At the time, all soccer in West Virginia was played in one division, and our team always faced Capital High School and George Washington, two good soccer schools several times bigger than us, in the sectional (first round) of the playoffs. Although we went in with good teams each of those seasons, we never could get over the hump and beat both in order to progress to regional play.
So before the sectional semi-final in my daughter's senior year (my last as an assistant), I decided to give the girls little slips of paper that had a theme for the playoffs that they could put in their shoes or in their shinguards to take on to the field with them to remind them about what our task was, and perhaps feel a little comfort that those of us on the sidelines were there with them in spirit.
After that first season (in which we lost in the second round) and all my years as head coach, I continued the practice with two changes: our first year of AA-A competition I decided to write a different message for each game and, in one and only one instance, I gave them all a slip before a regular season game.
I tried to hold on to those slips but over the years I lost some, and others were literally washed away by the occasional deluge (I kept them in my worn black bag that accompanied me to every game along with spare keeper gloves, spare shinguards, and my ubiquitous notebooks in which I would scratch my observations of the game and about our and the opposing players).
The ones that survived, or that I recall, I list below, more or less in chronological order. If any former players out there have or remember others, please comment or send me an email so I can add them to the list. Some are self-explanatory, some will be completely cryptic, but that's what makes it fun, I hope.
First time, last time, OUR time.
Play hard -- respect your opponent.
This is our first chance to make history.
We do the ordinary things better.
Anytime, anywhere. Too bad for them it's here and now.
Perfect day, perfect place -- have some fun and play hard.
Play with passion.
Make a statement.
To repeat takes character.
First step to a third star.
Avenge the ball!
Be the greatest.
This is what we play for.
Be smarter, play harder.
And, finally, what were always my last words after our pre-game Hail Mary:
"Play hard, Have fun."
|Breaking the huddle at the 2009 State Finals -- |
right after my customary "Play Hard, Have Fun."