Athletes dream of making the game winning shot in a championship game.
Do coaches dream of making a fiery motivational speech leading to a title?
Jennifer Rockwood has been the BYU women’s soccer coach for 25 seasons and has learned a thing or two about what to say to her players before a big game.
Her players say Rockwood isn’t the type to throw a chair or break a clipboard before a game or at halftime.
“She’s not like that,” BYU junior midfielder Makayla Colohan said. “I would say she’s more the kind of coach that instills confidence within us. She coaches us up that way. She gets us ready for every game by telling us how confident we should be and how we should expect to win every time we step on the field.”
Senior defender Rachel Lyman said the whole coaching staff plays a part in getting the players pumped up before a game.
“Some people get motivated when coaches get mad at them, but our coaches definitely don’t stomp their feet or get mad at us,” Lyman said. “Jen will listen to motivational speeches and then gives us portions of that to motivate us. Steve (Magleby) is more low key, he’s more like, ‘Let’s keep it real.’ Brent (Anderson) is definitely the motivational speaker.
“I remember he put a sign up in the chalkboard when we played Utah Valley. They (UVU) were talking about us saying, ‘They don’t score goals.’ We all read that and said, ‘OK, let’s go.’”
Rockwood said she has never gotten a yellow or red card in her long coaching career. But that doesn’t mean she won’t aggressively motivate her players or get excited.
Anyone on the sidelines during a BYU soccer match can tell you that.
“I think it’s been different over the years with different teams,” she said. “As a coach I can say things that impact them differently. I think with this group they have reacted really well to the process. The girls all feel a lot of pressure. We knew coming into this year there were expectations and we had a target on us. We were trying to minimize the pressure they feel from us as coaches.
“So much of this game -- especially at the higher level in any sport -- is mental, what your mindset is and what your confidence is like. When you have confidence in that process and the work you’ve put into it, you’ve earned the right to be confident going into this game.”
Lyman said players prepare for and motivate themselves before a match in different ways.
“I was always the one listening to good music before a game and having a dance party,” she said. “If you see us in the locker room before a game, there’s a group that has a dance party and is super pumped up and motivated. Others are sitting and writing down their goals for the game, so it depends on your personality.”
Lyman and her teammates often listen to “We Ready” by Archie Eversole (featuring Bubba Sparxxx) before a match.
“I think LeBron James used to listen to it before games,” Lyman said. “Before a game we’re all on the bus, we have a speaker. Right before we’re pulling up to the field we blast that music to get up and start dancing. Those who want to dance, they dance, those who don’t, they chill, but we try to get everyone ready.”
While the coaches take their opportunities to motivate the players, Colohan said the players also play a big role in that process.
“We talk about how far we’ve come, what we’ve been through and how good we truly are,” Colohan said. “We should have confidence that we can play with anyone. That’s what comes with being upperclassmen, pumping everybody up and making sure they believe in themselves. That’s how teams are successful.”
BYU meets Stanford in an epic Elite Eight matchup on Friday.
“Once we’ve reached this point, if you can’t get motivated for these games, I think there is a bigger problem,” Colohan said. “All of us get super pumped up before every game to play our very best. Each game a new opportunity and its super exciting each time. You’re not just playing for yourself. There is so much more to it, especially on this team. I think that’s why we’ve been able to be successful. We all want to win for each other.
“We’ve just handle the pressure the same way we have the whole season. We take it one game at a time and don’t take it too much based on who we’re playing. When we step on the field we expect to be at our best and the results will come if we do that.”
Stanford (21-1-0), one of the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament and the No. 1 ranked team in the country overall, is a formidable opponent. The Cardinal are the top scoring team in the nation (4.23 goals per match) with junior Catarina Macario the No. 1 goal scorer with 30 goals. BYU is No. 2 in the country at 3.64 goals per match, led by senior Elise Flake with 20 goals. Both teams are top 10 defensively as well.
There are some common opponents: Stanford beat San Francisco 9-0, BYU won 2-1 in double overtime on the road. Stanford beat Santa Clara 4-2, BYU tied with the Broncos 2-2 during WCC play. Both teams beat Utah (Stanford won 4-0, the Cougars won 2-0) and Pepperdine beat the Cardinal 1-0 while BYU topped the Waves 5-1.
BYU outscored its three NCAA Tournament opponents 12-1. Stanford put 15 goals on Prairie View A&M in the opening round and didn’t allow a goal to its three NCAA opponents.
“Stanford has earned the respect so much so that a lot of teams don’t try and compete with them,” Rockwood said. “They try and do some different things to slow them down and you can really see that in the NCAA games they’ve played so far. They haven’t seen a lot of pressure and have been really confident in what they are doing.
“We hope to be able to go out there, mix it up little bit and put a little more pressure on them than they’ve felt. We’ve scored a lot of goals, too, and we hope to make them play a lot more defense than they’ve played in the past month. We're trying to move on and do something that no team has ever done at BYU. That’s what this team set out to do when we started the season."
The winner moves on to the Women’s College Cup in San Jose, Calif., next week.