I don’t know who was more shocked at the news that O’Connell’s girls soccer team was set to play a playoff game.
The players? Their coach? Or me?
When Lady Bucs coach Lee Kinard emailed me to say the team that was winless in district was headed to the postseason, I had to take a double take at the message.
A quick look at their record showed no wins and six loses. I figured it was a typo. It wasn’t.
The Lady Bucs, who lost their bidistrict playoff game on Thursday, advanced thanks to a new rule in TAPPS. The top 4 teams in the district advance to the playoffs.
There are five teams in O’Connell’s district, but only four fielded soccer teams.
So, even though they were winless in district play, the Lady Bucs were off to the postseason.
Kinard admitted his players and their parents were surprised.
Some people may scoff at such a berth into the postseason. It could be compared to all the players in a youth sports league getting participation medals with no winners or losers.
That’s where you’d be wrong.
It’s all a matter of expectations.
Frankly, the Lady Bucs weren’t expected to do well this season when it came to wins and loses. Coach Kinard admits his team is outgunned and not in the same class as the rest of the district.
Consider too that Kinard is a volunteer coach. He isn’t on staff at O’Connell.
He gets the title of coach, but not the pay. He doesn’t have an athletic period to be with his players and work on their skills.
Still, look a bit deeper at the stats and you see that each year since Kinard took over as coach, the team has improved.
The number of goals allowed by opponents are less than they were three seasons ago. The number of goals scored by the Lady Bucs are up in the same time frame.
Opponents don’t get near as many shots on goal as they did three years ago, while O’Connell has more shots on goal than the squad did when Kinard took over.
Kinard called it “the silver linings” of the team’s season.
Now, any other team in the county with such a record would be putting help-wanted ads out for a new soccer coach.
Such a record, no matter the statistical improvements, at Clear Springs for example would not sit well. Especially with the Chargers girls soccer coach Craig Foster, who I’ve known since he took over a struggling Texas City girls soccer program many years ago.
Foster created a winning culture at Texas City and parlayed that into a standard of excellence that many others followed in this county.
When I was a student at Texas City High School in the mid-1980s, girls soccer was a new sport. That first season, the Lady Stings failed to score a single goal.
They were happy just to get a shot on goal in a game.
The program languished for many years. Foster came and changed the culture.
I’m not saying we should expect the Lady Bucs to go from winless to having a wining record next year.
But changing a losing culture to a winning one starts with small victories. Then you add another, and then another.
Does anyone remember the Jamaican bobsled team? We loved them because they were there to compete.
After a while, it wasn’t enough that they made it to the Olympics.
The novelty wore off when they couldn’t win.
It’s all a matter of first managing expectations. Eventually, you have to build a winning attitude.
Who knows, maybe in a decade the O’Connell Lady Bucs will go undefeated and advance to the state title game.
If they do, they will have the 0-6 team that made the playoffs in 2014 to thank.