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Charlotte 49ers women's soccer learn meaning and value of culture
Pandemic brings Charlotte program closer
Published Sunday, July 5, 2020 9:37 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

The Charlotte 49ers have looked to stay mentally and physically sharp to prepare for the women's soccer campaign.

COVID-19 has shown Charlotte 49ers women’s soccer where they stand.

No one expected a pandemic heading into 2020, yet campuses closed, seasons were canceled, programs cut, and it still is not over.

“What I’ve learned from this is how strong your culture can be,” coach John Cullen said. “You use the word culture a lot in sports, but you really do find out how strong your culture is. The way the players are able to maintain connection with one another, maintain a sense of purpose of still working toward things. We feel, like anything, culture can always improve, but I’ve found in these last three-four months how strong our culture is. They’re there for one another. There’s a lot of leaning on each other. There’s a lot of support, and the players haven’t disappeared into thin air.”

What the college sports season will look like has yet to be determined, but the 49ers have bought into preparing for whatever lies ahead.

“It could be as different of a season as we’ve ever experienced, but they’re embracing the positivity that there will be a season, and there is something to play for and work for,” Cullen said.

Cullen has challenged the 49ers to stay mentally sharp. Given that not all players have access to necessary equipment, he has realistic expectations for where the team will be when preseason starts.

“Do I expect them to be brilliant [on the field] when they return? No,” Cullen said. “Hopefully we’ll have an extended preseason to build that muscle back up, because they’ve lost muscle strength. They’ve lost power. They’ve lost cardio. At the same time, being engaged mentally means you haven’t switched off from sport and the lifestyle and commitment to learning. There’s ways that you keep it fresh without throwing too much soccer at them that they’re overwhelmed before they get back.”

Guest speakers are one way to keep the team engaged. North Carolina Courage and U.S. Women’s National Team forward Jessica McDonald spoke to the team.

“She talked about her story, and how late she got to the national team as a 26-28 year old single mother, and having to cope with different things that her teammates didn’t,” Cullen said.

As the 49ers navigates July, they have summer conditioning packets. Players who live in the area have the option to train on campus, where they are allowed to work in groups of no more than five with sports performance staff.  Coaching staff are not allowed to be involved in training. Most of it takes place outside to avoid touching more things than necessary, which would thus need to be sanitized. Currently they are focusing on soccer-specific running rather than soccer-specific work with a ball.

“It’s just building the body back up to learning how to run, and that may sound redundant—‘learning how to run,’ but it’s the type of running,” Cullen said. “You could go out for an 8-mile run, and it has no real relevance to soccer. You’ve got to go out for the 12-15 minutes of soccer-specific movements. Our sports performance coach is trying to get them familiarized again with the movements that will be required when they get out on the field.”


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