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Student+Athlete Highlight: Kellie Pagador

Like a dash, The Plus has a horizontal bar that represents the school-sport balance, but there is also a vertical line that represents the relationship between the athlete and God. Because Christ laid down his life for them, the athlete lives their life for Him. In this blog series, I feature student+athletes who thrive in school and sport while pursuing the true prize.

The Student+Athlete highlights are back with Kellie Pagador, a.k.a Pags! Last year when we were both freshman at FCA, she introduced herself to me as Kellie, and I proceeded to call her that for a few months until I realized that nobody else did and that everyone calls her Pags. You could imagine my confusion when I kept referring to her as Kellie and nobody knew who I was talking about, haha! So for my introduction here, I thought I would go for both. Pags is a sophomore on the soccer team, part of our women's Bible study (which gets a shoutout in her essay), and a compassionate friend.

She took a creative writing class in the fall and was able to share her story, including her journey of faith and sport, in an essay. She shared the essay with her Instagram followers, and with her permission, I had to share them on the blog!


Find Joy in the Journey

Kellie Pagador

Blasting music with my earbuds in, I drop the handle of my wagon onto the thick green grass. All alone at Mel Hamel Park in Roseville, California. I begin to unload the bag of soccer balls, cones, and the SKLZ goal that I had got for Christmas two years ago. A goal that was about 30 pounds, which I had to put together for it to pop up and be about 6 by 12 feet, a perfect target to shoot at over and over again. I start with juggling as a warmup and then transition into a variation of shooting drills; lining the balls up in a line, having the balls in one area with a cone in front to do a move, and sporadically spreading the balls around to take shots from different areas. After an hour or two I would begin to dismantle the SKLZ goal and fit it perfectly back into the bag it came in, I counted the balls to make sure I had the same number I arrived with and began walking back home. A 5-minute walk and one that was made easier thanks to my teal green wagon that I also asked for Christmas.

I loved being alone, putting in work with no one watching, it gave me confidence without even realizing it. Towards the end of elementary school, I went to the park and trained almost every day in addition to my club team training. Most of the days were sunny, but I trained on the coldest of days, and even on the rainiest of days. When I was playing with my team, I had a “just have fun” mentality, something my dad told me before every game and before any big training or trip that I got invited to. Soccer was the core of my identity, I did not realize it at the time, but I was obsessed with the feeling of hitting a perfect left footed shot in a game, a shot that I had practiced every day on my own.


High School was the time I split from my elementary school friends and went to a different school, Del Oro. This was the first time I was pushed outside of my comfort zone as an introvert and a home body. Socially, I had to meet new friends and find my way into a friend group that most likely had been together since middle school to say the least. Soccer was going well, and I was getting better because I was getting invited to the youth national team camps. I missed a lot of school and had to switch to independent study for the second half of my freshman year.

A switch for soccer, I did whatever it took to keep playing at the highest level. I loved the idea that I could get my school done at my own pace and put a lot of my time into soccer. I loved that I did not have to put the extra effort into dressing up and standing in the student section at football games. I met a lot of new people in the couple of months I was at Del Oro. From amazing teachers to my new friends, they respected me and supported me. To transfer outside of my school district to then transfer again was not ideal, but I learned that I was capable of making new friends and that I actually liked meeting new people. Something I hadn’t done since meeting my core friend group that I had been with since the second grade. When I switched to independent study freshman year, that spring of 2018 I verbally committed to Stanford. The sacrifices of my social life and a normal high school experience was worth it. I say this to myself as I am still completing my freshman year.


October 29, 2018, day 1 of the road to recovery. A recovery that I thought would take 9-12 months at the most and I would be back on the field better than ever. I was excited for this day because my parents found one of the best doctors, who had worked with the San Jose Sharks, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, and the San Francisco Giants. I was in great hands and the outcome was up to me. I had to put the work in during physical therapy and be disciplined on my own. Many would hate the idea of being out for so long, but I had a good mindset from day one. I loved the idea of working with my head down and proving to people that I would be back and better once I was able to play soccer again. But this was my first surgery.

I had gotten ACL reconstruction surgery on my left knee, and I had a nerve block in for the first week. It constantly pumped medicine into my leg to numb the pain from my left hip down. Every time you could hear it pumping in the medicine that felt like cold water running down and through my leg. A feeling that I never want to experience again. This happened every couple hours for a week straight. In that first week, my dad often helped me move my ankle around to get some blood flow, as I lay there on the couch with my leg elevated above my heart. After a couple of days, he told me to bring my foot and toes back on my own. I tried as hard as I could, and it took a lot of effort to do such a simple task. I could barely pull my ankle toward myself, but this simple task led my dad and I staring at my left big toe. The only toe that was not able to move at all, no matter how hard I tried. We told the doctor and decided to wait some time since it was not that unusual, the nerve block just needed time to wear off.


