All the statements and activities coalesced around the team’s ethos: PRIDE. Passion, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Excellence. I saw these values drive the team throughout the year.
Alex arrived early to go over his presentation with Shelley to make adjustments to improve it. He wants every detail to be perfect. His arriving early was emblematic of what it takes to be a successful Division 1 player that Alex proved himself to me through the season: Arriving early and putting in extra work; not being satisfied until near perfection was achieved.
At the beginning of this project, I knew I wanted to start it by getting some photos of the freshmen moving in. I nearly missed the opportunity though. I was in New York City for work and, after series of thunderstorms, I got stranded there. I came really close to missing the move in, but I was barely able to get home in time.
To help me get these move-in photos, assistant coach Grant Porter helped me link up with some of the freshmen including Blake Malone, Marco Saborio Perez, Sebastian Berhalter, Jonathan "JJ" Jimenez, and Cameron Fisher. The poor guys had been living a few days out of a hotel room and were all excited to move into what they will call home for the next year.
I walk over to Blake’s room. He is FaceTiming with his girlfriend back home in Las Vegas, showing her his new room for the next season, while he dutifully folds and hangs his clothes into the closet. At his feet is a mountain of fresh new Nike shoes and team gear that he received as part of the team. (An event I missed, thanks to being stranded in New York.) The fresh gear is definitely one of many highlights to being on any UNC team.
While Blake FaceTimes, I wonder to Marco’s room. Born and raised in Switzerland, he has lived the past few years in Costa Rica. That alone may make you think he has some interesting stories to tell, and you’d be right. I found myself lost in conversation with him; hearing his perspective having peregrinated across the world, experiencing soccer through many cultures, was fascinating.
I loved how it all came together. There is so much going on in this photo. Without hangers for his clothes, they were laid on the floor. Blank walls and no bed linen tells the story of a fresh beginning, a blank slate, an opportunity for Marco to plot his own destiny over the next four years. Many years from now, the freshmen will look back at these moments, such as moving in on their first day, with nostalgia, recounting some of the best four years of their lives. Until then, they get the chance to live in the moment.
Team Photo and Video Day
Another highlight of preseason is the team photo and video day. A few things go on these days. First, the team has both their individual photos taken for the roster. Once this is done, they have the larger team photo taken.
The guys are also filming video that will be used on the scoreboard for the pre-game video, or video that will play during the scoreboard during the game. These video shoots are always hard for the guys because they are having to celebrate like they just celebrated the goal, and make it look realistic enough for the fans watching.
It’s the hot days of summer that you really admire the literal sweat equity that the team puts in. The sports medicine staff can’t keep the water bottles full.
Though I’ve covered many soccer games in my life, I had never spent time with a team pregame. This is why I loved this experience with the team, seeing all these unseen stories that happen.
My favorite story though that you don’t see pregame though is how much the guys love being with each other, and the amazing vibe in the locker room. Specifically, my favorite moment with the team was when I traveled to UNCG with them. We arrived in the locker room early and I had a chance to get some photos of them hanging out. They were playing card games, playing video games on their phone, and just enjoying each other’s company. I sat a bit envious of them; they get this amazing team experience that I’ve never known. These are friendships that will last a lifetime for them.