JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— This spring, JU’s women’s soccer team has remained positive, despite circumstances that aren’t ideal.
As the team takes on their spring games, they’re faced with the challenges that come with a smaller roster of players.
Currently, the team consists of 16 players, compared with the fall team, which had 24. The small size comes from a combination of graduating seniors and some long-term injuries that have limited the team’s number of healthy players.
Head Coach Laura Kane says that one of her focuses this spring is to keep her active players healthy.
“There is a little added pressure when you don’t have that security blanket of a couple of subs, because at any given point, knock on wood, you can carry another injury and then we’re in a pretty precarious situation,” said Kane. “So, it’s great until you cross that threshold of not having enough to play. So our goal is getting through all of our spring games healthy with the players that have been healthy throughout the spring.”
Overwhelmingly, the team has expressed positive views on the situation. For many, it is actually a good thing.
Maya Fisher, a coming-up senior on the team, says that having fewer players has challenged the team to work harder and take on extra responsibility. Fisher, via an email interview, said that among the benefits of a smaller team is an ability to grow closer.
“Because of practice and lift, our team is together about two to four hours every day,” wrote Fisher. “This would seem like a lot but everyone has been getting along extremely well and we’re all friends who truly love and care about each other. Having few players means that it is easier to interact and keep up with everyone.”
Aside from keeping players healthy, Kane says that one of her biggest focuses as coach is fostering a healthy team environment.
“I think there’s a huge impact right now in a positive way, because with less players, it’s easier to come together,” said Kane. “I think that’s been our focus this spring. It’s definitely been on team chemistry, team bonding, creating relationships, getting closer with one another, on and off the field. That’s easier when you have less numbers.”
Kane says that by focusing on creating that atmosphere now, the hope is that the environment will be maintained once new recruits are added in the fall.
Julianne Hutchison, a freshman, agrees that creating a positive team culture is a main focus for the team right now.
“We’re trying to create a very good culture for the team right now and we’re more focused on the quality of people we have and building a really good culture,” said Hutchison.” Whether that’s with 10 people or 30 people, as long as we have that culture, I think that’s what matters right now.”
Because of an ACL injury, Hutchison has not been able to play this spring. She has, however, been able to support her team from the sidelines and be a part of the team dynamic.
Hutchison says that team activities, have helped to strengthen their relationships and maintain a positive team culture. She recalls one activity, where the team met to discuss their values.
“We went around and each individual talked about what that means to them, what actions demonstrate those values, and we talked about people we feel demonstrate those values,” said Hutchison. “So I think that’s a big step in creating that culture.”
Fisher gives a lot of credit to the leadership that has helped take the team to where it is now.
“It helps that we have a coaching staff who cares so much about us and who also want us to care about each other,” wrote Fisher. “It has not been easy playing games and training with such few people, but because the dynamic between everyone is positive and because we are always rooting for one another, we still love the game of soccer and are excited for the future of this program.”