As a student athlete, balancing practice, games, school and a social life can be a challenge. With 12 out of 20 games on the road, the addition of travel takes its toll on the Southern Miss soccer team.
“It can be exhausting. Especially when we have those nine-hour drives,” junior goalie Kendall Mindnich said. “We do stop sometimes and get a little workout in and break a sweat, so we are still moving.”
A typical day at home for the Southern Miss soccer team starts at 7 a.m. with morning practice followed by weights on Tuesdays and Thursdays and meetings or film sessions spread throughout the week.
“We practice in the morning because we do not have lights so I wake up about 5:30, get into the locker room by 6, then we eat breakfast for a little bit,” sophomore midfielder Olivia Durham said. “We talk about our training session, how the teams we are playing that weekend are and how they play.”
From there the players spend the duration of the day in class, studying or working. Durham said it is also important for players to make sure they eat right and get enough sleep to do the whole process over the next day. With limited free time, it is difficult to fit in time for socializing outside of team or school events.
“In the fall, when we are in season, we don’t really have a social life,” Durham said. “My social life is doing homework with other students, but we all make it work.”
Because of how much time the team spends together, the players have formed close bonds on and off the field, which is ultimately beneficial for game time.
“We have a bond that no other team has and we know it,” Mindnich said. “We can be crazy in front of ourselves but we are also very serious and we like to take the game seriously.”
Before each game, the team gathers in the locker room to get pumped up before kickoff. Two hours before game time the locker room is filled with music which most players sing to or hit the lockers. One hour before the game the room settles down and each player finds their way to focus on the task ahead.
“I’m very superstitious, so I always put on my cleats the same way, my right foot then my left foot. I put on my shin guards right then left,” Durham said. “I read quotes before making sure I’m ready for the game. I always text my mom. She’s my biggest supporter, so she always calms me down.”
The Golden Eagles are currently 6-5 overall with a conference record of 1-2. Each loss has been on the road leaving their home record perfect. In the 2018 season, Southern Miss finished as C-USA runner up. The squad hopes to have a similar ending to the 2019 season.
“[It is rewarding] Being a part of a team that cares and has a different culture than everybody else and wants to do well,” Mindnich said. “Especially from last year, it was really special to be a part of a team that went so far and made history. It’s really something I will never forget.”
With six conference games remaining, there is still potential for the Golden Eagles to improve in conference play.
“We can come back from those losses,” redshirt senior defender Kaitlin Fayard said. “We are still learning and growing as a team, so we have kind of a younger team, and we are still adapting. I think we will be able to show ourselves in these next few games.”