The second graduating class of FC Wisconsin went through incredible adversity with frequent injury problems year-after-year, and a small roster size that put more demands on every player. In the face of these difficulties, the team showed great commitment to constantly improving individually and representing the Program with class, character, and integrity. As the "regular" club season ended this month, a few of these 2014 graduates reflected on the past season, the club they helped found and create, and the lessons they have learned on their soccer journey.
What would you tell a young player at FC Wisconsin to help them make the most of their youth career, and to help them understand what it takes to compete at the highest youth level?
Erin Corrigan (CB, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee): "Your youth soccer career goes by so unbelievably fast, so don't take any practice or game for granted - work hard every minute during practice, and outside of practice. Enjoy each moment on and off the field with your teammates, and embrace the short-term hard work and commitment to attain the long-term goals. I believe that to compete at a high youth level means to be able to adapt to adversity, put in the work when no one is watching, and be able to step outside of your comfort zone. There will be ups and downs to your youth career, but your teammates will always be there to support you. Don't be afraid to step up as a leader and voice your opinion."
Elyse Hansen (GK, Florida Gulf Coast University): "You have to be willing to put in a lot of time practicing and training on your own, and have a competitive attitude both in practice and off the field. There are days that you won’t want to go to practice, but at the end of the day and looking back you will realize that pushing yourself to train hard will be the best thing you did and will make you infinitely better."
Sophia Donofrio (OB, Iowa State University): "I think it's important to understand who you are as an individual - know your strengths, and don't compare your abilities to your teammates. Everyone brings something to the game. Work hard to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. You won't be able to be successful long-term if you don't give it your all at every practice and game – so learn to do that."
Maddie Pung (CM, College TBA): "I would tell young players that they should not let the intensity of the environment or the reality of being around really experienced and intense players scare you off or cause you to doubt your ability to play at that level. I know when I first joined the club I was pretty overwhelmed with the environment – and it affected my soccer performance. I learned that you have to believe in yourself and when you do you are capable of playing at great levels. There are many ups and downs within your soccer career, but when you stick with it through the ups and downs, try your hardest, and listen and do what the coaches tell you to do – you move forward and get way better. The coaching staff at FC Wisconsin is incredibly experienced and one of the best in the country, so when they tell you to do something that makes you nervous or uncomfortable to try, or that you have never done before, you have to listen and do it anyways. They are looking out for your best interest and pushing you to become better and better every day."
Looking back over your time at FC Wisconsin, what is the one thing you will remember most?
Sophia Donofrio: "I'll remember the relationships I built with my teammates. We went through an incredible amount of adversity with injuries, change, and more - but this only brought us closer together. I have played soccer since I was eight, met a lot of different players, and made many friends. However, my teammates these last three years are the most patient, passionate, and supportive group of girls I've been privileged to be around."
Elyse Hansen: "I will remember traveling with my team, playing in the showcases around the country, and competing against the top clubs in America. The showcases, the Player Development Programs, and the environment open up the opportunity to play in college."
Maddie Pung: "Looking back over my time at FC Wisconsin I will most remember the intense practices, fitness and the great relationships I have made. At every practice you have to be really focused and tuned into every little thing or you won’t succeed. Whether its learning the hard way that warm ups are extremely important, or sprinting your heart out and tackling a teammate hard and realistically in a scrimmage, you have to be on your "A" game or trying your hardest every practice. Every player there is holding you to a standard that you must meet every day. And fitness ohhhh fitness... I think all of us have learned that we need to be really, really fit in order to play, and if you weren't doing it on your own, you weren’t going to be successful individually and your teammates would also suffer. When the fitness was hardest, my teammates were the ones who got me through it; we all supported, encouraged, and egged each other on to push it to our limits. Whenever one of us would feel like quitting, there was always a teammate there that said “no, keep going, keep pushing.” In these hardest times I knew I could always rely on my team and my club, which in the end created long, lasting relationships."
Erin Corrigan: "I will remember most the tremendous feeling of achievement when all of your hard work has paid off. Sharing the emotion of accomplishment and happiness with my teammates and coaches, after all of the sweat and tears, is simply priceless. I will remember all of the adversity my team faced, how we adapted to it and overcame it by working hard for 90 minutes each game, and ultimately improving as soccer players and people through each moment. Oh, and of course I'll remember all of the pranks we pulled on the coaches."
How do you think your experience at FC Wisconsin helped you the most in preparing for your future, on the field or off?
Erin Corrigan: "My experience at FC Wisconsin has had ups and downs, but ultimately, I have not only learned how to become a better soccer player, but also to be better person off the field. The consistent coaching personnel and small player-to-staff ratio have helped me improve specific points to my game. Additionally, throughout my experience, I have gained long-term friendships and lasting bonds with my teammates and with players from younger teams as well. Playing for the club has fully prepared me for the next step of my soccer career, and I will move onto the collegiate level as a more responsible, accountable, and confident player and person."
Maddie Pung: "My experience at FC Wisconsin has prepared me for my future by teaching me to always keep pushing, no matter the short-term adversity, to pursue my dreams. I’ve had many ups and downs throughout my experience, but these experiences have taught me that if you really want something and put all of yourself into it, no matter what distractions or let downs may come your way you can achieve anything you set your mind to."
Elyse Hansen: "By joining the club at a young age, I was able to receive the training I needed to play at college level with knowledgable coaches and a soccer environment that pushed me to do my best everyday, on and off the field. I believe that practicing in this environment has made me a tougher player, which you definitely need to play at a high level."
Sophia Donofrio: "Though it may sound cliché, soccer and sports in general are a metaphor for life. My time with this club has taught me so many lessons that I will be able to take with me long after my soccer career is over. I've learned that in order to be successful, you must have a solid work rate, patience, a good attitude, persistence, and the willingness to be prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals."
What do you think separates this club from other soccer clubs and experiences you have had or participated in?
Elyse Hansen: "There are several talented coaches instead of just one, who each help out different positions of players and give you a different area of expertise. Also, playing in the ECNL is so much more competitive than playing anywhere else that I previously played, and there are college coaches at almost every game, especially at the showcases. It is a much harder and challenging experience than other soccer clubs, but FC WI Eclipse better prepared me to play in college and to be a tougher player."
Sophia Donofrio: "Personally, I found that at FC Wisconsin, if you're willing to buy into the system, work hard, and be coachable, you will be rewarded. In the end, no matter what you've been through, the loyalty and support of the coaching staff will stand out."
Maddie Pung: "The incredible coaching staff, committed players, and intense practices are definitely some of the biggest things that separate FC Wisconsin from other clubs I have played in and watched. The coaches put a huge amount of effort into creating practices, organizing events, and being there for and supporting the players, while also constantly trying to make each of us the best we can be. Their support, time, and effort alone separates us from almost any club. The players that are a part of our club also sacrifice many things to play in such a great environment, and are all dedicated to getting better. This sets a standard, created by the players, to put everything on the plate and go for it. If some players fall short of this standard they are forced pull themselves up to where everyone else is. Together, the coaches and the players create an amazingly intense environment that pushes us to improve and keep on improving every day."
Erin Corrigan: "FC Wisconsin has a competitive atmosphere that sets it apart from every other program in Wisconsin. Every player within FC Wisconsin strives to be the best soccer player they can be, and the hard-working environment reinforces this drive. The club also gives players multiple opportunities to be exposed to college programs through playing in the ECNL. The coaches also always emphasize having a program-based perspective, so players from all age groups are intertwined through practice, travel events, and mentor relationships. The commitment to development, high-level coaching, and competitive play with the strongest teams in the nation separate this club from any other in Wisconsin."