We are the USC Fútbol Team. Welcome to our Summer Program.|
Sept. 12, 2013
By Allie Harrison, USC soccer senior
Coming into summer training, we thought we knew the drill. We seniors had done it before. We had learned to come in fit, kill it on our beep tests, speak up when addressed by the coaching staff, come early to practice, and leave late. We knew the things you were to keep to yourself, and the times and places that were safe to let your guard down (like in the quiet of your room, with the lights off, when your teammate had fallen asleep). Yet, there was something different in the air this summer, something changing, and all of us veterans could feel it. It wasn't until "THE PROGRAM" that we were able to find a word for it...and that word is TEAM.
Since our freshman year, we grew all too familiar with the feeling of uncertainty. 'If I play this ball wide, is my outside mid going to be there? If I make this run from my keeper's box to the opponent's back door, is my forward going to play me the ball? If I speak up in huddle, am I going to receive respect from my teammates, or eye rolls?' We were a talented bunch, but in terms of team chemistry, we were more than lacking. As freshmen, we began to wise up. Take care of yourself, and if it isn't too much of a sacrifice, take care of your other freshmen. But other than that, lay low, work hard, and try to get yourself on the field. It was a rough year.
But then, our coaches started talking about two things: selflessness and thankfulness. I remember Ali telling me, "If we had kids who knew how blessed they were to be here, kids who were willing to put it all out there because they understood the privilege, then we'd have something worthwhile." I remember thinking, 'But if I put it all out there, if I create a wave, I'll get eaten up. Just let me take care of me--I work hard. Stop asking for more from me.' But in the back of my mind, I knew there was a lifeline for our team in what he was saying. Throughout that season, I stayed quiet while something swelled within me.
After our freshmen season, our team got tired; we got hit with hardship. We experienced injury. And a lot of it. 4 ACLs. 1 career-ending concussion. Loss of a coach's family member. Multiple girls bailing out--quitting. Losing seasons. Essentially, we got a dose of real life. And in the face of all this adversity, we heard the words over and over again, selflessness and thankfulness.
I began to wonder, 'how do we be selfless when we feel like we've got only a little to give? How do we be thankful when we feel like everything is falling apart?'
As time passed, and we held on to our coaches' preaching, hoping and wishing that it would carry us through the rough parts, we began to grow. Our junior year, I remember a freshman asking me to put my bike back correctly. I remember experiencing headaches that wrecked my week, and receiving calls from teammates, "Hey Allie, how are you doing? Can I bring you anything?" I remember a locker room talk, where the girls spoke up, looked each other in the eyes, stopped the eye rolling, and argued with assertion--because they cared. We felt the change. Something was happening.
Then came "THE PROGRAM." Led by Eric Kapitulik, a former U.S. Marine Corps Officer and the Founder and President of The Program, this team building and leadership company met us in McKay Center during our summer preseason to put us through hell. We had come in fit--fitness was our culture--but Eric wasn't here to test our fitness. He was here to break it. The Program's goal was to create an environment where it mattered less if we were physically fit, and worked instead to test and build our team up in mental fitness. For two back-to-back days, The Program spent the early morning until late evening pushing us to our breaking points. When we all had little left to give, they pushed us more, and watched our reaction. I think if we were to do the program three years ago, it would have been a mess. Our freshmen would have been wandering around just trying to survive, and our older girls would be rolling their eyes, attempting to appear casual while their arms were shaking in pushups. But as I watched Jessica Musmanno, our New Jersey junior, direct our LA freshman Moriah Earley in a series of commands, and then saw my entire team support Moriah, giving her the ability to recite the commands perfectly, I saw that our team had developed into something special. My teammates were selfless. And I was thankful.
All that adversity since our freshman years--we don't look back on with dread anymore. Instead, it was all that faith in the face of hardship that sits in our bellies, making us unbreakable. And when we look ahead, at the season to come, there is not an ounce fear or uncertainty in our bones, because this year, when one of us breaks, another teammate will step up and fill in. Because that's what you do when you're part of a team.