Led by a large and committed Grade 10 cohort and an unofficial team captain in Ava Dryden ’21, and with 25 players signed up, we had an "opportunity" to practice more than any other season.
Training began earlier than usual—it was actually snowing outside—with some indoor sessions of soccer-volleyball. Once we got onto the pitch, each cohort learned to stay physically distanced without being too socially distanced. Our training season began with short discussions around what our core values were as a team and what expectations we had of each other. Together, the girls created four Essential Agreements that we strove as a team to meet every day:
We show up to practice and communicate in advance.
We love playing soccer and always make it fun.
We support each other and challenge each other.
We try our best to be our best.
As the coach, I enjoyed the test of planning challenging and fun sessions that allowed for three separate cohorts to train to be their best.
The team was very patient with fellow coach Anton Bucher and I as we made changes on the fly and created opportunities for each player, even if they were the only one present from their cohort on a particular day. The most successful training was often the small-sided games that used a "NO-GO zone" to separate teammates into different cohorts. This allowed normal scrimmage situations between players in the same grade.
Each cohort had its own vibe and its own leaders who stood out this year. The Grade 9s were led by a confident and outspoken Amelie Bate and a super hardworking and talented Taylor Macdonald. This group loved pushing each other and making each other work hard. They were known for handing out hard fitness punishments to their opponents.
The Grade 10s were led from within, with many players stepping up at various times to ensure others understood a drill, and they encouraged some of the less experienced players when they made progress. Sophia DeMeo usually took on the role of team DJ, with Louisa Eder, Faye Dryden, or Aoife Golonka often taking the lead on the warm-up.
The Grade 11 and 12 cohort was small but mighty with only four players. They are all commended for their patience and flexibility as we tweaked training to accommodate their small group. This meant they always had roles in gameplay that made them work harder for longer and they didn't even complain—until the very last practice when it was 25 degrees! Kudos to Helena Mundstock for joining soccer for the first time since she was little and to Carmen Spencer for showing up at one practice as the only one in her cohort and working with Anton as her partner! Our two Grade 12s, Ava Dryden and Alex Finn, will be missed immensely next year. My heart goes out to them as they missed both of their senior soccer years and the opportunity to officially lead the team.
Practices weren’t always serious business though as we learned about each other's favourite cereal, whether they would prefer giant hands or giant feet, and even what the Grade 9s were thinking about for their Personal Projects next year. Each cohort submitted their favourite warm-up songs and we created a warm-up playlist that was so good, we just couldn't turn it off after warm-up was done.
We capped the season off as every team should—with a photoshoot! We took the tags off of our brand new white jerseys and took some pictures to make sure this bizarre season made it into the GNS history books. Though we couldn't take a full team shot, each cohort had a chance to get creative and pose for a few pictures together. As you can see, the team pyramid was a popular one!
We are all certainly looking forward to March 2022 when hopefully we will be playing some home games in front of our GNS fans, and some tournaments that involve road trips, bus rides and hotel rooms!