How A Positive Attitude Created the PLAY OF THE YEAR!
You may have seen it. It was the the Highlight of the Year at the State of Sport Awards in Utah. It was the Play of the Year at the Crimson Carpet Awards put on by Utah Athletics. It was possibly the biggest goal in the 22-year history of the Utah Women’s Soccer program.
There we were in Los Angeles facing NCAA giants, Florida State University, in the 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament this past November. The Seminoles had been to an incredible 5 NCAA College Cups in a row and had another strong team. The game was tied 1-1 with under 3 minutes remaining…and “The PLAY” happened…
That’s Freshman midfielder, Haylee Cacciacarne, scoring on an incredible 18-yard header to give us the 2-1 win. It helped our team advance to the SWEET 16 for the first time in program history…a play and moment to remember. Amazingly, Haylee first entered this intense game with 18 minutes left and the score 1-1 (no pressure!). We were trying to slow down FSU’s play in the midfield and she did that fantastically. And, she topped it off by scoring the winning goal!
More importantly, “The Play” was a reflection of the character that Haylee had displayed through the course of the season. She had grown into a new team, a new position and a new role. The fact that she was ready to make the play is the most remarkable thing about it.
Haylee was in a place where many players would pout, doubt and check out. Why do I say this?
She had not played in the previous four games. We had switched formations after our game with Stanford. Haylee had been playing as a 2nd defensive midfielder and doing a good job. We went from playing with 2 holding midfielders to just 1. She was aced out of her time with the switch. We faced USC, UCLA, Colorado and Texas Tech (NCAA Round 1) in the new setup.
She had not started all year. Haylee had played in 11 of our first 20 games, all coming in as a substitute. Like many college players, Haylee was a standout and starter on all of her teams growing up. This was a big change.
She was playing a new position. Haylee played center back most of her youth career. She is an excellent defender. She heads the ball well and is a good communicator and passer. We had some other players that had been playing very well in the back during the season. We asked Haylee if she would be willing to play in the midfield. She enthusiastically agreed to do it.
She was dealing with her own expectations. Haylee was voted Ms. Soccer in the state of Utah by the Deseret News after leading her Davis High School team to back to back state championships (and a NATIONAL Championship). She was a key player on a very good LaRoca club team. She expected to come in and start and play a lot. Some of her roommates, also Freshmen, were starting. She was frustrated. Among other things, she was fighting feelings she had let us down.
Why this is SO great!
Haylee stayed ready under difficult circumstances for herself. The team was doing well and, yet, she was not reaching some of her personal goals. I’ve seen many, many players over the years get so frustrated in these situations, that they didn’t play well. And, they weren’t ready when their opportunity presented itself.
She kept working hard every day at practice. She spent extra time before practice working on her skills. She watched video and met with staff to learn a new position. She stayed ready. She kept a POSITIVE ATTITUDE
HOW DID SHE DO IT?!
Here are Haylee’s own thoughts on it:
“Staying focused and being ready was something that was key for me throughout the season. I knew that I had to just be ready when my time came and even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I still knew I needed to just be prepared for anything.
“During games I would just be locked in. I didn’t know when my time would come. The only thing I knew I could control though was being ready and being excited to get my chance. I think the coming in and playing well part followed with my attitude and preparation to just being alert and ready to go in when I was needed.
“Because when you’re ready and excited about going in no matter what time of the game it is, I think, at least for me, you’ll have fun, and things will go your way.
I’ll always remember the fact that one person’s positive attitude – when it would have been easy to check out – played a HUGE part in this moment. It’s a great lesson for us all.
Head Women’s Soccer Coach
University of Utah