HELENA — On Wednesday, the Carroll College women’s soccer team took time out of their day to help mentor middle school girls on the Helena Arsenal team.
Brandon Price, Helena Capital’s girls soccer coach, also helps out with this Arsenal team and is passionate about keeping girls in soccer. To combat the drop off that girls soccer sees from middle school to high school, he came up with “pay-it-forward" practice. These practices give the older soccer players the ability to give back, and give the middle school girls an opportunity to make connections with women in soccer.
“I just have a real appreciation for women’s athletics and what the girls are trying to do, and that they get out there and be seen and get the same opportunities,” Price said.
Price hopes that through these practices the girls find a role model to help them want to pursue soccer even past high school. He says there is a significant drop in interest in soccer after grade school.
“In grade school you have 200 girls playing out there every Saturday. By the time they get to 7th and 8th grade we’re down to 15 to 18 girls that want to play and I think that it’s unfortunate. I think that in a town the size of Helena the opportunity exists for these girls to get some great coaching and excel at the sport,” Price said.
According to Carroll College midfielder Jaymee Sheridan, there are great coaches in Helena, one of them being Price, who coached her during her junior and senior seasons at Capital High.
“Brandon was the best coach I ever had… he completely transformed me from being an averagely-good soccer player to playing collegiately,” she said.
Sheridan says growing up she didn’t have many female figures to look up to in soccer and that she’s glad the US women’s national team gets more coverage now. She also hopes to see a pivot in how the media speaks about women’s sports and that people recognize that they do take their sports as seriously as the men do, that they’re not simply “having fun”.
“It has nothing to do with us being female, we’re athletes first,” Sheridan said.
Arsenal player Greta Petersen was one of the many girls who got to learn from the Carroll women on Wednesday.
“They’re teaching kids that they can also do advanced soccer and do really well in the sport at an older age. So, it kind of makes me want to keep going and do college soccer, it looks really fun when they play,” she said.
Petersen said that working with the Carroll girls taught her a lot about on-field relationships, noting that the girls get along, joke with each other, but also communicate when it’s important. She also admits that she was surprised with herself and some of her other Arsenal teammates at how they were able to keep up with the college women.
“Sometimes the touches are quick, so it's hard to keep up with them. But when you make a good pass you’re like ‘oh I can do this too,'” Petersen said.
For the next pay-it-forward practice, the girls will be joined by the Capital High Bruins varsity girls team.