Playing at the Division I collegiate level is one thing, but maintaining mental stamina is an entirely different element, one that the Boise State women’s soccer program has emphasized for years.
Rather than assigning captains, the program created a leadership group called Information Highway, which acts as an effective communication process between the team and coaching staff.
“I wanted to empower young women to have a stronger voice in a world that is male dominant,” said head coach Jim Thomas. “It is difficult to do that. The first step within that requires me to really push power. I had to give a lot back to the players in order to give them power behind their voice.”
“Our team trusts us a lot and it is a lot of responsibility, but it makes us so invested in the process and in the program,” Stone said. “We care so much about how everyone is and how everyone is doing, just making sure everything is running smoothly.”
During the season, the group meets once a week for about 30 minutes to discuss team needs, practice schedules and the team’s physical health.
During the off-season, meetings occur every other week to converse about the overall plans for the spring, preparation for the season and updates on players’ mental and emotional wellbeing to best support the team.
Information Highway works to fill the gap between the coaching staff and players. The goal is to develop a bond between the team to express concerns or ask questions regarding the program.
“The girls are not as comfortable as you would hope,” Crenshaw said. “Obviously we have a male coach, so I am able to be there for someone and understand that this isn’t easy. From our coach’s point of view, he is trying his best to understand us as 18 to 21-year-old girls, and is asking ‘what can I do to help?’ Seeing that he has so much care, is trying his best and the desire he has to help us has made me become a better leader on this team.”
Thomas advocates a series of four pillars to his athletes that was developed with the team’s perception of the world in mind. He emphasizes the opportunity these athletes have of being part of the small percentage of students who are able to play collegiate-level sports.
The concepts behind these pillars were progressively developed over a course of four to five months to best reflect the program’s success. The first pillar is “humility and action” which represents the role that the athletes embody within the community to serve and give back.
The following three pillars comprise the process that the athletes will face to continue the success. The second pillar is “hard work is a given,” meaning that the expectation is to work hard, but some athletes will be rewarded for their talent and success.
The third is “toughness and tolerance” which deals with the rigors of being a Division I athlete and taking advantage of criticisms and failures to learn and grow. The fourth is “legacy” which reflects the idea that players should leave the program a better place after serving their time on the team.
The second and third pillars are referred to as the engine of the program. Thomas insists that just showing up and working hard is not enough. Rather, the athletes and coaches have to actually be good at what they do. There is an evident focus on improvement and growth.
To complete this concept comes the roof of “gratitude” that sits over the four pillars to make up the foundation of the women’s soccer program.
“As hard as life is and as difficult as this process is, we should be thankful for it,” Thomas said. “We are healthy and other people aren’t. We are affluent enough to do this and other people aren’t. We are smart enough to do this and other people aren’t. We are athletic enough to do this and other people aren’t. It is a real blessing to be able to do what we do and sometimes you can get lost in the hardship of it. Hopefully working on tangible gratitude keeps these guys grounded through all of that.”
Boise State women’s soccer has announced their spring schedule with their first game scheduled for March 31 to face Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.