Not all of the athletes on the NMU women’s club soccer team came to college expecting to play a sport, but all of them have learned valuable lessons about teamwork and trust.
The NMU women’s club soccer team was formed in the fall of 2006, and has competed in the Great Lakes Conference since 2007.
The team competes against mainstay school rivals like Michigan Tech, but the schedule also has taken them to places like Chicago, Ill. and Coon Rapids, Minn.
This amount of traveling, coupled with the self-reliance inherent in club sports has facilitated an intense camaraderie amongst the athletes and formed bonds between the women that transcend on-field activities.
“We’re really a support group for each other,” said team president Abby Weber. “Yeah, we have our ups and downs where we don’t always get along, but we really respect each other.”
NMU’s 15-passenger vans are the team’s preferred method of transportation, and provide a much more intimate trip than a school or coach bus. Weber said the rides to and stays at the team’s destinations give the players many chances to socialize and grow closer.
“It really does a lot for bonding,” Weber said. “And I feel like when your team bonds off the field, it helps you so much more on the field.”
Freshman Caitlyn Glendenning explained how bonding helps during games.
“It helps with being able to approach each other,” she said.
Glendenning also stated that there are no rifts on the team between classes.
“It really isn’t like ‘we’re the seniors, you’re the freshmen’,” Glendenning stated. “Yeah, they’re a couple of years older, but it really doesn’t matter. We’re all good friends.”
When the athletes arrive at their destination, they stay at athletes’ houses, if possible. This allows the team members to both cut down on travel costs and get a chance to meet each other’s families. It also demonstrates the depth of support the teammates provide for one another.
“I think that adds to the camaraderie. The parents and the families really rally around us,” Weber said, stating that any contribution the families make is always appreciated by the team.
Another reason the team is so close is the absence of pressures found on many varsity teams.
“We’re very competitive,” Weber said. “But we try to keep our competitiveness on the field. In a varsity sport, you’re always competing [for spots]. I think in a club sport, you compete with each other but it’s not quite as extreme.”
Another thing which brings the women on the team together is the shared desire to raise money to keep the team running. Aside from the $1800 the team gets annually from the University, the women are responsible for providing and allocating financial resources. To do this, the team organizes fundraisers.
These have ranged from refundable can drives to grocery bagging, but no matter what the activity, the team is responsible for arranging everything. According to Weber, the participation in the fundraisers throughout the year shows the evolution of the team’s unity and the degree to which they depend on one another.
Initially, the underclassmen and new players were hesitant to partake, but as time wore on they became more willing to fundraise.
“I think now that the year has progressed they’ve started to step it up a little bit more and realize that if they don’t fundraise, we don’t have money,” Weber said. “[When people] realize how much you have to put in to this team to make it work, people are very willing to help.”
Weber also noted that this self-sufficiency carries into every facet of the club soccer season, from hiring officials to organizing the year’s schedule.
“We have to work together on the field as well as off the field to get things done,” said Weber. “If we don’t get it done together as a team, we don’t have a coach or an athletic director making sure it gets done.”
Weber finished by stating that being a member of the club soccer team has allowed her to do much more than simply play soccer.
“I really think in club sports you start to learn the true meaning of being a part of a team and being a contributing member besides just the athletic part,” she said. “There’s so much more that goes into it and just what happens on the field and when you’re training.”
For women wanting to play for the team, tryouts are held each year early in the winter semester.
The next competition for the team is coming the weekend after Easter, when the team will travel to Coon Rapids, MN to take place in a tournament.