought it would be a good idea for her to play for Delta.
Fast forward to now.
Chester holds the Indiana record for most goals scored in a high school career and season, and she became the Eagles’ first Division One girls’ soccer player as she is now a sophomore athlete for the University of Louisville.
But most recently, she helped the Indy Eleven, Indianapolis’s pro soccer team, become the 2023 USL Women League champions.
Flying high with the Eagles
The decision to join the Eagles girls’ soccer team became one of the main reasons that she stuck with the sport. To her, it helped that she did not have to worry about certain things that she did in club play.
“I'd just show up to practice every day and hang out with my friends,” she said. “I just had fun and there was no stress.”
But while she was “hanging out with her friends,” her ability to play the game at a high level never went away. In fact, she wasn’t just playing well. Chester was dominating the competition.
“Only being the Athletic Director for one year with Addie, I quickly witnessed how special of a student-athlete she is,” Delta athletic director Tilmon Clark said. “I'm not surprised by what Addie has accomplished because of her competitive drive along with her elite talent.”
Chester scored 34 goals in her freshman season with Delta, which is tied for 27th in the state's history. But she would only improve. She now holds the first, second, and third-place spots for most goals scored in a single season. Her junior season sits at the top with 59 goals.
“Obviously, scoring goals is fun,” she said.
All together, Chester holds the record for the most goals scored in a career with 201, 34 more goals than second place.
But take away those records. Take away the fact that she had many accolades and accomplishments, including the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year award she won as a sophomore. She credits the atmosphere around the Eagles for her success.
“I think [playing for Delta] made me more confident when I went back to club soccer,” she said. “I'm really happy that I ended up playing for Delta.”
It wasn’t just her teammates or the Delta community that encouraged and supported Chester. It was the whole county.
“I think that Delta has been a really good community for me to grow up in,” Chester said. “It hasn't been super soccer-focused all the time, which is super nice. But Delaware County has always supported me.”
For Clark, the fact that Chester regained her enjoyment for soccer because of the blue and gold represent what high school sports should do for the students that partake in them.
“My goal for Delta Athletics is to create an environment where student-athletes can learn life lessons, while also being coached to accomplish goals,” he said. “I want Delta Athletics to be known for preparing student-athletes to go out into the world to be difference makers and to be good human beings. I hope Addie can look back on her time at Delta and be thankful that she was an Eagle.”
When Chester was ready to decide between playing collegiately, the Cardinals were not in the picture. After her freshman season, she verbally committed to play for the Nittany Lions of Penn State University. But after making that decision, doubt started to set in.
“It just didn't quite feel right.,” Chester said. “It was one of those things where I was kind of not looking forward to going. That's where I realized, okay, maybe I should probably be looking forward to where I'm going to college.”
One of the negative factors that gloomed over her head was the distance between the college and Muncie. With that in mind, she wanted to pick a school that was closer than the one that was about five and a half hours away.
But Louisville was not her first choice. She was 95 percent sure that she was going to be a Boilermaker and suit up for Purdue. But then she had a phone conversation with Louisville head coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes.
“I wish I could bottle up what I told her [during the phone conversation],” Dayes said. “I know we did a PowerPoint presentation and kind of showed her a little bit more in-depth about the university. But [Chester] is a woman of few words, right? She is a listener and she's a thinker. I really need to ask her because she's never told me why the first conversation was so impactful.”
But before that phone call, Dayes watched Chester and valued her skills. And when Chester decommitted from Penn State, she hopped on the opportunity.
“For us, the two pieces that are super important are character and talent,” Dayes said. “[We knew] she had the talent at that point after seeing her play. And then it really only took a couple of phone calls to realize that her character matched what we were looking for as well.”
After deciding to spend her college career with the Cardinals, Chester left for the university a semester early. This is a choice that she still agrees with to this day.
“I just kind of decided what would help me more long term,” she said. “And I think that it was huge because as a freshman playing the ACC in the fall, it's really hard to adjust quickly enough with the month you have before the first game.”
This decision also helped Chester connect with her teammates as she roomed with some of them.
