Favorite athlete: Nick Foles - He showed what it meant to persevere through doubt and become a champion
Favorite team: FC Barcelona (soccer, La Liga)
Favorite memory competing in sports: Celebrating every win with my teammates in the locker room and on the bus rides home
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Watching a referee put in eye drops during the middle of a game, but that unfortunately did not mean that his calls got any better.
Music on mobile device: Rap and Hip Hop
Future plans: Pennsylvania State University, major in Finance and minor in Economics at the Smeal College of Business. I was also accepted to the Sapphire Academic Leadership Program.
Words to live by: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”
One goal before turning 30: Find a job in my field in a major city
One thing people don’t know about me: I am half Lebanese and know some Arabic
By Ed Morrone
Some student-athletes lead with their words, while others let action do the talking.
Luke Atiyeh does both.
The Souderton senior, a two-sport athlete on both the soccer and lacrosse fields, has always been the type of leader unafraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty.
“I’m a very vocal person,” Atiyeh said. “I have a very loud voice and I talk a lot. Being a leader through communication is one of my strongest assets, so it’s not a difficulty for me to play that role on the soccer and lacrosse fields.
“I don’t mean to sound overzealous, but I’ve always thought people are meant to be in leadership positions if they have certain qualities. I’m vocal, communicative and lead the best way I can. It’s become a big part of the player and person that I am.”
Atiyeh has had strong influencers in his life from the get-go. The youngest of three children, Atiyeh got his ambition to lead others first from his parents, who stressed accountability and a relentless work ethic in all of their children. Atiyeh then had to follow in the footsteps of two overachieving siblings, leaving him with the feeling that he always had something to prove.
Even if he didn’t, given that his work ethic spoke for itself, Atiyeh always seemed to be listening to the voice of a motivator from within.
“I give all of the credit to my parents, because without them in my life pushing me to strive for excellence, I wouldn’t be the student or person I am today,” he said. “And a sibling rivalry, that is true, I always looked up to my brother and sister, who also did well academically and now have very successful careers in their fields in Philadelphia and New York. Because of that, doing well was always a big goal of mine for myself.”
Atiyeh began playing his top sport of soccer when he was just 3 or 4 years old, and shortly thereafter picked up a lacrosse stick once he got to kindergarten. He played both until seventh grade before dropping lacrosse in favor of club soccer, with the hope he would improve his chances to play soccer collegiately if he played year-round.
Once this path became no longer palatable, Atiyeh made the executive decision to make academics the priority over athletics in college, so in January of his junior year, he quit his club team (he remained with the Souderton varsity soccer program in the fall) and decided to go back to lacrosse after three full years away from the game.
It was around junior year that Atiyeh began earning a reputation on both fields of play: his head coaches, Matt Benner (soccer) and Mark Princehorn (lacrosse), deployed Atiyeh with the specific intentions of shutting down the opposing team’s top scorer. In addition to having an imposing voice, Atiyeh’s physical presence is a major issue for opponents to deal with.
Benner maintained that Atiyeh’s biggest assets were his strength and overall toughness on Souderton’s back line (on the outside as a sophomore and junior and in the middle as a senior captain), while Princehorn echoed similar sentiments of physicality, tenaciousness and fierce athleticism that allows Atiyeh, as a long stick midfielder, to chase the opponent’s best offensive midfielder for the entire game.
“I’m kind of the bruiser out there,” Atiyeh said. “I’m a big, physical guy who has never really been a finesse player. I think my biggest strength is defending players one-on-one and trying to eliminate certain players from the game plan.”
Benner also used words like “warrior” and “general” to describe Atiyeh’s imposing presence on the soccer pitch.
“The kid loves physical contact,” Benner said. “There’s a toughness about him that lets the other boys know he has their backs. He’s so hard to break down back there. He also has a real ability to win balls in the air, and by default Luke always takes the biggest man on the other team. He always wanted to learn something new, and as a result got better each passing year. By his senior year, I had coaches coming up to me saying, ‘Man, that kid is so tough.’
“Luke always strives to be the best in athletics and academics. I had him in my sixth grade Social Studies class, so I’ve known firsthand about his work ethic and selflessness. One of the coaches on our staff was not able to work due to health complications, and Luke organized the boys to go over to his house to do yard work and maintenance on his pool. Even after the school year, I’d go over there and Luke would be there or on his way out. He loves to serve others, and that leadership shows through his actions.”
Although Atiyeh’s soccer career at Souderton is finished, he’s still in the midst of his final lacrosse season for the Indians. Atiyeh is leading the Indians in both ground balls and caused turnovers on a team that has won 9 out of its first 12 games and three of its four contests in SOL American play.
