At Neal Patterson Stadium, home of Oklahoma State women's soccer, team scrimmages have turned friends into opponents.
“I have to beat (my opponent in the scrimmage) no matter what, OSU senior forward Gabriella Coleman said. “I’m going to run them down, get them tired, make them not want to be around me and show them that I’m not the person to be messing with on the field.”
That sounds like a terrible thing for team chemistry, but Cowgirl v. Cowgirl scrimmages are actually common and healthy for the team.
“The scrimmages have been helpful,” coach Colin Carmichael. “I think anytime you can play full field, it does give you a better feel than a little 5 v. 5 or 6 v. 6 in training.said.
This year, scrimmages are more important than ever for the team. The shortened 2020 soccer schedule, as a result of COVID-19, leaves OSU without any of the nonconference games that would normally serve to evaluate freshman and figure out which lineups work best for the team.
“We’ve got a core group of established players who played large minutes last year and they’re going to play huge minutes again this year,” Carmichael said. “What we are looking for (in the scrimmages) are those pieces to fill in around them and some of the newcomers we are still getting to know them.”
Specifically, Carmichael said that a group of seven or eight players who have done enough to be looked at as serious contenders for minutes. He hopes to get that group contending for starting roles cut down to about four or five players to build a squad of around 15 players who will be getting on the field regularly this season.
Minutes on the field are precious and groups are always getting trimmed down to put the best players on the field.
“We are all still fighting for our spots,” OSU senior defender Charmé Morgan said. “You might think my spot is locked in, but I don’t ever think I’m safe. So you always have to play 110% no matter scrimmage or practice.”
Every soccer player who comes to OSU is a Division I athlete who is most likely used to being the best player on her team, so naturally, each Cowgirl wants to play large minutes in every game. The competition for minutes is fierce.
“I can’t put my intensity (in scrimmages) down cause if I do that, I’m not going to be an option to help us have a chance to win,” Coleman said.
As hot as the fight for minutes burns, there are definite lines that players will not cross.
“I won’t hurt my teammates or any of that kind of stuff, I’ll be careful and everything,” Morgan said. “But I still got to play my hardest because we only have nine games this season so I’m going to do everything I can to play all nine games.”
Each Cowgirl recognizes that there are only just over 90 minutes in a soccer game. Not everyone will get to play as much as she would like, but that doesn’t stop players from helping teammates at risk of losing playing time.
“I think that being an older player, (helping teammates earn in-game minutes) is something that I can help contribute to,” Morgan said. “Whether it’s making that one run or holding back so that way someone else can go and attack and show their moves and what they can do.”
On game day and every other day of the week, the OSU soccer team is a tight-knit group in whcih each player views her teammate as a friend, which is an example of the team’s healthy culture.
Scrimmages show another example of the team’s healthy culture: the passion to succeed.
“I view (the Cowgirls on the other side of the line) as opponents,” Coleman said. “Cause I’m like no matter what, we’re going to be friends outside the soccer field, but on the field, we’re not friends, I’m not your buddy. How I see it is: ‘You’re the enemy and I’m trying to beat you.’”