Former All-WCC Honorable Mention and All-Freshman Team selection Lauren Matheson (LM) has been a consistent contributor during her time as a member of the women's soccer team. The rising senior has been taking her game to the next level by further developing her leadership skills during the offseason. On the heels of a strong spring showing, www.SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCB) asked Matheson about the steps she has been taking to improve her leadership ability as well as her production on the field during the team's preseason play.
By: Vince Menon '14
SCB: Describe the leadership program that you're participating in. Who is involved and what does it consist of?
LM: The leadership program with the soccer team is a small group that gets together on a weekly basis with the coaches to discuss the team, action items and our leadership roles on the team. The other three members in the group are Julie Johnston, Olivia Klei and Mana Shim. Each week we get challenged with leadership tasks and responsibilities for both on and off the field and we usually evaluate our progress throughout our meetings. Being a part of this group is such a great learning experience and it has really helped me to grow and mature as a person, player and leader.
SCB: How did you hear about this opportunity? Why were you interested in it?
LM: I first heard about this opportunity on my recruiting trip. [Head Coach] Jerry [Smith] explained the group and its purpose to me and my parents and ever since then I knew I wanted to be involved with the program when I became a part of the team.
SCB: What activities and exercises helped you practice and improve your leadership skills?
LM: There are various different things we get to do to develop as a leader. [We work on] coordinating our fundraisers or community service activities to being vocal and motivating on the field. There are so many leadership opportunities and challenges that just get presented to you and through this program we've all really developed our confidence in taking the lead and knowing what to do in those situations.
SCB: What did you expect going in? How did your expectations differ from the actual experience?
LM: I was lucky enough to be a part of the leadership program last year so going into it this year I thought we would have the same tasks and goals as the previous year. Though we do have similar responsibilities, this year we've been able to focus more on developing as individual leaders. We have a lot more game-day responsibilities and Jerry has really helped us to constantly be aware of asking ourselves, "how can I be a better leader in this situation?"
SCB: What was the biggest surprise, either looking at the whole experience or regarding your individual leadership?
LM: I think the biggest surprise is how much I've learned and developed as a leader. It's really rewarding to see your own progress.
SCB: How did you grow as a leader or further understand and improve your leadership style as a result of the experience?
LM: I feel like I'm just more confident and more assertive. We have some great leaders on our team, in and out of this leadership group, and I think it's great we can all learn from each other and help one another develop.
SCB: Why do you think having strong leadership ability is important for you? How does it fit in with your role as a senior on the team?
LM: Strong leadership is essential for a team's success because it keeps the team united and focused. As seniors, we have to be able to set the standard and be the role models for the younger players through our leadership.
SCB: How do you think having this leadership ability will help you in your professional career after graduating Santa Clara?
LM: What I've taken away from this program the most is confidence, hard work and responsibility. If I can continue to develop those aspects then I feel I'll be successful in anything I get the opportunity to do after graduating Santa Clara.
SCB: Changing topics, how do you think spring practices and workouts have been going for the team and for you?
LM: Practices have been great. We have a solid team that goes out to compete and get better every day. Our team has such good chemistry on and off the field and it is awesome to see everyone complete at practice but also have fun with it.
SCB: With a number of key players graduating after last season, how is the team dynamic different this year? Is there more competition for playing time and roles?
LM: The dynamic hasn't changed too much except the fact that we've all gotten a lot closer. We've all been together since last July and we've become a family. We do miss the seniors who are going to be graduating this spring but they still come out to most of the practices and work out with us so it's great to still have them around.
SCB: You notched wins over the semi-professional Sacramento Sate Storm as well as Cal. How did you play as a team and individually in these matches? What did you learn?
LM: Our spring games are focused more on development than winning. We still have our "game-day goals" which we try to focus on but we are also trying out different formations, different styles of play, ect. to sort of test the waters and see what will work for the team next season.
SCB: Finally, what are you still looking to improve on most as a team and for your own game before the season starts?
LM: What the team is mainly working on right now is building out of the back. Our goal is to play a more possession style of play and work our way up the field through combinations and off the ball movement. Personally, I've been focusing on rhythm and playing simple. Our assistant coach Greg Murphy always tells the midfielders "simplicity is genius" and I think that mentality has worked out really well for us.