Women’s soccer shows how two classes can have “first year” together

Hawks+faced+off+against+Assumption+College+on+October+2+in+a+hard+fought+1-0+loss.

Courtesy/Luke Sugar

Hawks faced off against Assumption College on October 2 in a hard fought 1-0 loss.

Claire Winkeler , Crier Staff

Sports teams over the past few years have seen  drastic changes in regulations on when they can practice and what measures they have to take in order for all of the players to be as safe as possible. Most teams on campus had a mask mandate in order to play, but even with the masks, many teams have not had a year to practice together as a whole team. One of those teams on campus is the women’s soccer team. 

Soccer, while being a popular and competitive sport, needs each player to work together as a whole in order to succeed. Covid severely impacted the bonding and connection between players, resulting in a mix of two years of students this year that haven’t played together.

 Joel Bancroft, the head coach of the women’s varsity soccer team, mentioned during an interview that “coming off the cancellation of last year’s season, we have the unique situation of two classes experiencing their first season together.” 

Many teams have had this challenge as well. Most sophomores in college have the unique experience of this year being their first “real” year with minimal interference and regulations. 

However, one of the unique things about soccer is how freely players can move around the field and how teams function as one unit. What happens in any given moment is all up to the players’ teamwork; it’s up to their instincts, their knowledge of the game and their trust in their teammates. This shows how important it is that players have time to practice with each other, and learn how to work together in the same system. 

Coaching is also fundamental to soccer. Players need the guidance to know their limits on the field, and how to improve their skills. Bancroft mentioned that he finds more “joy and meaning in coaching than [he] did as a player.” It is so important to have coaches that love what they do. They bring energy and encouragement to the players and everyone on the team. 

Bancroft also said that for him, the most interesting parts about coaching are the ideas revolving around “high performance cultures and individual mentality. How a person processes stress, both physical and mental, and its effects on performance.” 

Bancroft mentioned that because of these concerns, they have built a platform that provides him “data points to review for each individual player within the program” to help prevent players’ injuries during increased physical and mental stress-inducing periods. Mental health severely impacts student athletes when they perform. If a player isn’t in a good mindset, they might be more likely to lash out, perform poorly, or negatively impact the team. This is why it is so important that students are able to take care of themselves before performing in sports or activities of any kind. 

“What I would want everyone to know about my team is how incredibly resilient the group as a whole is this year,” Bancroft said. “They are incredibly special people with enormous capacities in all areas.”

The Hawks are a solid 5-3-1 on the season and 3-3-1 in a tough NE-10 conference. The Hawks have netted 14 goals on the season and have only conceded 9 goals. The team’s next game is away on Saturday October 9, and they will face American International College. Come support the Hawks at their next home game on Saturday October 16 against Pace University.