UNC Soccer Project
Sammy Jermane, the field supervisor of the new UNC Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium, has been dutifully preparing the grass and field for the players’ arrival. Every square inch of the field has been tended to with excruciating detail. And the players themselves are all back in Chapel Hill, putting in equal amounts of preparation into their season.
The team arrived last week to participate in the Dick Baddour Carolina Leadership Academy, led by Shelley Johnson. However, rather than Shelley or the coaching staff teaching these sessions, student athletes were paired off into teams and assigned a topic that followed a “we are” statement.
The statements spoke to some of the core values of the team, such as “we are family” or “we are grateful”. Family, because, as one player said, UNC is not a four-year decision, but a forty-plus-year decision; becoming a part of network of past and future players. Grateful, for everything they have been provided. From their trip to Europe this summer to all the staff who work behind-the-scenes to help their program, like Sammy and Shelley.
By having the athletes themselves prepare the presentations and reflect on their values, they felt more organic, and less contrived. More heartfelt, and less forced. The student athletes talked about the values in their own voices, rather than the coaching staff’s, adding a perceptible authenticity to them.
After Sunday’s Leadership Academy, the dorms opened to allow the freshmen to move into their rooms. After living a few days out of a hotel room, they were all excited to move into what they will call home for the next year.
As they first walked into their rooms, their eyes lit up with the possibility of the room. It was much larger than they expected. “Should we bunk our beds?” “Where should the TV go?” “Looks like we could put a couch here, yes?”
I walked around from room to room of the freshman looking for good photos, but after an hour I didn’t feel like I had anything that compelling. But in the last five minutes freshman Marco Saborio hopped onto his bed and rested his head on the wall after unpacking. I knew I finally had the moment for a great photo, so I quickly sat on the bed across from him and captured this moment.
I loved how it all came together. Blank walls, no hangers for his clothes, and no bed linen tells the story of a fresh beginning, a blank slate, an opportunity for the freshmen to plot their 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.