This Maryland high school player profiles series is presented by the U.S. Army.
By Alexandra Radovic, CountySportsZone.com
Shira Litman jumped out of an airplane and into adulthood.
Her mother said it was only fitting that her “adventurous” daughter, a senior soccer player at Winston Churchill High School in Montgomery County, chose to skydive for her 18th birthday.
“She’s always pushing to try something new and different,” Ellen Litman said.
This year, Shira Litman pushed herself into the starting lineup of the varsity soccer team. She played on the JV squad her freshman and sophomore years, but didn’t make the varsity team as a junior. However, her coach said being cut didn’t stop her from coming back stronger as a senior.
“In the playoffs, Shira played an integral role as a starter helping us beat three teams with a combined record of 33-5,” Bulldogs head coach Haroot Hakopian said.
Hakopian said Litman saved her best performance for the regional championship game against Walt Whitman High School.
“In that game, we fell behind 1-0, and Shira tied the game late in the first half on a header off a corner kick,” he said. “In the second half, Shira had the assist on the [game-tying] goal … with 25 seconds left to send the game into overtime.”
Four minutes into overtime, Litman scored the winning goal from about 30 yards.
“Shira is the epitome of perseverance and fortitude,” Hakopian said. “The girl who had been cut from the team as a junior returned with a vengeance.”
But before her return, Litman said she took her time off from the high school team as an opportunity to train not only as a Potomac club soccer player but as an EMT with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. She said the skills she used on the field helped her learn how to respond to emergencies.
Teamwork and communication are hugely important in both soccer and EMT training, according to Litman.
“On the field you need to be able to communicate with your teammates. … As an EMT, you’re a firefighter and you need to communicate with your team as well because you have lives in your hands,” Litman said.
“Your teammates are there to help you and support you and you need to be able to rely on and trust them.”
Litman said she tries to lead her crew as a charge EMT the same way she led her team through the championships. As she scored the game-winning goal, she said she remembered being in shock as her teammates came running to hug her.
Litman fought her first fire when she was 17. Litman said she remembers having the same adrenaline she had on the field when she grabbed the hose from the truck and pushed through the burning building with her crew.
“Firefighting, as many know, can be intimidating,” said Chris Hallock, who fights fires alongside Litman. “Shira has never let this discourage her, and she consistently faces challenges with a drive and desire to better herself and her community.”
Although she was only in free fall for 60 seconds during her birthday dive, Litman will jump into the next chapter of her life this fall when she enrolls at the Air Force Academy.
“My parachute opened and it was exhilarating,” Litman said about her skydiving experience earlier this year. “I saw everything while I was up there, it was so cool.”
Jim Bruno, her club coach, said she carried this energy with her on the field.
“Shira has grit and is a determined young lady who overcame a tough situation and she gained the admiration of her travel teammates. … [She’s] a very dynamic and hard-working player,” he said.
Her teammates agreed.
“Shira is one of the most hardworking players I’ve seen,” said Gracie Yoon, who played on the varsity team with Litman. “She consistently gave 100 percent every game and was a major impact player. … She sets an example of what persistence looks like, because she never gives up.”
Giving up is something Jesse Smith, Churchill’s athletic director, said he has never seen Litman do.
“She is an extremely hard worker who doesn’t have quit in her vocabulary,” he said. “She will be an excellent addition to the Air Force.”
Her friend, Shivani Gandhi, agreed that the Air Force will be lucky to have Litman.
“She is constantly getting new jobs, going to the gym, and taking many AP classes at school,” Gandhi said. “She never gave up and her dream came true. … She works so hard and fully deserves the admission to AFA.”