After playing their final ECNL game together in March, a few of the 2013 graduates of FC Wisconsin reflected on the year, the new club they were a part of this season, and more. Their answers reveal a glimpse of what it takes to play at the highest youth level and prepare for college, and they also show a window into the very unique environment at FC Wisconsin.
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?
Allegra Godfrey (CM, Valparaiso University): "I would tell them that, in order to make the most of your youth career and accomplish your goals in the game, hard work is key – it is the most important thing. Beyond that, don’t be afraid to fail and always be confident in your abilities - even in difficult moments."
Jackie Wandt (CB, Northern Illinois University): "The biggest thing I would tell a younger player is to trust your coaches and be coachable. The coaches have many valuable years of experience and, in the end, they really want what is best for you and your development. Also, remember that stepping outside of your comfort zone will help push you to the next level of your career. Finally, although it sounds cliché, it is critical to maintain a high level of fitness and to practice outside of team trainings. Whether it’s training with a friend or getting touches in your basement, it’s something that can’t be neglected if you want to be really good."
Holly Heckendorf (CB, University of Wisconsin): “I would tell younger players that they need to make the most out of every practice and game; they need to come to practice every day prepared to work hard and never give up. I realize that this probably sounds cliché, but it is true. Players need to look at the positive side of things and not get discouraged during a practice or game if things don’t go great. If they listen to what the coaches have to say and execute on that, they will improve. Lastly I’d tell them to have fun. Enjoy soccer with your friends/teammates and be positive toward each other.”
Michela Ongaro (GK, Oklahoma State University): "The most important thing to remember is that everyone has a bad day, or even a few bad days in a row, but it always gets better. A short memory is key at the level we are playing at. The game is so fast and so competitive that there will always be an opportunity to redeem yourself. And when it seems like the whole world is against you, it’s actually just the opposite. Your teammates and coaches want you to succeed so put your head down and power through the tough times, you’ll be better because of it. You only get out of something what you put into it, so work hard every day. These years go by really fast, enjoy them while you can."
Looking back over this year, what is the one thing you will remember most?
Allegra Godfrey: "I will remember the times off the field with my teammates the most."
Jackie Wandt: "Our team camaraderie at the ECNL National Showcase in Phoenix is something that really sticks out in my mind. It was awesome to see everybody getting along and supporting each other on and off the field. The trip in general reinforced that we are all working to achieve a common goal: we are a team, not a bunch of individuals."
Holly Heckendorf: “One of the things I remember most this year was the Phoenix ECNL Showcase. Coming into the year with a small team wasn’t easy, and then we had some injuries and other difficulties early in the season. We were struggling with our mentality, and it wasn’t a surprise then when we didn’t do as well as we would like to. In Phoenix, after the first game, we had a team discussion and came out the next day with far better mentality and approach. We ended the event with a win and a tie. During that weekend, my team became stronger and learned how to overcome obstacles. It brought us all closer together.”
Michela Ongaro: "The mental toughness it took to get through it. This year has been the hardest of my youth career, but also the most rewarding. It was the most challenging mentally and physically, and I’ve become so much stronger and gotten so much better because of it. I feel as prepared as possible for the next level. This club presented me with an environment where I could thrive and be great at something, and I think everyone needs that. It is hard to see how much everyone improves because you’re so close to it day to day, but when you take a step back and recognize how far you and your teammates have come, that’s when you realize that everything you’ve been doing has been paying off all along."
You will be a member of the first “graduating class” of FC Wisconsin. What do you think this club will mean to young players over the next few years?
Allegra Godfrey: "FC Wisconsin provides an environment that pushes you out of your comfort zone every day, and helps you do things that you never thought you could do. The club will give these younger players so many opportunities as they progress and try to achieve their soccer goals. I am honored to be a part of the first class of FC Wisconsin."
Jackie Wandt: "This club is a gateway to the next level of your soccer career. FC Wisconsin provides an excellent training environment and will enable players to achieve their aspirations."
Holly Heckendorf: “I think this club gives younger players hope. It is a highly competitive club with outstanding coaches. It gives players hope that they can play in college, and that they can achieve their goals.”
Michela Ongaro: "This club is going to produce superstars – I have no doubt about that. I was only able to be a part of it for a year, but I wish more than anything I had the opportunity to train with this club longer. The training environment is so competitive, the talent level is phenomenal and the coaching staff is unmatched. This club will get you where you want to go. Beyond the game, the friendships these girls will form through this club and the life lessons they will learn will stay with them forever. This club and these players will always be special to me, and I can’t wait to see where this club is in 5 years, I’m proud to have been a part of it."