When the Poly Girls Varsity Soccer team stepped on the Rose Bowl field for their game against Mayfield Senior School, many of the girls were excited about being on the same field that musician Taylor Swift had performed on for her stadium tour.
“I had to remind the students that many World Cups were played on the field, including the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final,” said Varsity Head Coach Heidi Strauss. “I was there as a fan for the final and saw that game. I reminded them to take it all in because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal.”
The game was also a historic moment for Poly, as the coaching staff is currently composed of all-female coaches including Heidi Strauss, Jamie Bell, and Andrea Otero coaching Varsity, and Kat Castillo and Nat Treister ’14 coaching JV.
Last year, Heidi was appointed the new head coach of the girls Varsity team after serving as an assistant coach since 2007. She took the role with the caveat that Jamie would stay on as assistant coach and they brought on Andrea as goalkeeping coach. Nat previously coached the JV team after playing for Poly as a student and winning the 2013 regional championship with Heidi and Jamie as her coach. The special coaching team also gained familiarity through years coaching the California Athletic Soccer Club in Glendale.
The all-female team says their coaching style hasn’t changed much as a result of the new leadership, but their commitment to Poly’s values has remained steadfast.
“I think this year is very get back out there and play, versus hardcore training to win games,” said Heidi. “Obviously we’re still competitive and want to win games, but the focus has shifted to get kids back to playing for social-emotional health and being around people.”
Jamie added that the pandemic has increased training with both the Varsity and JV teams together, challenging JV players and testing who is truly committed to the game. “It’s much more about the experience than the win-loss record,” she said.
The coaches agree that there is strong leadership among the seniors and the team feels very inclusive. For the new freshman on the team, who have only experienced the Upper School through the pandemic, there are many opportunities through soccer to meet people and feel comfortable with others.
Nat shared that the JV level has definitely risen and that it is a testament to how hard they work for each other. “There’s a unique balance with Poly Athletics in the sense that you have kids who are going to college to play, but they’re also just normal high schoolers who work really hard in the classroom and turn it on as competitive athletes. The student versus athlete balance is hard to strike, and the varsity team has done a really good job of it. It will be a special program moving forward.”