Friday, February 3, 2023

Maddie Bishop and her Soccer Friendships

By Katherine Redd

IMC Student

Bishop Ole Miss team photo

“I wanted to be just like my older brother,” Ole Miss soccer player Maddie Bishop said when asked why she wanted to play college ball. He played football, and so does she—but hers is a different kind of football. 

Bishop, a sophomore from Memphis, spent her teenage years going to University of Memphis football games, watching her brother play and cheering him on from the stands. “He was one of the only players from Memphis,” she said, “so a lot of his teammates and friends were always over for dinner and on holidays.”

Bishop carefully watched the bonds and friendships her brother was forming as part of a college athletics team and knew she wanted the same thing. She now attributes a lot of her friendships to the sport she plays—soccer. 

When she was growing up, soccer was Bishop’s favorite sport. She had tried an array of sports to keep a busy schedule—basketball, tennis, lacrosse, track—but she always wanted to be in the backyard kicking a soccer ball that was a size too big for her age. 

In elementary school, Bishop and some friends tried out for a competitive soccer team, which brought fun times with friends, great coaches as role models and some travel. But once she hit middle school came, the age in which teams were classified changed, so two age groups of girls were trying out for one team. Bishop did not make the team with the rest of her friends, but she said that “even at such an early age this taught me to work hard for the things I want and to always be a good teammate.” 

When thinking about her soccer career after high school, Bishop knew she wanted to play on the collegiate level. The recruitment process for women’s soccer starts as early as ninth grade, especially for Division 1 schools. Many players reach out to coaches first with an introductory email and highlight video. Success in the recruiting process is found through players’ efforts. 

Bishop traveled to Identification Camps, which give high school players a glimpse of the collegiate soccer environment. Her club soccer coach also happened to be a men’s coach at the collegiate level. He made each team member email 20 schools for every game or scrimmage they had for exposure. 

While growing up, Bishop always had her soccer friends and her school friends. “I wanted to go to a school that I would be happy at outside of soccer,” she said. “Ole Miss was that for me.”  

It also had something else.

“I wanted to join a sorority because my mom and sister were in one,” she said. “Having a social life outside of soccer to escape the pressures of the sport was important to me. I wanted to have that additional support network.”

In the beginning, Bishop had a hard time. Being a freshman in college is already scary and is a difficult transition for many. Adding soccer and a sorority on top of that was a lot for her to handle. “It was difficult to participate in the social, sisterhood and philanthropy events that come with Greek life,” Bishop said, reflecting on her freshman year. “I felt like I was falling behind and not making memories like everyone else was.” 

Not only did Bishop have to work on her friendships, she also had to work for playing time on the soccer field. Her freshman preseason was tough, both mentally and physically. She said, “Being on a team with such quality players largely affected my confidence as a player.” 

Now, as a sophomore, she can’t imagine life without soccer and sorority. She’s figured out how to balance her busy soccer schedule and maintain her friendships on and off the field. And both figure into what she describes as one of her favorite memories:

“I remember spring semester of freshman year. We have scrimmages, but they aren’t official games, so the crowd and atmosphere are completely different. I remember one game specifically. We were warming up, listening to music, the usual game day routine.

“I looked up in the stands and saw so many of my friends from my sorority. They had signs and were cheering me on. It was also one of the first games I got significant playing time. It was so special and something I’ll never forget.” 

It’s times like those when Bishop thinks about her childhood self, playing soccer in the backyard with that ball that was too big. She remembers all the memories and friendships she made as a child because of soccer.  

Although the Ole Miss Women’s Soccer Team suffered a disappointing loss to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals, Bishop knows she had friends cheering her on from near and far and on and off the field. 

“I couldn’t be more thankful for the friendships I’ve formed from soccer,” she said.  

Bishop and teammates

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