Oct. 5, 2012
By Nick Kostenko, Digital Communications Intern
Each year, the ASU women's soccer team hosts a Pink Out match in order to raise awareness for breast cancer. For the past couple seasons, the event has held special meaning for one veteran Sun Devil player.
The 2009 season could not have been going better for current senior Courtney Tinnin. She was playing well after an injury-plagued freshman season and scored her first goal in a late September game against Northern Arizona. In the midst of all her accomplishments, however, her mother, Jamie Tinnin, passed away after a seven-year battle with breast cancer.
"It all honestly just seemed so unreal, like how is this happening right now?" Courtney said. "I'm finally actually healthy and playing and then this has to happen."
Courtney's family, and in particular Jamie, has always been a big influence in her life. She credits both her parents for letting her try anything she wanted and providing an early interest in sports.
"I've been playing since I was five, so it's kind of the typical 'oh, I've been playing since I was a kid'," Courtney said. "I just really liked it. I played basketball as well but soccer was always number one."
Jamie was diagnosed with breast cancer during Courtney's time at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque, N.M. where she was excelling in both soccer and basketball. With both sports taking up the majority of her time, she was forced to make a decision on her future in sports.
"I had to make a choice in my junior year," Courtney said. "My basketball coach said that I couldn't miss any games. I just figured that this is high school; it's supposed to be fun. He said I had to pick and I picked soccer, and that was it."
In her time at St. Pius X, Courtney was the leading scorer of her team three different seasons and led the entire state in 2007 after scoring 37 goals with 18 assists. During her senior year Courtney was faced with the decision of staying in New Mexico or leaving her comfort zone.
"It was tough [with my mom being sick] but I was really excited to try something new," Courtney said. "I just wanted to experience something new and I really liked the team and style of play here."
Besides dealing with a sick family member, Courtney faced a number of problems on the field during her time at ASU. She missed most of the 2008 season after injuring her ACL in the second game of the season and then missed the entire 2010 season after sustaining the same injury. Though she was upset at suffering the injury so early in her collegiate career, she was determined to come back and tackle the surgeries with a positive attitude.
"The first [injury] was actually a lot easier," Courtney said. "I didn't know what to expect so I didn't know I would have to do 10 months of rehab before I could play. I didn't know the process or any friends who had gone through it, so I just said 'let's do it.'"
Her teammates and coaches recognized her strong attitude almost immediately. ASU soccer's head coach Kevin Boyd has seen her fight through all her injuries and persevere.
"I love that she has a strong will and is able to express her thoughts yet still always follow the rules and decisions made by the team and coaches," Boyd said. "She is a great teammate as well as player to coach. She is extremely competitive, talented, and committed to helping the team in any way possible. Her change as a player even with the injuries has been remarkable and is a credit to her character."
Courtney made a strong return in 2009, but Jamie was not as fortunate. Though her cancer went into remission at one point, doctors caught the disease too late. Courtney used her mother's battle as inspiration after tearing her ACL again in 2010.
"Never give up," Courtney said. "It just makes sense with my mom never giving up until the last day. There wasn't even a thought in her mind. Going through those injuries, I just couldn't believe I was doing [the rehab] again. I always wonder how people can do that after going through so many surgeries. But after everything, I understand. Just never give up in situations that are hard like that."
Those around her have long admired the way she has handled all the adversity thrown at her. Boyd has noticed that even though Courtney has gone through more than many people her age, she still remains a standout member of the team.
"Courtney is a very strong individual with great character," Boyd said. "She has had to deal with significant issues while in college, yet has remained positive, close to the team, and developed into a leader the last two years. Her style of leading is both speaking her mind in game settings and taking players aside and sharing personal experiences. It makes her extremely approachable as a fifth year senior."
Now, Courtney is focused on remembering her mother and honoring her in any way she can. St. Pius X's annual golf tournament, which took place on Sept. 28, was renamed in Jamie's honor. It was just one of many signs of support from the community in Albuquerque.
"It was really cool that something like that could be in my mom's name," Courtney said. "She just had that effect on people. It was unreal how many people were at her funeral. People just knew her for being such a giving person, so it was cool to see all the people who supported her.
This year's Pink Out game takes place on Oct. 12 when the Sun Devils take on California. Fans are encouraged to wear pink and for the first time, the team's entire jerseys will be pink. When Courtney enters the stadium for the Pink Out game, she will take her mom's attitude towards life with her.
"I'll remember how she handled the situation," Courtney said. "She battled it for over seven years and still had a positive attitude. I don't understand how that happens but seeing someone go through that and seeing how they can still be positive and make something positive out of that is amazing. I think that's what I'm taking from everything."