Persistence, Perseverance and Practice Pays Off For Women's Soccer

Just watch the Santa Monica Corsairs women's soccer team during practice, and one begins to understand how they have earned the third best record in their division. Every drill is carried out as if it made the difference between victory and defeat. Only enough time is spent between exercises as it takes to set up the next. When a player falls on the field they are expected to pick themselves back up.

According to head Coach Aaron Benditson, the physical and mental stress he places his team under is essential to the development of a competitive organization, and in his opinion, "every athlete wants to be challenged." The observations of trainer Kevin Alonzo corroborate Benditson's sentiments; "they work hard, are very cooperative, and most of what they go through translates to how they play during a game," says Alonzo.

"We can't play the games for them," says Benditson, and so it is the commitment of each player to the sport that carries them through the hardships of the season. "Soccer is my life and everything else revolves around it," says Midfielder Kari Proto, 19. The dedication these women exhibit to their team is one of the factors that have earned them the third best record in their division.

With so much pressure riding on the backs of the lady Corsairs it's not difficult to imagine that some tensions might develop within their ranks. The women's soccer team brings together athletes from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, and Benditson admits that personalities have clashed in the past.

However developing a method to communicate and address the powerful emotions that manifest within the team has been vital to the Corsairs' growth as a unit. Proto recounts one such team building exercise performed early in the season wherein teammates were blindfolded and led by a partner through a series of obstacles.

The friendships these athletes form with each other extend far beyond the soccer field. "When you meet people in class your relationship ends with the semester," says defender Caitlin Rutherford, 19, "but with soccer we're like family." According to Proto teammates spend most weekends with each other partaking in team bonding events like pasta parties, bowling nights, and scavenger hunts. Rutherford actually lives with some of her teammates, an arrangement which, she says, "causes us to bring soccer home with us.

The powerful bonds that players share play into the understanding that they are agents of a larger organization. "They want to do well not just for themselves, but for their friends on the team, and for Santa Monica College," says Benditson. "Doing well" has implications both on and off the field: these women have chosen to make an intensely demanding extracurricular activity part of their already hectic lives.

There are, however, some very real benefits that come along with the challenge these athletes take upon themselves. "[The academic requirements] to stay on the team have forced me to put greater focus on my studies, and I maintain a good level of fitness thanks to soccer," says Rutherford. And then there are the less palpable advantages: "I feel excited, honored, and proud to be a part of this years team," says defender/midfielder Natalie Martinez. In short, being a part of what is currently what is Santa Monica's most successful athletics team is a prize unto itself.