Grass to Sand: The Story of Megan Wharton
Take a trip to any soccer field around Central Ohio and you’d be lucky if you didn’t see Megan Wharton playing or coaching in a game. The beautiful game runs deep within the veins of the Pickerington, Ohio native and former Ohio Dominican Panther.
Her career began around the age of four and she distinctly remembers falling in love with soccer when she scored her first goal. “My family celebrated with brownies,” Wharton said.
Five years later, the aspiring player began honing her craft with Blast F.C. in Westerville, Ohio. She remained with the club for 10 years, competing in national tournaments, state cups, and college showcases.
The now 28-year-old recalls never staying in the same location long, her family was always on the go. “I am pretty sure my parents’ cars were a mobile locker room with how much we traveled on weekends,” said Wharton of the experience.
When she wasn’t playing club soccer she represented Pickerington Central High School. During her time with the Tigers, Wharton earned a varsity letter in all four years of competition. Her efforts didn’t go unnoticed as she earned First Team All-OCC honors and an All-District award as a senior.
Wharton went on to remain in Central Ohio where she played her collegiate soccer at Ohio Dominican University. She demonstrated her versatility with the Panthers, playing games in the midfield and defense. Wharton remembers forging lifeline friendships on-and-off the pitch.
“I think some of my favorite memories were bus rides and pregame locker room traditions with teammates,” she recalled. “There is just something about getting ready for a game with your best friends that makes the season even more special.”
That camaraderie led to Wharton and the Panthers putting up stellar defensive numbers during the 2011 season. As a team, Ohio Dominican’s defensive third ranked second in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) in goals allowed (15), goals against average (0.75), and shutouts (10). That stingy defense earned Wharton All-GLIAC Second Team honors and a spot on the NCAA Division II All-Midwest Region Third Team.
Given tremendous success few would remain as grounded as the collegiate defender. Wharton remembers her time at Ohio Dominican fondly and remembers a key lesson she learned along the way.
“As a player, I learned that you should always believe in yourself (and) at the end of the day, if you can honestly say that you left it all on the field, then you did your job and tomorrow is a new day.”
A new day emerged for Wharton as she had to navigate her life without competitive soccer. She joined co-ed leagues where she played anywhere from three to four times per week to stay fit.
Her teams consisted of friends from old teams and people she had met through coaching. This allowed her to meet new friends and build solid relationships. One of those friends changed her life for the better.
Nikki Florey invited the recent college graduate to play in a beach soccer tournament. It was the first time she would play on a field that wasn’t grass.
“(Nikki) was the first to drag me out on the sand,” Wharton said. “When you have played a sport for so long and then all of the sudden you add sand and can’t seem to run or make a simple pass…challenge accepted!”
Following her first tournament, Wharton describes herself as “oddly hooked” to the new variation of the sport she loved. Continuing to seek new challenges, the newly converted beach soccer player joined up with Shoreline BSC based in San Diego, California. It was a necessary step in order to get better and play at the highest level possible.
On July 26, the footballer found out that she would be representing U.S. Soccer in El Salvador as part of the first-ever women’s CONCACAF tournament from August 3-6. Four teams will participate in the inaugural tournament with Mexico, Bahamas, United States, and El Salvador all competing for the right to compete in the ANOC World Beach Games in Qatar later this year.
“Having this opportunity to play with a group of extremely talented women is such an honor and I can’t wait to build relationships within the team through a sport that I am so passionate about,” Wharton said.
The winner of the group in El Salvador earns the right to compete in the World Beach Games in Qatar. It’s the first time the United States has fielded a women’s beach soccer team, presenting a massive opportunity for those involved.
“Obviously as a team we want to win-out and earn a spot in the World Beach Games in Qatar in October,” she said. “When you look at the bigger picture we truly want to make a name for the U.S.A. on the women’s side and continue to build the game. Personally, I want to not only compete at the highest level possible, but I want to thrive and make an impact for this team on the field.”