Soccer Girl, Interrupted” ― An Afterword by Roberta Lunardo

Please welcome author and journalist Roberta Lunardo today, with an afterword to her book on her daughter’s soccer journey.

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“Soccer Girl, Interrupted” ― An Afterword by Roberta Lunardo *

I hope I can find the words to express how proud I am of my daughter’s overcoming the toxic environment she had to face as a very young girl. Two years ago, when Melissa was only nine years old, she had to go through the events chronicled in “Soccer Girl, Interrupted” and her confidence was shattered. After a long process of identifying the problem―bullying, soccer mom from hell, unprofessional coach, favoritism, and politics in the U.S. soccer club mentality―we removed her from that situation, regrouped, and got ready for her journey of recovery.

Today, as I sit here writing these lines, I can honestly say that those events have made her stronger. It still took some time for her to start to believe in herself again―it’s a never-ending process―and once in a while, she’ll make comments about the adults who have let her down. 

You only stop to think about the effects of emotional abuse when it comes to the surface and your daughter says something like, “Could you change that workout alarm on your phone? That’s what my old coach used during drills, and I don’t want to think about him.” That one comment told me that it still hurt to remember what she went through but, nevertheless, she was now able to voice her feelings and look back at it with a little bit of detachment.

We are glad she didn’t decide to quit soccer altogether after her experience, especially because she has extremely talented friends, both boys and girls, who have given up club soccer after the unpleasant experiences they have gone through themselves. Instead, Melissa focused on clinics while making the transition to a new club, worked hard, and found her place on a new team―this time with a coach who is not only a teacher but had been a professional soccer player himself and has a strong background coaching high school soccer. 

Above all, her new coach had the sensitivity to shift from a long career coaching teenage boys, to take over two all-girls teams for the first time (one with 10-year-olds and another with 12-year-olds) and make it a goal to develop individual players for the good of the collective in the long term. After all, as Mia Wenjen and Alison Foley tell us in “How to Coach Girls,” coaching isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal, and it takes a different approach when building the confidence of young female athletes.

Melissa has also been displaying her love for soccer in other ways: watching matches on TV, going to indoor soccer games to support a local professional team, and acting as Assistant Coach to Daddy as part of her own brother’s recreational soccer experience. The expression on her face when she is helping the little ones―ages six and seven, who inevitably look up to her―could only be described as joyfully proud.

Recently, her latest accomplishment in recovering from emotional trauma was her decision to go back to recreational indoor soccer, on top of her already busy soccer schedule. Watching her brother’s team play reminded her of how she started out playing indoor at age seven. She remembered how fun it was and asked us to sign her up for the upcoming season.

Today, she’s been acting as a team leader in the 10-12 age group indoor, considering her experience in competitive club soccer and assistant coaching. She helps organize the team from inside the field, reminds her players of positioning, encourages them to work hard while leading by example, and selfless passes to give others a chance to score, even if that means missing a scoring opportunity herself. Celebrating her teammate’s first goal ever in a game was just as meaningful to her (or even more) as celebrating a goal of her own.

And, since it’s a coed indoor soccer experience, she has gone back to being the battling beast we all knew from before she had adults tearing her down at her old club. When playing against boys, it seems that she believes in herself even more, because she knows that she can keep up with the most skilled and toughest players, because she is just as skilled and tough herself, and she is not “just a girl.” 

Averaging a couple of goals a game, sometimes from foul kicks placed with strength and precision on the upper corners of the goal, she’s been playing her heart out as she hears opposing coaches yelling at their players, “Take her out! Block her! Don’t let her beat you to the ball!” 

That kind of recognition and the encouragement she gets from parents from opposing teams after a match is all she needs right now to remember that she is allowed to keep going and follow her dreams. When parents come to congratulate me and my husband, saying that our daughter is a very good player, we simply smile and thank them for their compliments. However, deep down, what we tell ourselves is, We already knew she was a good player, but now we know she is safe and knows her own value.

Roberta Lunardo is a journalist born in South America who has been living in the United States since the early 2000s. She is the author of “Soccer Girl, Interrupted,” which chronicles her then 9-year-old daughter’s struggles in a toxic club soccer environment.

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ACL Injury Prevention

ACL Injury Prevention HOW TO COACH GIRLS Brooklyn Event

At our Brooklyn book signing event, a mother asked about how to prevent ACL injury. Here is our five-part series of videos to answer that question.

