Saundra Baron and soccer go hand in hand.
“Rochester Junior Rhinos had an academy team, so my mom never drives, my dad always drove, so I knew something was off," said Baron. "My mom was driving. She had my soccer bag with my gloves, because she believed in me enough to go try out for the Rochester Junior Academy team. And I’ve been a goalkeeper ever since.”
Baron explained that she owes a lot of her success to her mother.
“It was a testament to also her believing in me and my ability to play college soccer, and even go beyond," she said. "Unfortunately, before she passed away, she never got to see me play for the Trinidad Tobago women’s national team. I’m a dual citizen because of her."
Unfortunately, Baron’s mother wasn’t able to see just how far her daughter would go on the soccer field.
“They discovered that she had lung cancer. No, my mother was never a smoker," she said. "Still, we don’t know anything that could have gone on in that regard. But she fought a good fight. I mean, they were giving her about six months to live and she hung on for five more years."
The American Cancer Society reports nearly 20% of people who die from lung cancer have never smoked a day in their lives. Baron’s mother was one of them. After Baron’s mother’s time at Kodak, she continued her chemical research career at Tobacco & Laurel.
“There was just different product testing and stuff like that she did all the time, obviously with cigarettes working with [Tobacco & Laurel.] But it’s weird for a nonsmoker to bring home a cigarette, but that’s the nature of her work. She would open them up and dissect them. I'm just like, 'it’s just tobacco,'" she explained.
It’s her mother’s dedication to the job that Baron carries with her through life. On top of being a professional athlete, she obtained her master's degree because she said her mother had a strong emphasis on her and her siblings' education. Now, she’s coaching high schoolers to become the best they can be.
“I always said that I need to have a relationship with the kids I coach. They have to respect me, but they also have to love me as an individual. And no matter how hard I am on them, they know at the end of it I love them just as much,” Baron said.
It’s the love for the sport that helps keep her mother’s legacy alive.
“She carried herself with such grace. She was the ultimate soccer mom. She was the loudest one on the sideline cheering for everybody. No matter the score, the result was just grace in every role. No one had a bad thing to say about my mom. So I think that’s always what I would like people to think about me,” Baron said. “Eighteen years with the best woman alive. There’s really nothing more I can ask for than that.”