Playing Under Pressure


 The neatly trimmed soccer field was ready for playing on Nov. 12. All four sidelines filled with supporting teammates and college scouts. Ellie Fife, a sophomore at CHS, looked around at the other girls dressed in navy Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) uniforms. She had only warmed up with her team for the first time five minutes ago; no one knew each other very well. 

Fife’s stomach churned; she knew she was prepared, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t nervous. 

Fife was getting ready to play in a selection game at a showcase, something she had dreamed of doing since she started coming to these tournaments.

Playing in an ECNL National Selection Game is not offered to everyone. The game is essentially an ‘all-star’ game at a national showcase. The showcase in San Diego, CA, hosted over 160 teams from more than 50 clubs around the country. When Fife learned that she was one of the few to be offered the chance to play in this game, she was proud of herself. 

“I feel grateful because I get the opportunity to play in front of colleges and play with some of the best girls in the country,” Fife said.

Ever since Fife was a little girl, she has spent evenings at practice and weekends at games. Growing up, she has been able to meet some of her closest friends and build relationships that would not have been possible without soccer. 

Fife has played on several different teams throughout her life. She started at a local club in Ann Arbor, where her younger siblings had also started soccer. When she was 12, she began playing for the Michigan Hawks—based in Livonia. 

Whenever she becomes stressed or overwhelmed with things going on in her life, soccer gives her something to direct her energy towards; it’s always a thing in her life she can control. 

“Soccer is my outlet, my stress reliever,” Fife said. “When I step on the field, I really feel like I’m free. Like nothing else matters, just me and the ball.” 

Having this experience of playing with other girls who were on the National Selection team will help Fife as she goes back to her club team. They gave her advice on the college recruiting process and getting to play with them showed her the level of committed players.

Fife finds that she tends to improve the most in environments where she’s uncomfortable—or when things are unfamiliar to her. She tries her best to turn nerves into energy.

“I was just able to focus more; the nerves just went away,” Fife said. “I remind myself that even though the stage is different, it’s the same game.”

Fife’s ultimate goal is to play soccer in college. Growing up in Ann Arbor, she has attended many University of Michigan women’s soccer games with her family and has always looked up to the players. 

Although the recruiting process can be intimidating and stressful, Fife looks forward to opportunities to play in front of scouts. 

“When you see scouts on the sidelines, it can be nerve-wracking,” Fife said. “It almost feels like a make or break moment.”

Fife puts pressure on herself in big-game situations. It’s hard not to when she feels like she has to make a good first impression. Making a bad pass or a simple mistake in front of a school of interest can get frustrating. She constantly reminds herself that as long as she sprints back to defend or win the ball back, one mistake does not mean everything is over.