However, returning to Atiyeh’s secondary sport was anything but getting back on a bike. As a junior, Atiyeh endured struggles and frustrations as he tried to re-acclimate himself to a sport he hadn’t played since the end of seventh grade. Stick skills like throwing and catching were picked back up easily, but it was the strategic components of the game that stalled Atiyeh in his tracks.
“I didn’t quit club soccer until January of junior year, so I only had about a month-and-a-half to prepare for preseason workouts,” he said. “The strategy of the game matured and I didn’t mature when I stopped playing. I was at a huge disadvantage, and I didn’t see a lot of playing time my junior year. But even though I wasn’t a big contributor on the field in games, I tried to be the guy who helped the defensive starters cement their roles. Coach Princehorn, he could sense my frustration at times and he would always pick me up and make sure I didn’t get too far inside my own head. He was really there for me.
“In my opinion, I had a solid junior year in that I learned a lot about the sport and regained an appreciation for it. This season has been a complete 180 from last year. I already achieved my goal of being a starter and contributing to the team, and I’m happy that I met that; now, in addition to wanting to continue doing that, my goal for the team is to make the playoffs and win a game. It’d be huge for the program, because we’ve never won a playoff game before.”
Princehorn, despite only having Atiyeh under his tutelage for two seasons, absolutely gushed about the kid as both a player and a person.
“He had moments last year that were frustrating for him,” Princehorn said. “He didn’t get the time he wanted because as far as X’s and O’s were concerned, he didn’t have it mentally. He was behind the eight ball and it was a challenging period of time for him. But the first thing you notice about him is the work ethic. He didn’t play for three years, so it was essentially like he was cramming for a test. For him, it was constant education and practice in the mental aspect of the sport. It’s all paid off, and he’s confidently learned through failure.
“I love that kid because no matter what the score or situation is, whether it’s a practice, scrimmage or a game, he will go out and give all of his heart, body, mind and soul to try to win for you. He’s a kid who will run through (a brick wall) for you; you can’t just replace that. I only coached him for two years, but he’s put in more work in those two than most do in four. I don’t even care that I didn’t coach him all four because I’m just so grateful and lucky, as we are as a program, that he came back to us.”
In the fall, Atiyeh will take his exceptional intelligence and leadership abilities to Penn State University, where he will major in Finance and minor in Economics in the school’s world-renowned Smeal College of Business. Additionally, he was accepted into the Sapphire Academic Leadership Program, which is a collection of 50 students who will become leaders at both the college and in the community by planning service-type projects.
Penn State will be gaining an exceptional student and person: Atiyeh is in the top 10 in his class at Souderton, has taken close to 10 advanced placement courses and is a National Honor Society member. He plans to challenge himself just as much in the classroom at Penn State.
Atiyeh’s interest in the Sapphire program germinated long before his acceptance to the school, even if he didn’t quite know it yet. Service has become a part of his DNA: he is a member of Students Against Violating the Earth, an environmental club that promotes a cause he is especially passionate about. Atiyeh also is a member of Link Crew, a mentor program at Souderton in which older students take freshmen under their wings and help ingratiate them into school culture. On top of all that, Atiyeh helps plan community service outings, as well as blood, coin, food and gift drives for the needy and less fortunate.
“For me, it’s just interesting to learn more about the world outside academics and sports,” he said. “I love building a connection with underclassmen, just letting them know there are people here who they can ask for help or guidance. I have a big brother, so I wanted to be that for someone else. I just like giving back. It’s worth it and makes me feel good to do something for someone else.”
When he’s not playing a sport, studying, working (Atiyeh is a referee during the summer) or planning various school events, Atiyeh said he loves the outdoors, especially fishing and hiking with his friends. His high school experience was the sum of its parts, as Atiyeh found himself as a leader, athlete and student. He knows Penn State will be an incredible experience, but at the same time, good luck to Happy Valley in being able to replicate and top his last four years.
“I truly believe what I am is a reflection of what I’ve done,” Atiyeh said. “The aspects I’ll miss the most about high school is the stuff I was heavily involved in - so pretty much everything. I guess it’s a general answer, but there’s not one specific thing I’ll miss about Souderton above anything else.
“I know five to ten years from now, I’ll have good memories from high school; but at the same time, I’m extremely excited to go to Penn State to make new memories and friends and get involved in new things there. I like consistency, but not complacency, so I want to continue to strive to be excellent. That way, I can facilitate even greater memories and better accomplishments.”