Having success in the world of sports is not solely based on a team’s performance on the field. Many teams have had a close knit connection off the field that provides the team with a mentality exclusive to their teams.
Ball State Soccer has proven to be one of the most successful squads in the MAC, winning back-to-back regular season titles and collecting five straight 10-win seasons. Off the field, the team has become a part of a sisterhood as close knit as a military brotherhood.
“Before coming to Ball State, one of my stops along the way was at Virginia Military Institute,” said head coach Craig Roberts. “It is obviously very military based in regards to taking care of each other, helping your brother and so forth. It is on the same connotation with looking after your sister, and so we initially wanted to have that implemented at Ball State.”
Alongside a military closeness type feel, the team has also adapted a type of sorority feel in pairing new players up with veterans as “sisters.”
“It is just a case of who has common interests or similar personalities,” Roberts said. “Sometimes we may dabble in between loud and quiet and bring out the lesser of the two from a person. It is all about promoting the person that they are and bringing their true character out of them.”
One of these special bonds includes senior Allison Abbe and freshman Chelcy Ralph. Abbe was a transfer Cardinal after she spent two years at the University of Cincinnati. While she never had an older sister, she loves this program and how much it brings the team together.
“I think it is bigger than a present team,” Abbe said “It’s a whole organization in staying connected and feeling a sense of belongingness to our school and our program.”
Another pairing is sophomore Shelby Kean with freshman Tatiana Mason. Mason enjoys the sisterhood thoroughly in the connections that are made with each other.
“I think it is great especially coming in as a freshman,” Mason said. “You’re so nervous, and you don’t know what is going on and practices are scary. You have someone to help you move in and they are giving you rides to practice, and, I don’t know, being a big sister essentially, and I think that is great.”
This sisterhood brings the team together and makes sure no teammate gets left behind. They make sure every incoming freshman has a big sister to look up to and mimic.
With being a big sister comes a lot of responsibilities. From avoiding eating before games to getting to practice on time, the big sister is accountable for keeping their little sister in line. Being a big sister is a lot of work but proves to be rewarding in the end because of how quick friendships can be made.
“We just have an ongoing start of the season,” Roberts said. “When it begins, we are OK to laugh at ourselves and also create relationships for the future. They will be endless, they will never go away. It is a really true friendship that we create right off the bat.”
On the surface, it just seems like a way to make sure the team chemistry is good enough to play well together on the field, but this program is more than that. It is about creating lifelong friendships, building a community and making sure new teammates feel a sense of belonging.
“I am still connected to girls that were here even before I was here,” Abbe said. “I think it goes on even after your graduated. I know when the alumni come for the games, we pretty much know all of the girls coming in even if they are way past our present team.”