From Roseville to Fremont, California, driving two and a half hours to the Bay Area was something I had to get used to. My parents alternated between who drove me every weekend for several months. Although my recovery was not progressing as I wanted it to, I enjoyed the environment of my doctor's physical therapy clinic. At the clinic I realized that I was not alone in my recovery process. A lot of the patients were other athletes who were also rehabilitating with the goal to play their sport again. There were many instances where I noticed the person next to me had the same exact incisions. A great conversation starter, something that was easy to talk about. Being able to relate to one another was comforting. Usually asking “how many months post op are you?” or “how has the recovery been going?”

A couple months after I had surgery, I got the opportunity to be an intern at the clinic. Since my parents were driving me so far, I thought this was a great opportunity to take advantage of. Being an intern consisted of setting patients up on different modalities before and after their physical therapy sessions. I appreciated seeing the same patients every week who were interested to hear how I was doing. I was always curious about how they were feeling and how they were progressing, both the good and the bad. There were also patients that told me about their kids, what they were doing the rest of the weekend, or how far they traveled to come to the clinic that day. Even though I only interned for about 2 months, I was able to learn so much, and it was the first time I experienced the fulfillment of helping others. I was able to gain a different perspective of my injury because if I did not have surgery, I would not have met all the amazing people I did during my time at the clinic. An experience that was a byproduct of what was happening for me.


Months went by, still working silently, things were still not progressing as they were supposed to. I was walking with a limp because I could not get my extension and I had pins and needles on the top of my foot, which eventually turned into a burning sensation, and then dull pain that went on 24/7. The side of my shin and the top of my left foot were numb. Sensations that implied that I had peripheral neuropathy. I was on several anti-inflammatory medicines and could only fall asleep with a heating pad wrapped around my foot. My parents were doing everything in their control to find the best neurologist and other remedies to ease the nerve pain. I started taking herbal medicine, went vegan, soaked my foot in warm water, and did acupuncture twice a week. At this point, some Sunday’s I started attending church with my dad, who went to church every day to pray for me. The extent of my personal faith was wearing a cross necklace that my sister gave to me.

8 months out and I was nowhere near to walking normally, let alone able to kick a soccer ball. I felt empty. I felt stuck. I was not doing anything in my life that I loved, I was not doing anything that filled my heart with joy. Being injured gave me a lot of time to think, what is my purpose?


Sophomore year of high school and I was still attending independent study, until soccer was taken away from me. The core of my identity was benched, and school was the substitute. I have always loved school, but independent study was different. Being home alone while my parents were at work and not wanting to attend soccer practice led to zero social interaction. I needed a change. It was time to push myself outside of my comfort zone and go back to normal school. The real question was, what high school? I had transferred back into my own school district to do independent study, so Del Oro was out of the picture.

“You can come to Antelope” said my dad with a smirk on his face, knowing that I would laugh and ignore his comment.

I laughed, but I considered it. I had the option to join my best friends since second grade at Roseville High school, who were amazing people but back to my comfort zone. Soccer was still my priority, and my number one goal was to be ready to play before attending Stanford. If I went to Roseville, I would be with my best friends, but I would have to be social and go back to dressing up and attending football games. Distraction. A word that was not appealing to me.

“Hey dad, I think I want to go to Antelope!” I said with a smile on my face, even though I knew a total of 3 people, two of which were people I played soccer with as a kid and the other being my dad.

My dad is a PE teacher at Antelope High School. As a little girl I imagined going to my dad’s school, but as I got older, it turned into never wanting to go to my dad’s school. No one wants to go to school, especially high school, where everyone knows who your dad is. Antelope is the most diverse school in the Roseville school district, which I enjoyed since Del Oro was the complete opposite. Once again, I had to be social, but I was excited about the idea of meeting new people. Antelope was different, I was able to wear sweats and a hoodie every day of the week because no one cared what you wore, and I was surrounded by people that looked like me more than ever before. I was able to be myself and this switch was made easier thanks to my dad.

“You’re Mr. Pagador’s daughter??” people would ask with a weird look on their face, surprised.

“Yep, that’s my dad” I would reply with an embarrassed look on my face. Then I would always get a quick response back with, “I love Pags, he’s the best” or “does he call you chief too?” I always laughed, since my dad called a lot of his student's chief, it was a normal question that was asked.

