Swarthmore born and raised, Lizzie Smith started playing sports at age 7. At 40, she is in the prime of her career as an athlete, and as a leader in her sports community.
A goalkeeper on the Delaware County adult 11 v. 11 Special Olympics soccer team, Lizzie is one of the stars of a new documentary Gold Mettle, which premiered last week at Villanova University. The film was made by ten Villanova students in the Social Justice Documentary Film class, who followed two Delco Special Olympics soccer teams as they prepared for and competed in summer tournaments, culminating in the Special Olympics Fall Festival held at Villanova in November. (No spoiler here, but Lizzie’s team acquitted itself well. )
For Lizzie, who was born with cerebral palsy, athletic success came early. She started out as a track & field athlete, and one day around age 14, she found her place on the soccer pitch. Her tall frame is an advantage for her as a goalie, a position Lizzie enjoys, even though, she says, “You get hit in the face with the ball.”
“Lizzie has tried seven sports, and for now has landed on soccer and swimming,” said her mother, Susanne Smith. In the journey, she has excelled as a competitive runner, winning her division in successive years at the 5K run at the Marine Corps Marathon festival. She was a bronze medalist on the U.S. soccer team in the Special Olympics World Games nearly 20 years ago.
Even after decades as a soccer player, Lizzie still appreciates the chance to learn from her coaches, improving her skills and fitness, and developing her own leadership abilities. As a global messenger for Special Olympics, Lizzie says, “We teach athletes how to train. There are certain foods and drinks that are good for you, and other ones like soda that are bad.”
Lizzie, a health and fitness coordinator for Delaware County, was athlete representative to the county’s Special Olympics management team, and to the Villanova Fall Festival. Her achievements on and off the field have been recognized with her induction into the Delaware County Sports Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Special Olympics Hall of Fame.
Parents Guy and Susanne Smith have accompanied their daughter every step of the way, from Tartan track to turf field, and now, to the red carpet.