You’d never notice it. Camryn Adams keeps it hidden.
What you will see is a smile of one who has found peace, the kind of warm invitation of one well acquainted with happiness. She is engaging in conversation, her dry wit, high-pitch giggle and honesty makes her a fun conversation.
She stands just over 5-feet tall, when on her toes, but her personality is hardly diminutive. Instead, she exudes confidence. She cracks jokes, even laughs at herself, as one who is comfortable in her own skin.
Conversing with Adams, you’d never know what’s buried inside her. You’d never guess the common element that steered her to the brink, then to soccer, and on to Las Positas, where she is a central figure for the conference champion women’s soccer team.
For years now, it’s been stacking up, hurt after hurt, struggle after struggle. But the genesis of the pain came in middle school. It’s what started the spiral that led to her current serenity. It’s still there, ready for her to reach in and grab hold of, ready to again shake up her life.
“I was in seventh grade when my mom died,” she said. “It’s sad to talk about though I really do miss her.”
The sadness followed Adams from adolescence to young adulthood. The bitterness, the anger, the loneliness.
But there was one place, however, it could never catch her: the soccer field.
Now, a starting midfielder for the Hawks women’s soccer team, Adams doesn’t hear the footsteps anymore. The pain has been drowned out by peace. The sense of accomplishment from knowing how far she’s come has altered her perspective. The camaraderie with her team has helped fill the void that was expanding for years.
In that way, Adams is a shining example of Las Positas College. The has been a place of redemption for so many, a fresh start for those who needed it. The same has been true for this girl from Oakland. She came with a heart-wrenching story and another chance to get things together. And she is doing exactly what she once never thought was possible.
“Cam gives so much to the team with the way she plays on the field and off,” Hawks midfielder Raena Juarez said. “The energy she brings motivates everyone.”
Being from Oakland requires a unique level of grit and fight to survive. Adams is from East Oakland, 74th Avenue, so she got hands on lessons from a young age.
Frick Impact Academy, a middle school in the heart of East Oakland. Fighting was a normal part of life there. But she didn’t have a choice. Poverty has a way of putting invisible hedges around its victims. Finances were always an issue, so changing to a school that added to the families costs, even with mere public transportation, wasn’t viable. So she had to just survive it all — gangs, violence, drugs. So she learned how to fight.
There was a gang called Stubby and a lot of the girls were people I grew up with,” Adams said. “I knew it was dangerous and my mom knew it was dangerous. But with our money situation she couldn’t do anything about it.”
What was bad for her and her siblings got worse when her mom died. Type 2 diabetes took out the family matriarch.
Adams and her siblings were taken in by her grandmother. But that meant a move to Hayward. The fight for survival was just beginning. The grit she developed would be necessary.
Being the new kid is tough. Being the new girl from big bad Oakland? She was in new territory, with new gangs. Yes, her demons followed her to Hayward.
“I’m coming from Oakland and I don’t know a single soul,” Adams said. “And I wasn’t repping or anything but people knew and were asking me ‘where are you from?’ I’d say 74th and they knew that’s where Stubby people live.”
Protection became the priority. She tried fitting into crowds that were safe at school, learning which cliques had no gang affiliation so she’d have some peace. She jumped from group to group, trying to find friends, trying to quench her desire to belong.
But the last group almost cost her everything. She got into some behavior she described as “dumb.” She declined to divulge the details, but she got caught doing something and paid a dear price for it.
“I got into a lot of trouble senior year,” she said. “Something that I thought was irreversible.”
So did her family. What was so troubling was that Adams had picked up soccer along the way and was good at it.
Adams’ mother from a young age took her to soccer clubs in Hayward, but getting there everyday from Oakland was a challenge. But during middle school everyday she began playing again.
“Literally everyday we played in my after school program,” Adams said “I was the only girl in there. It was the highlight of my day.”
LPC gave her a chance to keep her love alive. It’s her safe haven. The pitch is where she feels most comfortable, where nothing can bother her.
She has taken full advantage of the new opportunity. Last season, her freshman year, she didn’t see the field all that much. But the coach who recruited her, former Las Positas women’s soccer coach Paul Sapsford has seen growth in her game.
“I’ve seen a definite maturity in her,” Sapsford said. “Her decisions on the ball and her leadership.”
Her current coach, Andrew Cumbo, has taken note of her growth as well.
“She’s more aware of the times and places where she can be the most effective during the game and on the field,” Cumbo said. “That awareness has developed as the season has progressed.”
Adams has emerged as a premier player in the Coast Conference North Division, pacing the Hawks with 10 goals. With four assists, she has 24 points, second most in the conference. She’s a blur on the field, blazing past defenders like a torpedo.
And with the Hawks vaunted defense, which is ninth in the state with a 0.75 goals allowed average, the scoring punch from Adams gives them promising balance. “Winning conference with my girls was amazing,” Adams said. “But if we won state… it would mean everything to me.”
It makes sense why the pain doesn’t bother Adams anymore. The juxtaposition of where she has been and where she is, who she was and who she has become, is striking enough to produce thankfulness. For all her mistakes, after everything she has been through, she finds herself here. Competing. Thriving. Living
She will have plenty choices of four-year schools to transfer to this didn’t seem possible when the pain wasn’t in control. That’s why she is motivated to keep it hidden. The fight is still there, that Oakland grit. She just channels it properly now.
“I really strive to make my family proud,” Adams said. “All that stuff I did in high school, I really want to show them that was just a stupid stage of my life. I was just young and dumb. But here I am now.”