Co-ed club soccer gives players new perspective

Pamela London

At Whitman College, the arrival of a new school year with the sun shining down on Ankeny can only mean one thing: it’s once again time for the start of club soccer.

The Whitman club soccer team began with a freshman section team from Jewett Hall, which started playing pick-up and then decided to form a team. Made up of both men and women, the club soccer team has participated annually in a tournament hosted by Walla Walla University in addition to playing area teams in scrimmages.

“It’s really easy to get involved in club soccer,” said senior Liz Hockett. “A lot of it is word of mouth: people asking their friends if they want to play. It’s a lot of people who played all throughout high school but aren’t playing for Whitman’s varsity team for one reason or another.”

The entire club soccer program is run by students, from organizing games and scrimmages to recruiting players from around campus. In addition to word of mouth, the majority of players join up with the team by playing pick-up on Ankeny, which happens three afternoons a week during the fall semester. The team  is a great compromise for students who want a balance between athletics and academics.

“The team can go in any direction depending on the people involved that particular year,” said Hockett. “It is just about getting together and playing a more competitive style than can be found in pick-up. After the [WWU] tournament … the team usually disbands and reforms the next year. Those who still want to play soccer play pick-up.”

Arguably the most unique aspect of the club soccer team is the fact that it is co-ed–making it Whitman’s only co-ed athletic program at any level (varsity, club or intramural).

“I really enjoyed playing on a co-ed team,” said first-year Kira Murray. “[It] challenged me to be a lot quicker than I usually might be, just because of the fact that guys are a lot stronger and faster in general.”

“It’s been fun playing with girls,” said first-year Paul Lemeiux. “The girls who play pick-up play well, and so the competitiveness of the game doesn’t change. The games are often competitive, but not aggressive in any way. With a pick-up game, there really isn’t much difference playing with girls: you play the same way you would normally.”

The camaraderie that was built playing pick-up in the fall helped make the translation easy into a club team of guys and girls. Although playing on a co-ed team didn’t make much of a difference at all for the Whitman players, the team did have some interesting encounters with another team that wasn’t initially as thrilled with the co-ed concept.

“[T]he guys on the Walla Walla University team weren’t aware that they were going to be playing girls,” said Murray. “So it was fun to challenge them hard … We ended up playing them twice, and the second time they called us to tell us that they didn’t want to play unless we played only with guys. We vetoed that, and they ended up playing us anyways because it was their senior night and they needed a team to play.”

For all the players, the primary benefit of playing on the club soccer team is to have the opportunity to do something they all love and be competitive even if that competition isn’t at a varsity level.

“I love playing soccer, so it’s been fun to get out and play,” said Lemeiux. “I like how casual our games are. We play soccer, but there aren’t any coaches breathing down your neck. You can test out a new move, make a bad mistake, and no one really cares.”

“I don’t think I can go back to playing with just girls, although I loved playing all-girls throughout my life,” said Hockett. “[When] playing with guys I can be competitive but still have a lot of fun. It’s not about proving how good you, are but just having a good time and playing well.”