The FC Wisconsin graduating class of 2016 will leave the club as one of the most impactful classes in the history of the club, and one that helped secure the long-term future of the club. A team that was small in roster size every year, they set exceptional standards in determination, commitment to excel, and leadership. Their improvement as individuals and as a team not only showed in changing results from U15 to U18, but more than 90% of the class will move on to college soccer. As they enter the final months of their youth soccer career, a few of these players have shared their thoughts on the club soccer journey they have traveled at FC Wisconsin, and the impact it has had on them.
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?
- Payton Wesley (CB, University of Wisconsin – Madison): I would tell every girl not to take a single day for granted. There are going to be many ups and downs but you just have to trust the process. Not every day is going to be easy, but it is important to know that those hard days are what is separating you from everyone else.
- Mackenzie O’Connell (OM, University of St. Thomas): I would tell a younger player to listen, and listen well, to the information the coaches give to you. Taking criticism and learning from your mistakes will help you to become the best player possible. Competing in the ECNL is high intensity, exciting, tough, and fun. It takes someone who strong mentally and physically, as well as smart. Don't take one game for granted and play with 110% because it all goes by so fast.
- Jessica Cooley (OB, Southern Methodist University): I would tell a younger player to never take any practice for granted. Nothing comes easy and every practice will be tough, but if you put in your best effort all the time (even on rough days) it will be worth it. Appreciate the high intensity environment and the valuable feedback from all the coaches because it will help you grow a lot faster as a player.
- Mara Pfeilstifter (OM, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay): I would tell them to take everything that the coaches say seriously and work on those things right away. Being able to take constructive criticism will help so much in your career. Being tough physically and mentally is what it takes to compete at this level.
- Kat Schmidt (CM, Wright State University): I would tell a younger player to take every practice seriously and have fun doing that. Every practice helps you develop for the future. To compete at the highest level in the ECNL it takes a lot of work mentally and physically. Working hard and training on your off time, you will achieve success at the highest level. So keep your head up, even at a young age.
Looking back over your time at FC Wisconsin, what is the one thing you will remember most?
- Mackenzie O’Connell: The one thing that I will remember most about FCWE is the environment at practice. Getting not only to train, but to become friends with girls from each age group was really special. My teammates are some of my best friends and being able to go through work through the season with them through the ups and downs is something I'll never forget.
- Jessica Cooley: I will remember the constant competitive environment, but mainly I will remember the relationships I have made and always being able to play alongside my best friends. No friendship compares to the bond you have with your teammates when being part of something different and traveling the country for games.
- Mara Pfeilstifter: I will remember all of my teammates and coaches the most! I have such a great team and the coaches are amazing as well; they help you with any and everything!
- Payton Wesley: I will remember the ECNL showcases so much. Having the opportunity to play in more than 10 showcases over the course of 4 years is something special. Being able to travel the country with my teammates, who have become my best friends, while being able to compete at the highest level in the country is something I will never forget.
- Kat Schmidt: The one thing I will remember most are the road trips. I can’t imagine having better friendships with a group of teammates than I have had here. The friendships I gained, and the memories I had traveling are irreplaceable.
How do you think your experience at FC Wisconsin helped you the most in preparing for your future, on the field or off?
- Mackenzie O’Connell: My experience at FC Wisconsin greatly prepared me for my soccer career in college. Practices are focused and competitive which will help get me ready for the speed of play in college. The amount of coaches that are at practice each day to critique and talk to me was also beneficial because I was able to hear more information than I ever could with only one coach. And being able to play against the best players in the ECNL helped me become a better player so I can be the best I can be at the next level.
- Jessica Cooley: FC Wisconsin helped me prepare for my future on and off the field by putting me in an environment which constantly forced me outside of my comfort zone and to push to get better. Being here has taught me so many valuable lessons on persevering, being responsible, and dealing with adversity. All of these will help me on and off the field in college.
- Mara Pfeilstifter: If I was not on FC Wisconsin I don't think I would be playing college soccer. It taught me toughness and accountability on and off the field.
- Payton Wesley: Over the course of four years at FC Wisconsin, I have learned so many things about myself as a person and a player. By always being pushed out of my comfort zone, I've had to deal with adversity and complicated situations that have helped me learn a lot about myself and how I handle being in tough situations.
- Kat Schmidt: The experience I had at FC Wisconsin has shaped me better for my future on and off the field. On the field, I am able to achieve my dream of playing Division 1 soccer, and the type of training and coaching I have received at the club has helped me prepare for the college experience. Off the field, the lessons in time management and determination will help me for my college life and beyond.
What do you think separates this club from other soccer clubs and experiences you have had or participated in?
- Mackenzie O’Connell: This club is different from any other club in the state because of the concept of program before team. I loved being able to play with all of the different age groups, it made practices more difficult and fun. FC Wisconsin is the best place for girls to play if they are thinking about playing college soccer. The training level is extremely high and the coaches will push you to your limits. No other club has taught me more about not only about the game of soccer but also how to be a mature and strong athlete and adult. I can't thank the coaching staff, my teammates and the rest of the program enough for the amazing time I have had at FC Wisconsin.
- Jessica Cooley: This club is so unique compared to the other clubs I was a part of. First of all, the competitive driven environment does not compare with anywhere else in Wisconsin. We have a great coaching staff that works will all age groups to give the most feedback possible to help each player get better. The age groups training together, and even the U14s knowing and interacting with the U18s, gives us such a great mentor program, builds strong friendships, and gives the club a real family feel.
- Mara Pfeilstifter: First of all you get to travel around the country with some of your best friends, seeing amazing places. The atmosphere is so different; you have tons of coaches and the fields we play on are turf unlike the fields I have played on in the past. It's competitive and everyone here has pretty much the same goals.
- Payton Wesley: The environment. Coming to practice everyday and being around girls from different age levels who all share similar goals is something to never take for granted. Every single day, however challenging it may be, I know I have teammates by my side who want what is best for me. This club has taught me that the most rewarding feeling in the world is the make the girl next to you proud, even before yourself. And that is something I will hold onto for the rest of my life.
- Kat Schmidt: FC Wisconsin is a completely different experience from any club that I have ever been in, and know of. The training environment (with the coaching staff and style of training) is unlike any club. Having 5 coaches at a practice at one time, I have so much to learn from and to receive input from. I have not had as good of friendships and connections anywhere before, and it is due to the family environment at FC Wisconsin.