A prom queen looking for something to do in the spring. A junior with dreams of becoming a professional someday to make her father proud. A freshman in search of an activity to make friends and have fun.
No, the players on the girls soccer teams at Southeast and West aren’t caught up in the world where winning trumps everything. In fact, the two teams were winless (a combined 0-24) and goalless (outscored by a combined 189-0) before meeting on Monday night.
But they have more in common than just their results. They are a reminder that the purpose of high school sports isn’t based solely on wins or losses.
“It’s not just what the scoreboard says, it’s how much hard work you put into it,” said Kimberley Hansel, a senior goalkeeper and West’s prom queen. “As long as you’re giving your best, that’s all that really matters.”
For more than 20 years, Brian Shilling lived in the world where the result was everything. He was a club coach used to winning — and winning big — before taking over at Southeast this season.
Southeast has lost by 10 or more goals eight times this season, but in a way, Shilling said this year’s team has been one of the most rewarding experiences.
“These are the girls who didn’t give up; they are the ones who have true grit,” Shilling said. “They’re going to do well no matter what they go on to do. As tough as this season has been, there’s been a lot of 10-0s, these girls are still positive. They still work hard in practice and they still mess around. They’re still just kids.
“They taught about what it takes to keep going.”
No one enjoys the losing, but players on both teams have different perspectives of success.
They focus on in-game improvements, such as stringing passes together, keeping their formation, and staying positive. Every game is an opportunity to improve, regardless of the final score.
“We’ve had some really good games where we’ve lost, but we still had a good mindset and were able to do different things,” Southeast freshman Kaitlynn Hayes said. “Even though our team isn’t in the best spot, we have hope it can get somewhere in the next couple of years.”
There are a handful of players who play soccer year-round, like West junior Jennifer Sheffield, and the experience this season has been challenging.
She is accustomed to playing with her club team and with teammates who play year-round. But she says she has learned better leadership skills and improved her overall game by being forced out of her comfort zone. She’s also happy just playing the game she has loved since she was a child.
“I really do want to become a pro,” Sheffield said. “I work really hard and I try really hard to get there because my dad isn’t exactly the richest man in the world and I just want to make him proud. If I can make him proud and get there, then I’ll be happy because I know I’ve made my family proud and achieve something I’ve been wanting to do since I was 4 years old.”
But many of the players are like Hansel, girls who don’t play soccer year-round and are out for the sport as a way to stay active in the spring.
“I like coming out here because I think it helps clear your head,” she said. “It’s really fun being around people who have the same goals as you. It’s kind of like a stress-reliever for me.”
Both teams were anticipating Monday’s game, recognizing it might be the last chance for them to score — and even possibly win — this season.
But in a fitting twist, Southeast and West would play to a 1-1 draw.
Neither side could say they won, but they both could finally say they didn’t lose and had scored a goal (Angelica Perez for West and Neomi Contreras for Southeast).
“I guess that’s probably about the way it should end for the two teams,” Shilling said. “I thought we both worked hard, so I guess it was good to see both of us get our first goals.”
Then again, winning and losing has never been the sole goal to these players and Monday night didn’t change that.
“I was just hoping to see us improve because if we improve, then that’s a win for me,” Sheffield said. “I thought we did that tonight, so even though we didn’t win we’re winning in our minds.”