Raise your hand if you’re a student-athlete who doesn’t have time to commit to a varsity team, but has a competitive spirit that isn’t satisfied with only intramural (IM) sports. If this describes you, you’ve probably looked into club sports.
Wheaton has a plethora of teams that sit between the varsity and IM level of play, giving men and women the chance to compete in the sport they love with more flexibility.
Until this fall, Wheaton College had failed to produce a Women’s Club Soccer team, but this year sophomores Maddie Cote and Tess Sutton decided to take matters into their own hands. They set up meetings, sent emails, found supporters for their cause and, over the course of the summer, they developed a club soccer team for women.
Sixteen female students attended a meeting the first week of school. There, the beginnings of the first Wheaton College Women’s Club Soccer team were formed. M. Cote and Sutton introduced Keith Cote, Chicago West Area point leader for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), to the team. FCA agreed to sponsor the team, although the girls will have to fundraise as well.
Most importantly, Sutton announced the discovery of a soccer coach, Ryan Estabrook, willing to commit to the team. At the close of the meeting, a practice and game schedule was handed out and the girls excitedly filed out of the classroom, whispering their excitement and awe at the existence of the team.
Estabrook is a perfect fit. Previously a coach for Geneva High School’s varsity soccer team, he is an experienced player and instructor. But his best quality is his passion for this particular team. Tired of coaching D1 prospective players at Geneva High School but not ready to coach eight-year- olds, Estabrook feels as if he’s found his “sweet spot” in coaching. “I’m excited that everyone is getting another chance to play soccer as part of a team during college,” Estabrook said.
“I think our squad has a talented group of ladies. As we’ve gotten to know each other, I can tell that this is going to be a very quality team.” The first practice was held on Wednesday, Aug. 29th in Joe Bean Stadium. Seventeen girls showed up and scrimmaged for two hours under the lights. Within the next week, Estabrook was running intense technical practices, including drills, scrimmages and conditioning, to prepare for the first game.
The first game was held in Milwaukee against Marquette’s club team. Although they were competing against a team comprised of players just shy of a D1 team, the Wheaton women were not afraid or discouraged.
“I wasn’t even thinking about the outcome,” said sophomore Sharyn Tomm, “It just felt good to lace up my boots and step on the field again. It felt magical.” They lost the first game 8-0, but the girls weren’t deterred.
“They left the field smiling and laughing,” said fan Mica Bueno. “They’re a super positive group of girls that are fun to support. More people should go watch the games.” The season continues as the team practices twice a week and will play in several games and scrimmages in these next few months. Still building their reputation, Wheaton has their work cut out for them as they work their way into difficult leagues.
But with energy, determination and focus on Christ, they’re excited to make their first season a good one.