When Liz Franco joined the women’s soccer team at Cal State L.A. in fall 2007, it seemed the program was poised for a breakthrough. Started in 1995, the team’s first winning season was in 2004 and was yet to record a 10-win season.
Two All-America awards, a conference Most Valuable Player honor and a team conference championship later, Franco can look back on a rewarding four-year Golden Eagle career. She can also take the lessons learned from being part of an intercollegiate team to apply as she prepares for life after college.
“I had a great experience playing for Cal State L.A.’s women’s soccer team for four years and learned that teamwork is the key to success,” Franco said. “Communication, leadership, respect come from teamwork that helped me build my speaking skills and the ability to work with a group. Participation is easier for me because, after being a captain for two years, speaking in front of an audience now comes naturally.”
Franco, who hopes to pursue a career in sports administration, was on Cal State L.A. teams that won 52 matches over four seasons, including a first-ever California Collegiate Athletic Association championship in 2009. In her 2007 freshman season, the Golden Eagles qualified for the NCAA playoffs for the first time and advanced to the West Region championship match. Over her last two seasons, the Golden Eagles were a combined 32-7-3, with the conference’s best record both years.
Khadijah Greenwood, Franco’s teammate on the 2007 and 2008 squads, and three-time All-CCAA forward, is pursuing a career in nursing. She says being on a team helped her in her chosen career.
“I developed a lot of good relationships with my teammates and coaches. One thing you get is the opportunity to work together,” Greenwood said. “I was able to improve my communication skills, which is key in nursing. You have to be able to communicate with doctors and patients to determine the best possible care.”
Another aspect of being on a team is learning how to get along with teammates of diverse backgrounds. Cal State L.A. women’s tennis coach Sandy Kriezel said she always enjoys seeing student-athletes learn about other points of view and eventually grow to become a tight-knit team.
“Being on a team opens their eyes to other people’s beliefs and life experiences,” Kriezel said. “I think sharing a personal space with people who are different makes them well-rounded. Many have very limited life experiences before they come to college and to see them grow as young adults over the course of the next few years is enjoyable to see.”
Even in sports like track and field, where student-athletes compete in individual events, there is a team-building aspect. Eugene Hutchinson, a two-time national runner-up in the high jump at Cal State L.A. who is now a coach at Maranatha High School in Pasadena, said being a team captain helped him acquire leadership abilities that he has been able to use since graduation.
“It was a great experience for me because I was able to come in right away and take on a leadership role. That helped me grow as a person and I gained a certain maturity and a level head,” Hutchinson said. “There is a team aspect to track and field because you train together and travel together and at the end of the year, when your team is trying to win a national championship, it’s a team effort because it takes more than one individual to win it.”
Hutchinson, who holds the school record in the high jump, also said being on a collegiate team teaches the student-athletes responsibility -- traits valuable in the work place.
“You have to be responsible. You have to show up every day to practice. You have to be motivated and have a drive to do it every day,” Hutchinson said. “That’s something you need to carry with you. You have to wake up every day for your job. You have to want to be successful or you won’t be successful in the corporate world.”