“I had told [Dayes] if I'm not going to be in a dorm with my teammates, I probably won't come early,” she said. “Just because I would be more uncomfortable when I could come in the fall and be with my teammates then.”
In her freshman season, Chester played 15 games and started in 12 of those. She recorded two assists and two goals. She rates her performance in her first collegiate season with 70 percent. But Dayes believes she did it a bit better.
“She gave herself a C-?” Dayes asked, chuckling. “I'd give her a B-... You're always your own worst critic when you're super competitive.”
One thing that Dayes noticed watching her freshman was her mental game—no moment seemed too big for her.
“She never appeared to be super rattled by anything,” Dayes said. “She never appeared to lose her confidence. Yet I'm sure she wavered in and out of days where she was confident, days where she didn't think she belonged. But that's typical for a freshman.”
To Dayes, Chester ended her freshman season playing her best soccer. If she continues that growth, the 22-year Louisville head coach could see her end up as a full-time professional.
“I truly believe she can [play professionally], whether it's domestically or internationally,” she said. “She'll have to decide that, but that would not be anything that would be outside the realm of possibility for her.”
Making history with Indianapolis’ pro soccer team
After the USL decided that they wanted to grow the women's side of soccer, they introduced the USL Women’s League in 2022. The goal was to create a national platform to increase opportunities and help with other issues such as gender equality, according to uslwleague.com.
Chester knew about the new establishment but was not entirely interested.
“When Indy Eleven reached out last year, I was a little nervous,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is semi-professional soccer. This is a bigger deal than just a little summer team.’”
But at that point, Chester had decided to play for Racing Louisville, but that did not pan out as the club had more than five players from Louisville.
“We had way more than five Louisville players on Racing,” Chester said. “So we were going to be switching in and out. I think the environment was weird and there were probably 50 players on the roster.”
After realizing she wanted to do something else, she contacted Eleven head coach Paul Dolinsky. He had known Chester for years and welcomed her with open arms. She then helped the team finish their inaugural season with a 10-0-2 record.
But after getting to the halfway point of this season, Chester said that something was different about this year’s team.
“I think that at the beginning [of the season], it was the fact that it wasn't the same roster every game,” she said. “But I think that once we got closer to the end, the roster stayed pretty similar. I think we just got super comfortable with those specific people.”
The team finished the regular season 8-1-1, which was good enough to secure first place in the Valley Division. To win, they had to defeat Aurora, the same team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season.
“That was good because it was kind of a revenge thing,” Chester said. “But we all knew that we were capable of more so we celebrated but then switched back on.”
After cruising through the playoff bracket, they earned their spot in the championship game. Both Indy Eleven teams have never made it, and this was something that Chester believes gave them the extra motivation.
“I think because it was only the [USL Women’s] second season,” she said. “I would say us losing last year was definitely motivation. And then obviously, because we're women, it was really cool to get the first championship.”
But winning the big game wasn’t the only history that was broken that afternoon. 5,419 fans attended the game, making it the most attended women’s soccer game in Indiana's history.
“A couple of [fans] come to games that are like five hours away,” Chester said. “So it was cool to be around all of them at once and they're super loud. I think having everybody on your side definitely plays a big part of the game.”
Chester finished the season with four goals and six assists and will try to help the Eleven go back-to-back as she has decided to play for the team next summer.
“Winning the whole thing early on, I kind of felt overwhelmed,” she said. “Like oh, we gotta go try to do it all again. We definitely set a high bar, but I think it's super cool that we won because that's not in the cards for a lot of teams.”
When Chester looks back at her career to this point, she sometimes thinks about her decision to continue playing soccer in high school.
“I think that at that point, it wasn't a big deal,” she said. “I was young. I think that everything happens for a reason, so if this was all gonna happen, I don't think I ever would have quit. But small decisions can change the course of your life and that was definitely one of them.”
But what if she took the other option and gave up the sport forever? If she could go back in time, Chester would give her some advice.
“You're gonna end up being a part of a lot of cool teams and a lot of cool girls,” she said. “And it's given me a lot of opportunities.”