Entering the 2013 season, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team has very little experience with a roster of just six juniors and seniors combined. Leading a team already has its challenges, and for these six players, it might be overwhelming.
But UMass coach Ed Matz doesn’t see leadership as an issue.
“I’m not concerned about the leadership of our team,” Matz said. “In fact I think that the leadership on the team has been really great.”
Part of his confidence can be linked back to before the team started its summer training, as the young squad received a little boost in leadership knowledge from an outside source.
“We came in a day and a half early, and had an outside group came in called ‘The Program,’” Matz explained. “They put our team in leadership training, and it couldn’t have been a better time for our program. It was great, and I think that it not only helped the six juniors and seniors become better leaders, but it also helped everyone become better teammates.”
Matz feels that the younger players can practice being better teammates through the knowledge they gained from “The Program.”
“One of the things that going through ‘The Program’ taught the players is how to be a good teammate,” Matz said. “Being a good teammate means motivating your teammates, being not afraid to speak up, and helping your teammates make the right choices. All of that I think gave our players more confidence and they became more willing to step up and be a leader.”
While everyone has improved on being better teammates and leaders, a few players still stand out from the crowd, especially senior co-captains Lauren Skesavage and Grace Coombs. With Skesavage returning after being a junior co-captain last year, Matz expects her leadership skills to be more developed for this upcoming season.
“As a junior captain, [Skesavage] sometimes was overshadowed by the senior captains,” Matz said. “She learned a lot last year from last year’s captains, got to see what being a captain was like, and used some of her experience from last year to become a better leader.”
The senior defender has fully taken on the role as a co-captain and plans to take what she learned from last year and “The Program” into this season.
“One thing that I was able to learn while being here at UMass is having a positive attitude,” Skesavage said. “In the program we did, they came up to me and basically said that you can’t have a bad day because your attitude can affect everyone on the team. So if they see you down and not really trying they’ll probably think it’s OK, and last year I kind of got away with that because of the other captains that were seniors.
“This year I have to focus on not doing that because I am so honored by this role and I want people to look up to me.”
As for the younger players, Skesavage explained that the outside group had a big impact on them as well.
“’The Program’ really made the younger players step out of their comfort zone, and showed them it’s OK to step up and speak out as a leader even though they are a freshman or sophomore,” she said.
Tom Mulherin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.