The Castleton University women’s soccer team has challenged themselves with goals made of more than just metal and nylon. Head Coach Chris Chapdelaine and his squad are making an effort to raise funds to support them specifically in the areas of health, well-being, and student success.
“All of these are outside the scope of our operating budget and require us to raise extra money to provide them,” Chapdelaine said. “Each of these areas are vital to the performance of our student-athletes on the field, but are far more important to their development as people.”
According to Chapdelaine, the Health, Well-Being, and Student Success Fundraiser is a year-round endeavor that aims to build a foundation of support for his student-athletes.
“Last season our team experienced a number of mental health, nutrition, and student success issues. This led us to the implementation of new supports this season to ensure that we do not go down that road again,” he said.
Chapdelaine also said that in addition to games, practices, and academics, the Spartans spend much of their free time throughout the year putting others before themselves and volunteering in the community. Each year Chapdelaine and his team volunteer with the Ronald McDonald House, Special Olympics, host free clinics for local schools, participate in the festival of trees, mentor elementary school children, and more.
“This fundraiser isn’t for us to get balls or t-shirts,” he said. “It’s to help us give those tools to develop a better quality person and give them the support to enhance their experience.”
In the area of health, Chapdelaine started a food pantry in the team locker room last season with healthy snack options available between classes, before, and after practices. In the last year, Chapdelaine said the food pantry offerings have only grown and that he has even added a white board in the locker room for the team to make their own grocery lists. Chapdelaine said this investment in quality nutrition for his team costs approximately $1,200 a season.
“It’s the little things like that, that go a long way,” he said of the food stash.
Additionally, the team also participates in regular nutrition sessions and check-ins throughout the season.
In the interest of improving mental health and overall well-being, Chapdelaine hired sports psychologist, Stu Singer, this fall to work with his team. From Boston based WellPerformance, Singer is a director and performance coach with more than a decade of experience in the fields of counseling, psychotherapy practice, coaching, as well as mental performance and sports performance psychology. Singer’s resume includes mental performance skills coaching for athletes spanning elite high school level through college on to professional, claims Performance Enhancement Coach for the Connecticut Suns of the WNBA, and now Sports Psychologist for the Spartans.
“His focus is on providing our student-athletes with the tools to handle stress, anxiety, and other life or performance issues to help limit mental illness as well as develop mentally strong young adults,” Chapdelaine said. “He has been tremendous in changing our focus and changing our mindset.”
Singer’s philosophy is based on three core principles of mental strength; be in the present moment, focus your attention on what you can control, and stay out of judgement.
“You have to train your mind like you train anything else. It’s about reps,” said Chapdelaine. “Stu has provided us with the means to do that.”
With the season now well underway, Singer is still accessible to the Spartans via FaceTime sessions and has developed an app to help them carry out the strategies for success they created together during the preseason.
“I haven’t forced it, but they have totally embraced it,” said Chapdelaine. “They really see the value and benefit, and in that regard trust why we want to continue.”
Looking ahead, Chapdelaine said he intends to continue with the food pantry and sports psychologist but also plans to add an academic coach to enrich the area of student success. The role of the academic coach would be to assist with academic monitoring, class scheduling, and overseeing all other academic issues.
“At the end of the day we want our kids to grow first. Athletics is just second to the academic mission,” he said. “We’ve really changed our focus to developing that holistic person. We’re not just developing the best athletes, but developing the best people. We’re asking, ‘What are you looking for beyond Castleton?’ and ‘How can we get you to that point?’”
To donate to the Women’s Soccer Health, Well-Being, and Student Success Fundraiser please contact Chris Chapdelaine or visit: Castletonsports.com/WSoccerInitiative