Women’s soccer team provides home away from home

Shelby Lanksbury (left), junior forward, says having families on the women's soccer team is a fun way to make lasting connections. Photo credit: Jenelle Kapellas

It’s not easy moving away to college, leaving behind your family and going off on your own. But when a new soccer recruit joins the Chico State women’s soccer team, they find they have a family away from home.

For more than eight years, the women’s soccer team has had “families” within its team. Each family is different and consists of team members who share the same personality traits but are mixed in classes, ranging from first-year students to seniors. When new recruits join the Wildcats, the older players select who will be the newest addition to their family.

“It’s part of our culture in our program to make everyone feel included,” said Kim Sutton, women’s soccer head coach. “It’s something the players do.”

First, they get to know the individuals. Then, they make the decisions.

“Our family is like the crazy family; we have crazy personalities,” said Pooja Patel, sophomore forward. “It’s another way for us to be close together.”

The families aren’t only there for support but also to make recruits feel welcome, Patel said.

Having families is something fun the team does. The process of selecting who will be in which family is done all by the players. Coach Sutton takes no part in the decision making.

“We get together and have family dinners sometimes,” said Shelby Lanksbury, junior forward. “It’s just fun, it’s another way to connect with people.”

The families help create a strong bond among the players. It helps them stay connected with one another. It also allows the newcomers to have a support group— people they feel comfortable seeking advice from.

“It’s a support system for our freshmen, especially coming in because the families give things to each other,” Sutton said. “It gives them someone to go to if they have a question rather than always coming to a coach or somebody they might not be as comfortable with.”

Through these family groups, the team as a whole comes together. They are able to communicate well with each other, and this can be seen both on and off the field.

“Every year we add things that help develop the team, the chemistry and the culture,” Sutton said.

Having good communication skills is something that has stemmed from having families. The team is able to have great communication skills on the field. The players are able to read each other’s moves and know what the other will want of them, Patel said.

It’s one of the reasons why the Wildcats have had success— they have trust. In every game they rely on each other to perform to their full extent. Because they know each other so well they are able to assist in reaching their full potential.

“If there’s a play that happens and we’re are confused, we’ll talk about it right after it happens just to clarify,” Patel said. “Defending wise, we have to communicate a lot to tell each other where we need support.”

Julie Ortega can be reached at [email protected] or @julieOrtega_ on Twitter.