Dealing With The Pressure: Women’s soccer players share how they deal with pressure

Daniel Kim

Athletes feel pressure all the time. Whether it’s for a championship or for fun, competition always incites pressure. Carmel athletes are no different. 

For Susie Soderstrom, women’s soccer player and junior, pressure is a common feeling for her before and during a soccer game. After all, the team is looking to repeat as State Champion and has only lost one game in two years. Luckily, Soderstorm said she has found her way around that pressure. According to Soderstrom, the pressure varies depending on what type of game she plays.

Soderstrom has played on the varsity team since she was a freshman and she said the pressure has changed ever since then.

“I definitely feel like there are more eyes on me now that I’m an upperclassman, but I feel like I’m handling the pressure well and it’s not overwhelming,” she said.

To help her handle the pressure, Soderstrom said she does what she calls, “pregame traditions.”

“As long as I do those I don’t freak out about anything,” she said. “I always have a braid in my hair during pregame, I usually eat something similar for dinner the night before, and listen to music on the way to school. I usually do my own thing in school, but I’m getting myself mentally prepared for the game though. I prepare myself for what I know is going to happen and what could happen.”

Cassidy Eckstein, women’s soccer team captain and senior, also said she has found ways to deal with pressure within herself. She said pressure comes from her role as team captain as well.

“I have to be more vocal and be more aware of things around me and everyone else,” Eckstein said. “I’ve learned how to manage it and compromise with it. I just focus on what I need to do, who I’m playing, how the team is warming up or how we’re acting at practice and I play music to help me get focused.”

According to Soderstorm, the intensity in pressure is different between home and away games, but it intensifies for the State tournament.

“It’s definitely more stressful for home games because you obviously want to win because its your turf. (The state tournament) is 10 times more stressful because you’re playing for your school and you obviously want to bring home a blue ring not a red one. I feel like people definitely have their eyes on you and it’s a lot more stressful, but there are still ways to manage it,” Soderstrom said.

For Soderstrom, she manages the extra pressure of a State championship with her “pregame traditions,” but Eckstein copes with it in a different way.

“I want to say there’s more (pressure), but at the same time you have to think about it as just a normal game because if you think it’s too much pressure then you’ll crack,” Eckstein said.

Head Coach Frank Dixon said players usually do feel more pressure during a State tournament. This is because in a championship one loss can prevent a team from advancing.

But Dixon said he didn’t see pressure as a total disadvantage.

“(The State championship) does put some pressure, which is fine because then they’ll play a little harder and a little more effort goes into it because they know the stakes are really high,” he said.

Eckstein also said she does not see pressure as an absolute handicap. 

“I definitely feel like if you don’t feel pressure then you’re not taking it seriously enough and you aren’t getting the full effect of playing the game, but having too much pressure and not knowing how to manage it or deal with it can be harmful to yourself,” she said.

Team camaraderie, according to Soderstrom and Eckstein, also helps with how the team plays when under pressure.

“We are super close. It helps us play together better and communicate with each other and not feel awkward when we have to tell each other what to do,” Eckstein said. 

Soderstrom said, “I definitely think we’re all close and I think it does play a part during a game because we know what everybody is going to do, we can predict people’s movements and play a ball to them when you think they’re going to go.”

Like Soderstrom, the women’s soccer team also has its own routine before every game. “We do the same thing before every game, like doing the exact same warm-up every single time. And before we warm up we’re in our locker room getting hyped for the game.”

The State tournament is from Oct. 8 to Nov. 2, and Soderstrom said she has high aspirations for it. 

“It’s looking pretty good for us to possibly make it to the State championship,” she said. “If we keep doing what we’re doing and working together and continuing to get better, then we’ll have a good chance to get there.”