Forever eleven. These two words continue to unify the countless hearts breaking across Rhode Island.
Seventeen years ago on April 11, 2000, hearts jumping for newborn Madeline Grace Egleston Potts were full with expectation and imagination. A new light was brought to Earth, except no one could have predicted just how bright little Maddie would shine, and how little time it would take her to leave an enduring mark on the world.
The story of Richmond native Maddie Potts does not end at seventeen. It does not conclude with her collapsing on a soccer field that she loved dearly as a devoted team player. It does not end with her dying from an unexpected brain abnormality while perfectly placing the last free kick of her life. Maddie’s life story is still happening in her absence.
That’s a wrenching question no parent, sibling, coach or friend should ever have to ponder about someone like Chariho girls’ soccer senior co-captain Maddie Potts.
That’s why this young woman’s story continues. It must. The world still needs a modest, happy, thoughtful, artsy and unassuming leader like Potts.
Eleven positions on a soccer field. One jersey number eleven missing, but not gone. #Forever11. Not forgotten. Not ever.
“All of us that got to coach Potts, play with Potts, and watch her play are the lucky ones.” Chariho girls’ soccer head coach, Brittney Godbout, said. “We’ve been given a blessing to have been inspired by her, to learn from her, to watch her, to go into battle with her, to experience her passion and her 100% dedication and commitment to everything she did.”
Anyone that knew her, knows. Anyone that didn’t meet her, wishes they did, now. After all, Maddie Potts is something special.
Not was. Potts is and always will be the unique soul others find interesting, inspiring and comforting. She continues to be a voice of reason, a captain of sportsmanship and a leader of her teammates.
She will always be a daughter, a sister and a friend.
The story of Maddie Potts does not end with this.
Her co-captain calls her a legend. Chariho athletic director Michael Shiels calls her a superhero. Godbout calls her a blessing.
Nicknamed Gobo by the girls, Godbout had the privilege of coaching Potts for six seasons: four in soccer and two in lacrosse. She said she will not replace Maddie as a captain, and she will do her best to keep her legacy alive.
“Potts could never be replaced,” Gobo said. “She might as well have been born with that captain band on her leg. She is our forever captain.”
When it came to soccer and lacrosse, and practically everything, for Potts, it was never about her own story. It was never about her own glory. She worked hard for her team. She strove to be her best self for the betterment of those around her.
“Never stop playing. Never stop laughing. Never stop smiling,” Chariho co-captain Rachel Erkan said at the candlelight vigil that drew over a thousand hurting over the loss of Potts. “Never stop chewing ice or being artistic. Never stop being strong. Never stop being you. And never stop trying to become a legend up there. Because here – here you already are and forever will be. Forever eleven.”
The Chariho Chargers aren’t the only team positively charged by the grace of Potts, and it’s not just the soccer community grieving the loss of a student-athlete. Athletic teams across Rhode Island have been showing their support via social media using #Forever11 as their symbol of hope.
“You came into the Chariho girls’ soccer program as a feisty, stubborn, quiet, impossible to read little freshman,” Gobo wrote to Potts for her senior night speech. “And you leave as a champion. Not just on the soccer field, but in life. You don’t just make the people around you better. You make us the best at who we are trying to become.”
“You Make us the Best at Who We are trying to become.”
Potts never backed down from a challenge, her coach said. She gave it 100% from the start of the game to the very end. And that’s how she lived her life.
“Be strong for number eleven,” Erkan said. “Be strong for my co-captain, friend, sister, teammate and fellow classmate. That’s what she would tell all of us if she were here right now.”
Be strong. Be kind. Be like Maddie Potts and be an example of how her story continues.
Many charities are being planned in honor of Maddie Potts. Currently, donations can be made to Chariho Sports Boosters, Attn: Mr. Michael Shiels, Athletic Director, Chariho High School, 455 A Switch Road, Wood River Junction, RI 02894.
YurView (Cox Channels 4 and 1004) will present the final Chariho Girl’s Soccer match of the season as a tribute to Maddie Potts live on Tuesday, October 24th at 5:30pm. The game will also be streamed live on YurView.com.