I was embarrassed in the moment, but these were my favorite interactions, my dad was the cool teacher. For the first time I was able to be myself, staying true to myself in all aspects, wearing comfy clothes every day, saying hi to everyone, but keeping to myself. There were no distractions. Not many people can say they love going to school with their dad. But I did and I still didn’t have soccer, so I appreciated all the good things that were happening for me. At Antelope I was able to meet the coolest of teachers, best of friends and classmates that were good and real people.


“A second nerve decompression is the only thing we can do to try to relieve the pain,” my neurologist said. It is May 2021 and all I have on my mind is to be ready for preseason which began in August. I already had a nerve decompression in 2019 in which I had a cyclops lesion removed as well. A cyclops lesion, essentially, is a big ball of scar tissue that was behind by kneecap, and it prevented me from walking correctly. I was able to make my way back to the field and play my first games in November 2020.

As the days went on, I started to get my touch back, and was even back practicing with the boys' team that I practiced with throughout middle school. I was practicing almost every day, something I missed and something I loved so much I would do anything to keep playing. I did just that, I played for months with dull pain and numbness on the top of my foot, hoping and praying that my body just needed to get used to it. It never did. I knew the time was coming, I hit a breaking point.

I came home from practice, with my head down and tears running down my face, I went straight to my room. My parents have seen me do this many times in the past couple years, I knew it was hard for them to see me like this.

I finally was able to tell them “I won’t be able to handle playing college soccer with my foot like this.”

My dad and I went to church after school that week to pray and get clarity on if I should get the surgery or not. The doctor was not certain it would take the pain away completely, it was the last option, and the choice was up to me. A week later, I saw my neurologist and came to the conclusion that this was perfect timing to do another nerve decompression. I was willing to do anything it took to keep playing, and I had already gotten this far, why stop now. There is so much joy in playing soccer, the teammates, all the hard work paying off, and the challenges it presents.


Fall of freshman year at Stanford was yet again, another opportunity. Meeting new people, something I was used to at this point and was excited for, outside of soccer of course. Soccer was going way better than I expected but my confidence would soon be at an all-time low and it was hard to have the “just have fun” mentality. Although my confidence was not consistent, something that was always consistent was Monday nights. Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meets at 8:30pm in Kissick auditorium every Monday. I was invited by one of my teammates who was on the leadership team and was a captain of our soccer team. I have never been part of a group like FCA, I was welcomed with open arms by people who shared the same struggles that I was facing as a freshman. My dad is catholic, and I was raised catholic but could not tell you a lot about my personal journey with my faith. FCA was the start of my personal journey, and I was very curious what could happen if I put God 1st in my life. I mean, I knew God was working through my injury and even though it took 3 years to fully heal, I always trusted his timing. FCA was an hour out of my week, away from school and soccer. I started to attend women’s bible study where we read scripture, asked questions, reflected on our own lives, but most importantly learned from each other's experiences with faith. FCA was the balance that I needed in my life and allowed me to be present, in the moment, with some of the greatest human beings on Stanford’s campus. Faith, a new substitute for the core of my identity. School and soccer were better because I did not put my worth in my performance and my confidence grew as my faith grew.


The sun was shining through my window and onto my face as I suddenly woke up to my alarm. Tempted to turn it off and go back to sleep, practice was in 45 minutes, and I had no motivation to get out of my bed. It was the middle of Spring quarter, and I was mentally and emotionally drained. At the time, showing up to practice was a win in itself, not just for me but for all of my teammates. We were all grieving in different ways after we had lost Katie Meyer. I was never one to talk about how I was feeling and always observed. My heart was heavy. I had no desire to play the sport I loved. But I knew that all of my teammates felt this type of way at some point in the quarter. Trying to navigate how we were feeling while constantly checking in with each other. It was hard to be at practice every day with girls that needed soccer as a getaway and those who had a hard time walking into the locker room. At practice, I missed Katie yelling behind me while she was in goal, and I was defending in front of her. I missed the energy that she radiated which often gave me more energy and the fierce competitor that inspired me to work harder. What I loved most was that she never failed to stay true to herself. Everyone saw Katie in a different light from her best friends that had been by her side since her freshman year to us freshman who saw her as a confident leader and captain. It was a hard time for everyone, but no one else could relate to what we were experiencing as a team, together.

We were finally able to get a team therapist, someone we all needed, allowing the space for us to start healing in the right way. Hope. Throughout spring quarter, I leaned on my teammates, having real and raw conversations to try to navigate our emotions and finding moments to laugh and smile together. Once we made it past our last spring game, we were able to take a much needed break. Soccer was the last thing on my mind, it was time for everyone to take care of themselves.

“You might have trouble going home and being around people that are not your teammates, people that have not experienced what you all have been through” our team therapist mentioned.

