With the World Cup coming to a close, I found myself with a case of some serious soccer fever. That being said, I decide to embrace this soccer kick I’m in and take an inside look at the UNC women’s soccer team.
Champion is a word not unknown to the UNC women’s soccer team. But after a season not answered with a championship, a season that lost them six starters, and a season of wounds—both emotionally and physically, the team is not even close to giving up.
That confidence and persistence comes when players sign with the UNC team. This “University of National Champions” team comes with a competitive spirit, especially in the girls’ soccer world.
The tenacity is tangible once you enter the McCaskill Soccer Center in the heart of UNC’s campus
Walls coated with awards, shelves holding signed soccer balls, and a trophy case packed full with awards upholding champion ideals appeared in the room. Any open space was covered with blown up images of Carolina fans cheering on the girls to, what used to seem, an inevitable champion status.
When the team’s stats are researched, it’s hard to find a year where the word “Champions” doesn’t follow. 2013 is a year where “Quarterfinals” is read instead. And it’s not an easy read for the team—especially, when the season ender was on their turf.
UNC women’s soccer team is nothing short of a dynasty. Does the name Mia Hamm mean anything to you?
With 22 championships since 1981, Coach Anson Dorrance holds the most wins for a coach in college soccer history.
And his coaching, I believe, is the key. In the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with Coach Dorrance a few times. What I’ve learned from our interviews is to expect the unexpected.
When I walked into his office, I expected an organized room with a neat desk at the helm. Instead, I found a plaque quoting Albert Einstein, reading “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
What I saw behind the plaque should be an easy guess. A desk covered and coated with various papers, newspaper clippings, and knick-knacks. And the rest of the room was the same.
Coach Dorrance isn’t into structure; he likes freedom. And not just in his office.
I expected a coach with a record like his would be a lot stricter, more focused on the talent on the field and not the personalities of the players.
But he says he doesn’t give his players rules to follow, instead principles to live by. His players have said he focuses more on character than skill.
I expected to talk with him about soccer, and, yet, after only a few questions, he was showing me a cartoon and explaining to me why my generation doesn’t hold themselves accountable.
His goal is to have every one of his players take responsibility for herself. Because the sooner she does, the sooner she becomes a better player and, more importantly, a better person.
In doing so, he and the other coaches tabulate everything the players do. The girls always know exactly where they stand in every facet of the sport by numbers of one through thirty.
And that’s how the coach likes it. Numbers don’t lie, and no one is secure.
The lack of security is how the team enters their 2014 season. After losing a considerable number of senior “superstars,” as the coach calls them, and without a 2013 championship under their belt, competitive drive is everything in this upcoming season.
Coach Dorrance said there are a few girls on his radar to be his next “game-breaking players”—each with their own strengths and weaknesses they’ll bring to the field.
Rising senior Brooke Elby is one to look for.
After watching her play, I can honestly say that “pain” is a word unknown to Elby. Her willingness to take physical risks qualifies Elby as “a warrior” in Dorrance’s eyes. He said he feared for the girls who will have to go up against her.
And that competitive drive of Elby and the rest of the UNC women’s soccer team is why I have faith in the program. Their plans for the 2014 season can be summed up in one word: champions. The girls refuse to change their goals. And I refuse to change my statement that Carolina women’s soccer has and will continue to be described as one word: dynasty.