Fell's mental toughness
by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
Photos: Elmira Athletics
There is a lot that goes on in someones life that we, as writers, and people, don’t really know about, or even understand. As spectators, they just watch their favorite player compete on the court, the pitch, the ice, whatever their specialty is.
They root them on as they try to help their team get a win. The boo them if they don’t do well. As a student-athletes, they are dealing with everything from school work, to practice, to games to whatever their life is at the moment.
They may seem happy, but sometimes they are not. Sometimes people just know how to hide it more than others. They know how to mask it better so as to get through the day, the week, the month.
Now, there is more of a sense of urgency to make sure the athletes have what they need. Sometimes it’s now all about wins and losses, sometimes it just about getting your mind right. You now will see athletes quit, and stop playing, just to make sure they can work on their mental health.
Elmira College soccer player Sienna Fell knows how important your mental health can be. As an athlete, she makes sure she teaks all the right steps to be mentality strong for herself, and her teammates.
The team itself has taken it very seriously as they have implemented a bunch of things to help out the young women on the team. That could be as simple as mental health checks, and getting documents to look at it.
“It is so important to put yourself first mentally. If you can’t do that, it’s hard to really be there for your teammates. This year our team has implemented many things to improve this aspect of the players. One of the things we do is a mental health check in,” stated Fell. “These are quick Google Docs that allow you to communicate how you’re feeling privately. If a teammate is expressing poor mental health, they are guided to the appropriate resources. I think this is a great implementation we have added. A lot of the times mental health is ignored upon student athletes and they are left to struggle. It makes it feel like the coaches are really here for us as people, rather than just athletes.”
Fell also knows how important it is to have a life outside of the sport that you play. So many times now you see athletes, especially in high school, just focus on playing one sport 12 months a year.
When the season is over, they play for their travel team. When the travel season is over they go into offseason conditioning. Then repeat the cycle all over again. They don’t really give themselves time to breathe, or have a different hobby besides sports.
Making friends, and trying something different, can help you get into a better state of mind. In college, school and sports come first, but it’s finding that extra time to do something else, which is the most important.
“Having hobbies outside of soccer is extremely important. If all we do is play soccer and go to class, it can feel very repetitive and robotic,” stated Fell. “Of course, as student athletes we need to prioritize those things, but it can never hurt to pursue other things you love and make friends outside of your normal groups.”
It still isn’t being a student-athlete. In high school, life is a little bit easier. Practices aren’t that hard. For some sports there isn’t much of a lifting program. And if you are the best on your team, then the games aren’t that difficult.
In college it’s an entirely different ballgame. There is a lifting program, practices - some morning and night. College classes are little bit harder, and your expected to police yourself when it comes to school. There won’t be anyone telling you to go to class, and keep your grades up.
“Balancing college athletics, along with academics is never easy. It takes a good sense of time management and dedication. The most important thing that helps me with this is organization. The more schedules and calendars the better,” stated Fell. “Getting homework done between classes instead of napping is also another great tip I can recommend. The last thing you want to do is procrastinate. I like getting things done as early as I can so that I can also leave time for myself at the end of the day.”
On the field, Fell had a great freshman year. She came into the season not knowing what her spot on the team was going to be. She was a dominating player at Maryvale High School. But that doesn’t mean anything when she got to college.
She had to work hard and earn, everything that was given to her. Fell made an immediate impact as she started 13 games, and even scored her first goal of her career. Not bad for someone who didn’t know what to expect when she stepped on campus.
“Coming in and playing so much last season really demonstrates the fact that anyone’s spot has to be worked for, whether you’re new or returning,” stated Fell. “Last year, I worked really hard and earned my spot. This year isn’t any easier. All of the girls have so much talent, but it keeps the whole team on their toes.”
Coming to college, it’s not like Fell wasn’t use to logging a lot of minutes on the pitch. At Maryvale she was a key player for the Flyers, not just in soccer, but the other two sports she played as well.
So, fatigue was never going to be a factor for Fell. Still, logging more than 1,300 minutes does take a toll on your body at times. During the season, especially in early September when the weather is still hot, hydration and nutrition was key to keep her body ready to go.
“As basic as it sounds, nutrition was key. Especially during season, I was burning a lot of calories that needed to be replaced. This meant I had to also had to be consuming just as many, if not more, of the fuel I was burning,” explained Fell. “There were many times where I was extremely sore, so I did a couple of yoga sessions, which helped tremendously. Muscle guns and foam rollers were a big help. Drinking enough water was also hard to keep up with, but I did a pretty good job at it. The hardest part for me was sleep. Sleep is key to recovery and with my busy schedule, it was really difficult fitting everything into one day. I really struggled with getting enough sleep last year, but I am now getting into a good routine and I can feel the difference.”
The difference even has helped her earn her first goal last year. Listed this season as a defender, Fell played on the wing last year. The goal was a sense of relief for Fell. She was happy to get the first one out of the way.
Because she didn’t know what to expect her first year, getting the goal was an accomplishment.
“When I scored my first goal, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment,” stated Fell. “As a first year, I wasn’t expecting to get much time on the field, but with a lot of hard work I was so proud of myself after scoring that first goal.”
The one thing you will notice with Fell is her versatility. Last year she was playing on the wing. This season she was practicing on the back line, It’s that type of versatility that coaches love.
Fell also likes seeing the game from a different point of view, and she can do that by playing defense. There she can see the entire game, and see what the other team might be doing, or how they are setting up.
“Interesting enough, I played winger my first season. This season, I have been practicing with the defensive line and have even been put up top. I think one of my biggest strengths is versatility,” stated Fell. “I have learned a lot in college about positioning, and I’m not done yet. When I am in a defensive position, it opens up the view of the field. With this in mind, I am learning to push up when my offensive line needs help. When my team has possession, the more support provided, the better chance we have at scoring. It’s really all about reading the play and knowing when you can push up and also keeping in mind when you are going to have to hustle back.”
Fell is still growing into the position. As a freshman last year, Fell was kind of quiet on the field That isn’t good if you are a defender. Defenders have to be vocal, and communicate well, or things can go wrong in a hurry.
Fell admits she was a little timid in the beginning, but now will say what she needs to say to make sure everyone is in the right position. She is still getting used to reading the opposing team when it comes to 1v1 as well.
The biggest thing for her is making sure that she is in the right position as quick as possible before the opposing player tries to take her on.
“The defensive line has the best view of the field, other than the goalie. Because of this, it is so important to communicate and be vocal. We can see a lot of things happening that other players may miss. Everyone needs to be on the same page so the more communication, the better. As a freshman, I was a little shy at first on being vocal. I soon realized that if things were properly communicated, it would only be to benefit of my teammates,” stated Fell. “When an attacker comes at me 1v1, it can be quite intimidating. It is important to get there quickly and stay low. A lot of attackers try to trick you with fancy footwork. As a defender, if you watch their hips rather than their feet, it will tell you exactly what their next move is.”