HOW TO COACH GIRLS Brooklyn Event: ACL Injury Prevention, Part 1/5

Coach Alison Foley talks about ACL injury prevention, Part 2/5

Coach Alison Foley on ACL Injury Prevention Exercises, Part 3/5

Injury Prevention Exercises, Part 4/5

Yoga Tree Pose and Headers for ACL injury prevention, Part 5/5

Coach Alison Foley on ACL.

 

To examine our print book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book. Our ebook version with 3 bonus chapters is here.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

New England Soccer Journal Podcast: Alison Foley, Boston College head coach, co-authors book on coaching girls

Alison Foley How To Coach Girls

Alison Foley, who coached Boston College’s women’s soccer team for nearly two dozen years, recently co-authored a book titled “How To Coach Girls.”

New England Soccer Journal:  Podcast: Alison Foley, Boston College head coach, co-authors book on coaching girls

The book is designed to help coaches, namely those in youth and teenage sports, navigate the space and keep girls in organized sports. It’s available for purchase here and at local bookstores.

Foley also shared advice to prospective college soccer players, namely what she looks for on and off the field. Continue reading “New England Soccer Journal Podcast: Alison Foley, Boston College head coach, co-authors book on coaching girls”

We’re in UCLA One Spotlight!

UCLA ONE SPOTLIGHT

UCLA ONE Spotlight Mia Wenjen How To Coach Girls

Mia Wenjen, M.B.A. ’93

Co-Founder, Aquent

“I learned that I was not alone in having girls who were contemplating quitting their sport. About 70% of all kids quit organized sports by the age of 13, with girls quitting at six times the rate of boys! And, given the vital role that sports play in nurturing girls’ positive body image, self-esteem and confidence – Alison Foley and I set out to create a guide book to teach others. How to Coach Girls launches on March 1.”

Continue reading “We’re in UCLA One Spotlight!”

We are in Soccer America!

Soccer America: Coaching Girls: How to deliver feedback effectively

COMMENTARY

Coaching Girls: How to deliver feedback effectively

by  ,  ,Feb 28, 2018

Mia: My daughter’s club volleyball coach is amazing; he thanks players for running for an out of bounds ball that they have no hope of getting. They would walk through fire for him. I asked him when we headed over to the team dinner one night if he had always coached this way. He told me that he used to be the kind of coach who was the hardest on the most promising player, but he learned that you can’t coach girls in that way.

Continue reading “We are in Soccer America!”

We are in Coach & A.D.!

Coach & A.D. How To Coach Girls

‘How to Coach Girls:’ Developing team chemistry

The following is an excerpt from “How to Coach Girls,” written by Mia Wenjen and Alison Foley. Foley is the head women’s soccer coach at Boston College, where she has led her teams to the postseason during 13 consecutive seasons. Wenjen is an entrepreneur and blogger at PragmaticMom.com.

Developing team chemistry

MiaMy oldest daughter played volleyball, and her team would huddle after every point, win or lose. It looked like a very positive thing, girls huddled up, hugging each other. Sometimes it wasn’t though. A player in the huddle might assign blame for a lost point, demoralizing the group. Since the coach is not part of the team huddle, the team culture would reveal itself in these moments, good or bad. While the coach can’t control what happens in the huddle, it’s an extension of the team culture created during practices. It’s a little like baking bread; you need all the right ingredients at the right temperature. If you do all the right things and create the right environment, the bread rises on its own. Continue reading “We are in Coach & A.D.!”

How To Keep Girls In Sports with Berkshire Soccer Academy

How To Keep Girls In Sports series with Berkshire Soccer Academy

We are partnering with Berkshire Soccer Academy, a sleep away soccer camp for girls, with a five-part series.

How To Coach Girls by Mia Wenjen and Alison Foley

How To Coach Girls available for pre-order here.

March: The effect of Team Impact on the Boston College Women’s Soccer Team. Team Impact is a national nonprofit that matches kids facing serious and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams.

Boston College Women's Soccer and Team Impact

Happy Birthday to Lily…the newest member of the #BCWSoccer team as she signed her NLI with her teammates by her side yesterday.  Continue reading “How To Keep Girls In Sports with Berkshire Soccer Academy”