JACKSON TWP. The team that mulches together wins together.
Or at least that’s the hope for Kam Tyler and his Jackson soccer teammates. The senior captain and more than 30 members of the varsity and junior varsity rosters recently took part in the payoff end of a fundraiser in which members of the community donated money and received both mulch and the delivery of that mulch by players and coaches.
It’s how Tyler and his teammates found themselves toting rakes and hauling loads of mulch all over an Everhard Road property on a recent morning, doing landscaping and team-building at the same time.
“We’ve been doing this since I was a freshman … all around Jackson,” Tyler said. “You get to see the whole team and maybe see some people you haven’t gotten to see because they’re on vacation, but they come back and it’s the first thing we do as a team … team-building and you meet the freshmen.”
With more than 30 people helping, the mulching process was completed in less time than expected, which the team would love to see as an indicator that they can work well together and achieve even more than they expect. Being a Division I program with a large roster, varsity, junior varsity and incoming freshman players don’t spend a lot of time together once the season begins because their game and practice schedules take them in different directions.
By doing the mulching work, which included a second house two days later, Tyler and his fellow team captains were able to get a better idea of who the new players on the roster are and to see how everyone works together. Tyler noted that during the course of the day, he was able to see that some people had a harder time working together than others and by identifying those situations now, it might be possible to work on getting everyone on the same page once the season starts.
“There’s definitely talking to more people who I don’t get to talk to as much, like some of the freshmen that won’t be on varsity, I get to talk with them and bond with them,” Tyler said. “I get to see some people can’t get along with some other people, but a lot of us work together and they help out the team.”
The mulching work fell on a Monday and Wednesday, which happened to be two of the three days in the week where the team also has its morning captains’ practices. Team captains organize the sessions because the coaching staff can’t yet be involved in offseason activities, so Tyler and his fellow captains get everyone together for a three- or four-mile run followed by some informal scrimmages.
The fundraisers are a way to pay for basic soccer team needs a squad has, including jerseys and equipment. Teams raise money doing everything from mattress sales to car washes, but delivering and spreading mulch is one of the dirtier - and smellier - means of getting the funding needed for a given season.
It’s one of many team-building activities that will fill the offseason, along with a trip to a team camp at the University of Louisville next month. There, the Polar Bears will spend three days learning from the UL staff alongside other high school teams from around the country, enjoying what Tyler described as surprisingly good food and hanging out in the evening and spending time together doing fun activities.
The visit could also help him in the process of making his college choice, as visiting a college campus and seeing what he might want or dislike in a potential college choice is part of the process. He admitted that he wasn’t fully ready for all that came with starting his senior year, but is trying to catch up.
“It came kind of quick, senior year, so I’m kind of off-guard as to where I should go and I’m still trying to figure out where I’m going,” Tyler said. “My first thing is my major, and then how expensive the school is … I’m either going for psychology or forensic psychology and profiling.”
His choice of major stems partially from watching the TV drama “Criminal Minds” when he was younger, tuning in alongside his older sister Kayla, who attends Kent State. Tyler hopes to some day work in the area of criminal profiling with a law enforcement agency and finding a school that offers a major that will facilitate that goal is a top priority.
He also wants to play soccer in college if possible, but for now, the focus is squarely on having a productive summer and preparing as best he can for a senior season in which he and his team are out to mulch their way back to the top of the Federal League and deep into the postseason.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB