CHATHAM, NJ - Chances are that Elizabeth Droner will be juggling a number of responsibilities as she goes through life.
Right now, she's done just fine by juggling one thing - a soccer ball.
The Chatham High senior has used juggling a soccer ball in her training to gain a college scholarship and earn a reputation as one of the most skilled players to compete for the CHS program.
"Juggling helps me work on my touch for soccer," Droner said. "I noticed the more I juggle, the better my touches are during the game. And I just find it really fun. That's why I started playing soccer because I love to juggle so much."
Droner was dedicated to developmental academy soccer until she committed to Purdue University last year. With her college choice out of the way, it freed her to play for the Cougars as a junior newcomer in 2019.
"Last season, it was like here's Elizabeth Droner, she's doing all this crazy stuff on the ball and people would stand and watch her," Chatham coach Gary Adair said. "But now people are starting to move because they know that she's going to give them the ball. Ashley's (Kiernan) making runs because she knows she's going to get the ball, she's not watching Elizabeth dribble. That's the big thing this season."
Droner has sparked a 10-goal offensive outburst by Chatham in its 3-0 start to 2020 with a goal and four assists. Kiernan leads the team with four goals, three of them set up by Droner passes.
Elizabeth Droner is the Chatham Wealth Management Athlete of the Week.
"You have to have a very controlled touch when you're juggling and that translates to the game," Droner said. "There are countless times you are juggling the ball when it correlates to what you're doing in the game."
Remarkably, Droner set the family juggling record of 17,000 consecutive touches on a soccer ball while keeping it from touching the ground over a two-hour span. She says she no longer keeps count when she's doing her favorite activity.
"My dad got this ball that had this built-in tracker and 17,000 is my record that I set when I was about 15," she said. "It's very therapeutic for me. You don't think of anything while you're juggling. It's just like you and the ball, that's why it's the best. It relieves stress."
Elizabeth Droner gives a short display of her juggling skills
Adair knew that Droner was an academy player when she joined the team, but his eyes were opened when he saw how physical she played while leading the team with seven goals last season.
"For someone so small, she's very comfortable under pressure," Adair said. "She's tiny, but she's not afraid of contact. She does a good job of getting in good spots. Either the player has to foul her or she's going to go around them.
"Sometimes you have players who are very skillful, and they shy away from the rough stuff. She doesn't care about that."
Droner said that hard tackles on the field only remind her of good times in her yard going against her older sister, Emma. It was Emma who told Elizabeth how fun playing high school soccer was for her.
"After I committed for college soccer, I really wanted to play high school my whole life because my sister said it was really fun," the attacking midfielder said. "I'm very lucky because this team is so strong and talented. We have so many great players. Everyone welcomed me since the first day and I just jumped in and felt like I've been playing soccer with them my whole life.
"Playing with my sister (Paige, a sophomore) is one of the best experiences. I know I've only played two years in high school but I feel like this is really one of the strongest groups we've had here."
During the times when the pandemic was at its height, Droner found solace in juggling a ball and practicing with her sisters. She also has a 14-year-old sibling, Abby.
"The first time I kicked a ball was at a soccer birthday party and it was my favorite thing. I couldn't stop playing," she said. "The ball on my feet running down the sidelines, there is no better feeling. I love everything about it."
Editor's note: The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Chatham Wealth Management in recognition of the commitment a Chatham athlete has made to their sport, their school and their community. For over twenty years, Chatham Wealth Management has been committed to putting our clients first by crafting customized investment solutions. Call us at 973-635-4275 or email us at email@example.com to discuss how we can help meet your financial goals. To learn more about our products and team, visit us at www.chathamwealth.com.