I went back to Roseville for a week, and she was right, my teammates were what I needed most. Going to the park and kicking the ball around was not appealing to me. Taking a broader perspective on life, instead of soccer, soccer, soccer allowed me to be grateful for the people around me and to love always.


“Kellie!!!!” The kids always yelled as they came up to hug and greet me.

These kids did not know that I was coming from a workout that started at 7am and then would spend the whole day with them until 5pm. Many did not know that I played soccer and they did not know the extent of what they meant to me, that I needed this experience to change my perspective on life. I loved every single day that I was greeted by these kids. Walking in, I had an immediate smile on my face, even before anyone said hi to me. I was only supposed to volunteer for one week, but I ended up helping for about four weeks. The camp was called FlexZone, where the kids learned about gratefulness, that they are important, and to stay true to themselves. From the dynamic warm up to start off the day to the kitchen, where we would bake and get creative. From the kitchen to STEM where the kids played all types of games. From STEM to the parking lot, where we would have water balloon fights. Then back inside to end the day with free play, which usually consisted of dodgeball, volleyball, and basketball. A camp that encapsulated everything I value and loved to be a part of.

Kids always asking me to play with them and asking for my help. Observing the tendencies and personalities of all the kids ranging from 4-12 years old. It was amazing. I was not getting paid, but it was worth every second of my time. This was a distraction I needed in my life to reset after an unpredictable freshman year. Watching the kids “just have fun” was a sight to see. Especially when they played dodgeball, laughing, getting competitive, and at times taking a small rubber ball to the face. Sitting there smiling but then thinking “OH NO”. Seconds later, accompanying the boy with tears filling his eyes, as I was there for comfort and reassurance that he was okay. Fast forward 10 minutes and he was back playing with no worries, in many ways the kids at FlexZone helped me more than I helped them. My time, that could have been additional hours of soccer practice, allowed me to learn more about what I needed to live a full life. The smiles, laughs, and even cries of the kids throughout the weeks of volunteering filled my heart with joy and love, more than I have experienced before.


I had the right mindset going into my sophomore season, I put so much work in over the summer, I knew I had to trust it and believe in myself. My confidence was back, not the inconsistent confidence I had freshman season, but back like it was in 2018. I knew I had to “just have fun” and always be ready. Anything can happen at any time, and by the end of season I was able to attest to that.

I thrived the summer going into season, and for once I loved the feeling of kicking the ball against the wall over and over again. I was finally used to the numbness on the top of my foot and was confident in my touch, no more hoping that the ball was going to hit off my foot the way I wanted it to, I knew that my touch was back. There was no more pain physically, on the top of my foot and no more pain emotionally, from the spring quarter. I was ready to take on whatever role my team needed me. I worked in silence with my airpods in, which led me to have the mentality that I deserved every minute that I got on the field. Once I was given the opportunity, I knew I had to take advantage of it and be grateful for the ability to play soccer in the first place. I was able to learn from each game and was growing confidence as the games progressed. I was locked in. Jay-Z, Drake, and Nipsey blasting in my airpods with my eyes closed which I practiced as form of meditation, from preseason to winning the PAC-12 championship. I also prayed more than ever before, and my faith grew stronger outside of soccer. Consistency is key. I was not playing soccer with my teammates every day; I was playing with my best friends that I consider family. I can say that I love every one of them, they are people where I can be myself and laugh with all day long. We worked for each other and played for something more than ourselves.


For the most part, soccer has been the driving force in my life, it has given me adversities to grow from and opportunities to push myself outside of my comfort zone. It has left me empty to question who I am and what my purpose is. Now, I am able to appreciate the good times way more and especially appreciate the people in my life that are always there and who I consider family. It has led me to volunteer and figure out that helping people is what fills my heart with the most joy. It has led me to know that staying true to yourself is the best way to go about life. It has led me to see the value of hard work, with my head down and my airpods in, I now know that I am able to achieve anything I set my mind to. I have found perspective to be grateful and love in soccer, school, and relationships. I have found my independence in life, with and without soccer. I have found that it is the little things that you choose to focus on to make your life more purposeful. Soccer cannot be the core of my identity, I have learned that walking by faith does not put soccer to the side, it instead lifts it up and it is the facilitation for me to learn and grow in all the good and the bad times. Faith is now the driving force in my life, with my ultimate goal of helping people, wherever and whatever that is in the future. Knowing to have the “just have fun” mentality will allow me to find joy in the journey and to trust that whatever is happening to me is happening for me.




Hi, I'm Camille Joy!

Welcome to my blog! I am a sophomore track athlete at Stanford with a passion for writing. This blog is a place for me to highlight the experiences of a student-athlete, whether they are mine or others'. EnJOY (:

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