The 7 A-Side Tournament at WKU proved that it is difficult for a Division I soccer player to purely have fun playing soccer. We definitely had a good time, but the players also got fired up in the heat of competition. I thought it was a good event for us, and I was proud of both of our teams. We finished in 2nd and 3rd. Obviously, if we had allowed players to flip flop between the 2 teams, we would have finished 1st and 2nd. However, it was another great opportunity for all the players to play, develop, and prove themselves.
The weekend after Easter, we went to the University of Tennessee. Our opponents were Tusculum and Carson Newman. Both are good Division II teams. The Lady Vols have an incredible stadium and great practice and multi-purpose facilities. We watched them play Memphis before our game. After their game, I was a little surprised by what I saw.
Every young female soccer player in the stadium from the ages of 6 to 16 came down to the field for autographs, a closer look at the players, a chance to talk to players or coaches. This can be great, because I believe in our players being role models, but the excitement of the young fans was serious to me. The Tennessee team hid in the locker room. They sent someone out to tell the girls that they were not signing autographs that morning, and they did not leave the locker room until most of the young fans had left. I have seen the Tennessee women’s basketball team and witnessed their following. They are like rock stars, and the women’s soccer team is not far behind that.
That is a lot of responsibility on a student-athlete. Are they mature enough to handle that? When a high school student is choosing a college, should that be part of the decision making process? Major? Location? Size of school? What is my potential for fame? I know football players and men’s basketball players choose a school based on how many times that team plays on national TV. Are women’s sports at big schools not far behind?
Just as the Lady Vols had enough fans to make it feel more like the regular season than the spring, our game against Tusculum certainly had the drama of a fall game. We lost 3-2 after being up 2-0 in the first 15 minutes of the game. Tusculum scored the winning goal in the last 3 seconds of the game. I was devastated. Our team that is supposed to be so experienced and talented and successful fell apart. We did not make much improvement in our 2nd game of the day against Carson Newman. We tied 0-0.
I think we lost a lot of momentum that weekend. Some players picked up injuries. Some got their feelings hurt when I held them accountable for the low quality of play. The team lost some confidence in themselves and each other. Even though I thought we learned from the games and designed some practices to help us get better, I think some players checked out, mentally, the rest of the spring season.
Hopefully, I have identified some of the causes for the burn out and will be able to prevent them in the future.