JACKSON TWP. Sometimes, being a team captain means having conversations that aren’t as much fun.
With the season nearing quickly, the Jackson boys soccer team is once again aiming to contend for a Federal League title. For senior captain Kam Tyler and his fellow captains, making sure everyone is united and pulling in the same direction is vital if the Polar Bears are going to reach their championship aspirations.
What the team’s upperclassmen saw as the preseason wore on was that there were some concerns with focus and chemistry within the team.
“Some people weren’t really pulling together so after practice, we got everyone together and had a big talk,” Tyler said of a recent post-practice, unofficial team meeting. “Everything I do is 100 percent, so I want to make sure everyone else is going 100 percent.”
Such conversations aren’t uncommon on teams at any level of sports, as the odds of dozens of players going through an entire season without any issues that need addressed is all but impossible.
Getting on the same page matters even more due to heavy graduation losses on the back end of the formation, something of which Tyler is keenly aware.
“We need to work on a lot more things together because defensively we graduated most of our back line,” Tyler said.
Individually, Tyler is looking to improve his field awareness and make sure he’s smart about putting himself into dangerous spots on the pitch. As a sophomore and even as a junior, he would sometimes put himself in a dangerous position in pursuit of the ball, trying to set himself up for a big play or create a scoring chance but opening the door to injury in the process.
As his senior season nears, Tyler is winding down four years as part of a program that has been a consistent force within the Federal League for the past decade, but playing soccer wasn’t a sure thing when he started high school.
“I love running … in middle school and into high school, I thought I was going to pick cross country, but I ended up choosing soccer,” Tyler said.
His love of running comes in handy with soccer, especially during the preseason. During conditioning sessions this summer, players have run five or six miles each morning as a way to get themselves in better shape. Following those runs with practice sessions on the field makes for physically challenging days, but those who stick with it have a solid base for the season.
Two-a-days are commonly associated with football, not futbol, and Tyler believes not many people realize that soccer players have two-a-days of their own. If he has energy left after the second session of the day, he tries to put in extra work on his own, hoping it will pay off once games start.
With the start of games comes the start of the school year. Some students dread a return to classes and homework, while others like the structure it provides and enjoy being around their friends in class. When it comes to playing a sport and being a student, Tyler is a fan of the school year schedule.
“Most people like the summer, but I kind of like it with school … it feels more natural, you get out of class and stay right there and go to soccer,” he said, noting that in the summer, the first session of two-a-days is followed by a short break that typically doesn’t leave time to go home and is followed by the second session, which often ends with players worn out and lacking much energy for the next few hours of their day.
In the midst of all of that, teams try to forge good camaraderie and while activities like Jackson’s annual summer camp trip to the University of Louisville help, it’s the time spent under the summer sun on the practice fields behind Jackson High School that has the biggest impact on how the year will go. So if there’s a need to stop, bring everyone together and tackle an issue within the team, then it’s OK to put the fun on pause for a few minutes.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB