We have all seen soccer played, whether it be children running around on the field or the masters of the game skillfully giving their best. Most soccer players begin as children learning the game, but only a few of the very gifted athletes move on to play at the Division I level.
Jeni (Willie) Willardson Viernes, a senior on the BYU Women's Soccer team has found herself in that very fortunate situation. She is one of two seniors on the Cougar squad and a returning Mountain West Conference First Team athlete. Jeni's blessings don't end with just having the opportunity to play at the Division I level.
Playing soccer at BYU has been a spiritual experience for Jeni. "When we were playing at ASU there was a huge lightening storm", Jeni said. "As a team, we were sitting in the vans just off the field waiting for it to stop raining. We prayed that the rain would stop and that we'd be able to get out and play. At that time, lightening crashed and then it suddenly cleared up. We finished our game and then it started pouring again." Jeni remembers their game at Arizona State very clearly and it is now part of her testimony of prayer, another blessing from playing soccer at BYU.
Jeni is married to soccer great Spencer Viernes, a member of the BYU Men's Soccer club team. While working a summer camp, Jeni and Spencer didn't get to just teach their forte to young cougar fans, they also were able to meet each other. The story began with Jeni coaching a team of girls and Spencer coaching a team of boys. At night, the boys and girls scrimmaged each other, which was a little more fun than scrimmaging against their own gender, especially for their coaches.
As a result of those summer scrimmages, Jeni and Spencer, as husband and wife, now share a kitchen table for studying and the blessings from soccer just keep coming. Those camp scrimmages have developed into pick-up games with the men's soccer team. Jeni has the unusual opportunity to play with the men, but Spencer insists he doesn't hold back when playing against her. Their competitiveness as athletes still shows through even when they are teamed against each other.
Yet, another blessing is the support they offer each other as highly skilled and knowledgeable soccer players. They attend each others games as long as they don't conflict with their own playing schedule. They offer advice as players-advice they can trust.
As you attend women's soccer games this fall you can find Spencer sitting with a group of 30 family members cheering on Jeni and Cougars. Those 30 family fans have been cheering for Jeni long before she worked the soccer camp when her girls scrimmaged Spencer's boys.
Another of the continuing blessings soccer has brought to Jeni's life is you can now find her sitting in the stands with those same 30 family fans cheering for Spencer at the BYU men's soccer games.
After this season, the Viernes' will leave their years of soccer at BYU behind for graduate school and eventually children. We can only hope that their children will one day grow up to fill the cleat's of their mom and dad, and play for the Cougars of BYU!