FIRST ANNUAL PLEASANTON RAGE WPSL GIRLS FESTIVAL BROUGHT AWARENESS TO PATHWAY BETWEEN YOUTH SOCCER AND THE WPSL
More than 150 girls registered for the first annual Pleasanton RAGE WPSL Girls Festival held last Friday at Bernal Community Park. RAGE partners were on hand to answer questions and share their expertise. Soccer stations were set up across two fields where players could rotate between soccer tennis, 1v1s, 3v3s, speed and agility exercises, tricks and attacking moves, and the most popular – the chance to score on a Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) goalkeeper.
“I really liked shooting on the goalies! It felt really good when [WPSL goalie] Sadie [Brown] told me that I had a really good shot,” said Hayden Symons, 8.5-year-old member of the Pleasanton RAGE 2013 Elite team.
RAGE Head Coach Sarah Fawcett said the event served multiple purposes, but the main one was simply awareness.
“It creates that awareness for all the young females around that they have that pathway [from youth soccer to the WPSL]. Plus also some mentorship for them too and role models along the way.”
It was a full three hours of learning and fun on the pitch, with Q&A sessions woven in, followed by exhibition matches for the young fans to watch and cheer for. Some of the most hard-hitting questions from attendees included things like, “What’s the worst injury you’ve had?,” “Do you get paid?,” “What hairstyle do you usually do when playing?,” “How did it feel to switch from 9v9 to 11v11?”
Former professional player and RAGE defender Haley Lukas spoke at length to those in attendance about her career. She retired professionally at the beginning of this year after playing in Hungary, France and Poland.
Lukas gave advice on getting to the next level by explaining how she reached out to the colleges she was interested in as a freshman in high school. She also talked about getting an agent to help her find professional opportunities in Europe. Her suggestion for getting recognized on the field was to figure out what you’re good at and become excellent at it.
“How many of you would like to play in college?” Lukas asked as all the young athletes’ hands shot into the air. “A lot of us, right? So when we’re being recruited to play college, coaches are going to sit on the sidelines and they’re going to watch and they want to see what stands out. So if you’re really good at something, be so good at it that they notice it right away. We can work on our weaknesses to make sure that they’re good and we’re strong all around, but if we can become a specialist in something – that’s what sets us apart.”
In addition to gearing up for law school and business school, she’s also the Mentor Program Director for Female Footballers, an organization that focuses on helping female athletes’ mental sports journeys.
“Being able to practice habits to build your mental skills, such as building confidence, practicing self-awareness, advocating for yourself to your coaches, and maintaining motivation in tough moments are key skills for succeeding in sport and as a leader,” Lukas said. “Just like we practice our technical skills with extra repetitions, we have to dedicate time to keeping our mind at top performance too.”
RAGE goalkeeper and Claremont McKenna College commit Sadie Brown spoke about her position and shared the insight that building relationships with teammates is an integral part of being a great goalie.
“Getting people’s trust is a big part of it,” Brown said. “It’s an important position on the field. You’re a steady rock for your team. So just being able to connect with everybody on the team and that’s not only just on the field, but also off the field, it’s a very important attribute of a goalkeeper.
Brown has four older siblings who all played for Pleasanton RAGE. She described playing for the club as a rite of passage of sorts. That sentiment is something the WPSL side in its fourth season hopes to instill throughout the local soccer community through events like this first annual Pleasanton RAGE WPSL Girls Festival.
“It was a fun event to help me develop my skills and have fun with new teammates,” said 11-year-old Gabi Li. “and [I] learned how [the WPSL players] got better opportunities later in life because they wanted a chance on a team and took the opportunity to do something they love.
Julian Symon, Hayden’s parent, saw a renewed spark in her after the event.
“I think that it helped to reinvigorate her love of the sport! Being able to have someone to look up to that is now playing in college, or like Sadie Brown that just graduated, makes a much deeper connection for these young girls. The love of the sport radiates from the WPSL players and that was very evident in how they were all working with the girls during the event.”
The RAGE currently sits in 4th place in the Pac North Conference. The club is preparing for a back-to-back this Friday and Saturday. Both matches are on the road, the first is against San Ramon FC (0-1-2) and the second against the undefeated Bay Area Surf.
Watch games live on Eleven Sports, the official streaming partner of the WPSL.
If you’re interested in an exercise to help build confidence on the field, Lukas also shared a simple visualization exercise:
“One tool I use when I’m not feeling my most confident before a game is visualization. Before a game, I’ll close my eyes and picture myself on the field performing successful actions in my position and playing my best game. If I’ve already seen myself make a successful tackle or a great cross, I feel less nervous and know I’m capable of doing it in the game because I just saw myself do it. Little tools like this make a big difference at the next level!”