Interviews with players reveal that the best teams are supportive and goal-oriented
The stereotype that soccer is traditionally a sport for men can prevent women from giving this passion their all; that’s definitely not the case for the University of Regina (U of R) Cougars women’s soccer team.
These skilled players have battled through this stereotype and conquered several games against different teams nationwide. This is due to the team’s supportive environment and their coach’s dedication to the team.
Their coach, Astrid Baecker, has been pushing her players to achieve their truest potential since her appointment in January 2022, earning her the love and respect of her players. “We’re going to ensure that everybody individually has an understanding of our principles,” said Coach Baecker in a women’s soccer update posted to YouTube by the University of Regina Cougars account one year ago. Her dedication to and love for the team motivates the team players to show up and give back to the sporting community.
The players are known for having each other’s backs and pushing each other to do better. As Sana Karam, the midfield and forward of the team, said, “They really help push myself to become a better person and player, and it’s really nice to experience everything at the university sport level.” Karam is a first-year at the U of R, and her team has been nothing but welcoming.
She explained her team’s culture and attitude from an inside perspective: “It’s very easy to fit in just because everyone is so welcoming and understanding. I think in our team culture of what I’ve seen so far, […] everyone strives to play for each other and together. So that’s a big motto in our team room, is to play for each other.” Progressing in the league has been a fun experience for Karam and a great learning curve, as she feels there is so much to know and grow from.
Kirsten Koellmel, team midfielder and all-arounder, said that the team has an empowering atmosphere. “I love being around the team so much. The girls are great but also the coaching staff is great – it’s mostly all women, which is really empowering, and they really relate to us. […] I think that just helps that they have all been through the university soccer experience too, a good tight-knit [group] of women that I love to be around.” The empowering atmosphere encourages her and others to show up and give it their all.
Koellmel is in her fourth-year of soccer with the university, but she has plans to stick around, polish her skills, and give back to the team by bringing more accolades. Koellmel started soccer at age eight, and has developed a passion for it ever since. She attributes her younger-self’s interest in soccer to her brothers, who also played in the sport.
“I have met some of my greatest friends from this team,” said Koellmel. “We have a good array of girls, […] from B.C. to Manitoba. We’re all very supportive of each other and we always push each other which only makes us better players and people. […] We are very close, […] we also hang out outside of soccer.”
“We show up every weekend for every game, everyone just puts their bodies on the line. […] Strive to do better than we did last season.” From Karam’s words, she explained that the team is always striving to meet and exceed their standards. “It’s been very good so far.” The U of R Cougars women’s soccer team always aims to “do more.”
As for prepping for games, “Individually, each person has their own pre-game routine,” said Karam. “Some people like to jump up and down, […] some people like to be quiet and be prepared for the game. Each person is different, but right before the game starts, we all come together as a team. Our coach, Astrid, gives us a pre-game talk that really pumps us up for the game.” This preparation for the game attributes to their success.
“Try your absolute hardest and put in 100 per cent of whatever you have that specific day. […] I think I’ve learned most of my lessons through being on the team,” Koellmel said. These lessons are ones that Koellmel feels are important for not just sports, but her personal life as well.
Both Koellmel and Karam report positive experiences with their team, with many life lessons that can be applied to their academic and personal lives. Karam said, “Just keep working hard. It can be [a] stressful process to try and get to play at a high level like U Sports, but if you keep working hard, coaches are able to notice that, […] and you just keep getting better. And, eventually, things work out.”
The Cougars women’s soccer team has come so far with dedicated players guided by even more determined coaches. The players put their best foot forward when they play a game, determined to continually improve and come out of their future games with flying colours. As the sports community at the U of R continues to fly flags higher, we should continue supporting them in their endeavours by extending love and support for the community. Doing so will only bring forth goodwill and richness to sports.