Diary of a Captain (TAYLOR): Hard days practice pay dividends on the field

Joe Taylor

Following the men’s soccer team’s tough weekend in Providence at the annual Brown Tournament, most of us just wanted to move on to our match with Fordham. Assistant Coach Ian Clerihew apparently felt the same way. As we sleepily shuffled off the bus Coach Clerihew encouraged us to “start focusing on our next test at Fordham.”

“Forget Fordham, your next test will come at practice on Tuesday,” Coach Carlin said. “Enjoy your day off.”

These daunting words echoed in my head as I attempted to enjoy my day away from soccer. Most of the people on the team began speculating which brutal fitness exercises Coach might put us through. We were all uneasy as we anticipated the hard practice. It wasn’t that we played badly at the tournament – quite the opposite really. Following a lackluster performance against Boston College, we bounced back with a solid effort against 12th-ranked Brown. Unfortunately, our dominant display didn’t translate where it mattered most – on the scoreboard – and this didn’t sit well with the coaching staff.

For those people who aren’t familiar with Carlin, his competitive fire is undying. His hunger for winning is so insatiable that he refuses to lose at anything, and I mean anything. He once told our team that winning should be so engrained in our minds that we should race one another to the door. At one practice last spring, he pulled out a football and split our team in half.

Thinking that we were being rewarded for our hard work during the offseason, some of us on the losing team spent the time laughing and thinking up celebrations. When the game ended, Coach called us into a huddle and proceeded to berate us for our lack of pride and character. Coach simply couldn’t comprehend the fact that some of us could stand to take a beating without fighting back, even if it was at football.

Thus, losing two games in a weekend certainly produced a strong reaction from our coach. The next practice proved to be a test just as he forecasted. Upon arriving at the stadium turf, the team was relieved to find that we would actually be using soccer balls at this practice rather than doing straight running for 90 minutes. Despite the welcome presence of soccer balls, the training session was sure to be no walk in the park. After a brief warmup, we dove head first into the action. Coach set up two goals 20 yards apart from one another, and we played one on one. The loser had to do 20 pushups, 20 situps and 40 yards of wounded dog runs. If the battle ended without a winner, then both players had to partake in the punishment.

Ordinarily, the 20 pushups and 20 situps wouldn’t have been so bad, but we had just participated in a tough lifting session led by Steve King. As for the wounded dog runs, they were as bad as they sounded. You need to run on all fours just like a dog, only your one leg is wounded. Therefore, you can only run on one leg and drag your wounded leg.

With the stakes now raised, the matches were intense, with neither player accepting defeat. Most of the games ended in a tie, which meant that three-quarters of our team was doing the punishment at once. Once you finally finished the punishment, you ran back in line to play where you most likely tied again, only to return to the outer edges of the field where you once more completed your penance. We were carrying out this agonizing routine with no end in sight. After seven or eight runs through the rigorous circuit, my pectorals began to burn. The 85 pounds I had benched pressed just hours ago was quickly catching up to me. The good news? My physique is more toned than ever, ladies. The better news, we all feel our team grew stronger mentally after completing such a demanding practice.

The same tone continued for the rest of the week. Practice had a new bite to it as our competitive juices flowed. Physically, the sessions weren’t quite as demanding. However, we continued to face mental tests whenever we stepped on the practice field. Coach made it clear that this program wasn’t going to stand for back-to-back losses. Any complacency was now tossed out the window. Although this caused a stressful week for most, when last Saturday’s game with Fordham rolled around, we had all grown tougher thanks to the experience.

When the game went into overtime, the lessons we had learned during the week paid dividends. Nobody lost their composure or their winning edge, and with just over a minute to play, sophomore Sean Mergenthal finally found the back of the net.

To grind out a game the way we did following a tough week was a satisfying experience. The anxiety we endured during the buildup to the contest was worthwhile, as we all learned a great deal about ourselves and our team. Hopefully these lessons stay with us throughout the season as we try to put together a memorable run.


Joe Taylor is a senior communication major from Southampton, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].