Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit."
It's a common thing to hear USC Women's Soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin repeatedly quoting Aristotle to his players. This year, he can rely on sophomore Jamie Fink to be habitually excellent as a midfielder. Fink is supplementing a standout freshman year with an even bigger role in her second season.
The 19-year old from Calabasas started all 19 games as a freshman, something she says was a lot to take in, but the pressure was eased by the guidance of older girls on the team who included Fink in every aspect. She seemed to handle the pressure quite well as she was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team at the end of the 2012 season.
Fink played more of a defensive midfielder role last season for a team that struggled to capitalize on scoring opportunities. She finished the season with only one goal and an assist but Khosroshahin spoke with Fink in the offseason to encourage her to focus on the offensive side of the game.
He said, "We always try to encourage our players to continue to develop. Jamie was extremely solid and effective defensively for us last season. However, she was a little reluctant and hesitant to get into the attack. It was the biggest topic of discussion for her game in the offseason. So far, in five games, she has put herself more into the attack than all of last year. Now we just continue to work on shot selection and directing traffic in the penalty box."
Fink's hard work in the offseason has already redeemed itself, as the sophomore has two goals and one assist in only five games.
Fink wasn't the only one dedicated to improving during the offseason. The entire team devoted itself to getting better through something called "The Program".
The Program is an outside organization run by ex-military officers that prides itself on "building leaders and good teammates through shared adversity." The USC Women's Soccer team was put through group tasks that caused the teammates to depend on each other to succeed. In one instance, the girls ran sprints while they carried one of their teammates horizontally across their back.
In one of the hardest challenges, the girls were forced to tread water in a swimming pool while wearing a hoodie that they then were required to take off and switch with one of their teammates. Eventually, the instructors made the athletes add sweatpants to the task. However, Coach Ali noted that the more difficult the instructors made it, the faster the team was able to do it.
He was proud of the fact that the girls learned so much, saying "no matter the situation if you maintain your focus on the task at hand you can accomplish anything, no matter what."
Last season, the team really struggled with playing as a unit. Their inability to play together directly affected simple things like completing passes, working off the ball for each other, and controlling possession, so it was their main focus to fix that problem heading into the offseason.
Before the season even started, the team knew they had solved the chemistry issue from the year before. In comparison to last season, this year's team chemistry is "insane" as Fink described it. "[It] makes the whole game so much more enjoyable when you play for a team that is as close as we are. We can focus our energy on other things and we all have so much more fun playing as a unit."
Thus far, the chemistry is working, as USC Women's Soccer is off to a 3-1-1 start after playing in two tournaments.
If we are what we repeatedly do, then Jamie Fink is well on her way to exhibiting habitual excellence through her hard work, leadership and determination.
According to her head coach, "Jamie's the type of player that when you challenge her, she tends to rise to the occasion. She's been an excellent performer for us so far."
Check her and the rest of the USC Women's Soccer team out in their next home game against Pepperdine at 2:30pm on Friday and then again on Sunday at one against LMU.