Forged in Fire - Humboldt State Now

Forged in Fire

The HSU Women's Soccer Team spent a day training with the Arcata Fire Department as a team-building exercise.

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The Soccer team poses in firefighting gear. Photo by Thomas Allie
Ask any coach and they will tell you that even though an abundance of talent is a solid indicator of a strong team it does not always transfer to success on the playing field. There is a reason why extremely talented teams sometimes underperform and why some lesser squads exceed expectations. Team chemistry is a contributor to the success of any sports program, and the interactions within the group lead to better communication and winning results.

This is a philosophy adopted by the Humboldt State women’s soccer program and Head Coach Paul Karver. The preseason is a time to learn, for players and coaches, and it’s important to get the team excited before the season starts. In hopes to promote team bonding, Karver scheduled a day for his team to spend with the Arcata Fire Department.

The event was a 13-hour day complete with fun and challenging events designed to develop leadership skills while also encouraging competitiveness.

“The day we spent with Arcata Fire was easily one of the most impactful days we have had as a program,” said Karver. “The day was challenging physically, mentally and emotionally from the start, and watching our girls rise to meet every challenge put before them was inspiring for us as a staff.”

The day began with a locker room breakfast at College Creek Field with the team reporting at 5:15 a.m. before departing for the Arcata Fire Department. There to greet the team was A-Shift Battalion Chief Operations Sean Campbell, Fire Captain Angie Dernnedde, and Firefighter Luke Walker.

Activities included a live fire demo, jaws of life demonstration, hose work, and firefighter rescue scenarios.

“The experience was unlike anything I’ve ever done before, in a good way,” said junior midfielder Rose Harman. “The team has always been close, and we have always been there for each other no matter what, but that day it felt like there was a shift in mentality. Everyone was so supportive, inclusive, and understanding. It was extremely hard work and probably the longest day we’ve had in a while. But all I could see was my best friends/ teammates smiling and having a great time, that’s what I appreciated the most.”

The highlight of the event was an obstacle course, as players were split into groups of five and asked to work together as they navigated their way through the course. The teams each selected a group leader before getting dressed in full firefighter gear, complete with a breathing apparatus and mask that had a grey film over the eyes to simulate smoke. The group leaders went through the course first and then instructed their teammates through different obstacles. At the end of the course was a long, dark tunnel barely big enough for a human to crawl through on its hands and knees.

“The day at the fire station was a wonderful opportunity,” said junior midfielder Mary Swisher. “The physical challenges were great obstacles, but the mental and emotional challenges definitely helped the team grow together. As strong women, I think it can be hard to ask for help sometimes, but this experience of vulnerability and struggle gave each of us the opportunity to build a new kind of trust with one another. The support and leadership from everyone was heartwarming and made me proud to be a part of this family.”

After a complete day of exhausting work, the team felt a new sense of trust within the group as many players who weren’t chosen as team captains rose to the challenge and took on unexpected leadership roles of their own.

“It was a challenging yet engaging experience that I enjoyed participating in with an amazing group of women,” said senior midfielder Pikake Hix. “It was also very interesting to see the similarities of group/teamwork between firefighters and soccer players. Starting with keywords within communication and supporting each other like a family. I realized that there are so many leaders on this team, some quieter than others! It taught me that working off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses by allowing others to lead based on specific situations will help get the job done as a whole.”

After a successful event, the plan is to establish a partnership between HSU Athletics and the Arcata Fire District.

“Other than having a great time with the team, we want to share our primary objective, which was to expose team-oriented women to the fire service with the goal of recruiting more females into the workforce,” explained Battalion Chief Sean Campbell. “Another objective that we feel was successfully met was to build community relationships and provide opportunities for community members to experience what firefighters face in their daily duties. Other than that, we express our belief that the academy was very successful and we appreciate the level of commitment by the team. The information they shared in the post-academy evaluations indicates they learned a great deal about teamwork and how to face challenges that are larger than one person to tackle alone.”

With the 2019 spring schedule set to begin this Saturday, team expectations are high as the excitement of facing outside competition continues to build.

“We cannot thank the Arcata Fire department enough for putting together a day like this for us,” said an appreciative Karver. “They were incredible and certainly have been a major piece of any success we have moving forward.”

Lumberjack fans can catch their first glimpse of the 2019 squad Saturday, April 6 with back-to-back games beginning with Lake Tahoe Junior College at 11 a.m. followed by Sierra Junior College at 1 p.m. at College Creek Field.