Following a 14-5-1 season, six players chose not to return to the girls’ varsity soccer team. The former players, all seniors, ultimately chose not to play for various reasons including injury, lack of competition, time commitment and coaching. A chronic back injury kept former player Anna Wilder sidelined for her senior season.
“My parents weren’t OK with me playing, and I knew that even if I somehow convinced them otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to play at a high level because the pain is nearly unbearable,” Wilder said.
Despite not being able to play, Wilder found a way to continue to be involved with the team.
“It was a very hard decision not to play because soccer meant a lot to me and had always been something I loved,” she said. “But, I am now the manager for the varsity team, so I still get to be a part of the season.”
As a member of both school and club soccer teams, Wilder witnessed some of the negative aspects of competitive sports.
“I think that sports, at both the school and club level, have been twisted in an unhealthy way. The ‘winning is everything’ mentality is very strong, and it was a constant push to be the best,” Wilder said. “I didn’t mind dealing with the pressure since I was so passionate about soccer, but for girls who aren’t as into it, the hardcore values were not a part of the experience they wanted.”
Wilder also noticed potentially harmful attitudes prevalent in high school soccer.
“Players are taught to deal with pain until it reaches a breaking point, and that is something that needs to be reversed,” she said. “It’s a common thread in high school and club sports, and doesn’t just involve the coaches.”
Senior Mia Haroulakis, who also left the team after last season, agreed with some of Wilder’s sentiments
“Soccer really just wasn’t fun anymore, and it felt more like a chore than a hobby,” Haroulakis said. “I didn’t understand why we did certain things during practice and games, which was frustrating.”
Senior Avery Kloeppel, who has committed to play soccer at the Florida Institute of Technology, chose not to return for what would have been her last high school season due to the risk of injury and a lack of competition.
“I’ve been playing for the school since seventh grade, so it was a hard decision at first to choose not to play with all my friends,” Kloeppel said. “I decided it was in my best interest to focus on my training for club and college soccer instead. I wish I could have enjoyed the season with all my friends, but I’m glad I chose not to play because high-school soccer isn’t very competitive and is an easy way to get injured.”
Despite losing experienced players, varsity coach Jenny Pazderak remains optimistic.
“I feel that the chemistry of this year’s team is very strong. This season, we have had several new players step up and work hard to show they deserve to be apart of the team,” Pazderak said. “The chemistry comes from team bonding on and off the field. The connection the players have this season brings with it a positive attitude and the willingness to work hard to accomplish the goals they have set.”
Pazderak expectations for her players have not diminished.
“We as coaches encourage the players to be prepared and ready to work hard at all times,” Pazderak said. “In every practice and game they are expected to give 110 percent.”
The players are involved in the decision-making process, and have a say in shaping the goals for the season.
“Each season, the expectations and goals differ,” Pazderak said. “The players this year have come up with their goal to be district champions.”