Soccer captain builds team chemistry to fight through unusual season

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Miriam Bloom

Senior Hunter Heyman keeps a goalie stance while anticipating a shot during a practice at Jackman Field March 3. Heyman’s leadership was a key quality in helping the boys soccer team through a challenging season.

In his first three years on the soccer team, senior Hunter Heyman had a playing experience not unlike what most U-High students would expect. At home games, crowds of parents and students gathered and cheered from the stands. At away games, players crammed into loud school buses. 

Outside of games, team members spent time getting to know each other as more than just soccer players. This year, however, five months after the usual fall soccer season, Hunter found himself wearing a mask and playing in front of empty stands — no longer as just a player, but as the captain. 

In a year unlike any before, Hunter has taken the lessons that he learned in past years to become a leader who prioritizes team chemistry even in the most isolated of times. 

According to Hunter, what defined his early years playing for U-High were team dinners outside of games that allowed him to bond with older players. 

“The whole team getting to eat together really bonded and created that family atmosphere that we strive to have on the team,” Hunter said. “That experience has kind of shaped me in terms of how I view my roles on the team as a senior, and then also just how I view the team in general.”

Heading into the season the soccer team had to work harder than usual to foster this sense of community. With limited time outside of practice, and with injured players, the team started the season off on the wrong foot.

“What coach always said before the games was that we had to have heart and we have to play as one,” Hunter said. “I think that was something that our team kind of struggled with a little bit.”

One factor that limited members’ ability to play with heart, Hunter said, was the fact that no spectators were allowed to watch the games from the bleachers. Hunter said the players missed it.

“I think the fans coming out is criminally underrated,” Hunter said. “The U-High chants every year and even just the school shouting up one player when they make a big tackle — that kind of excitement just coming from the fans is something that we really missed.”

The U-High chants every year and even just the school shouting up one player when they make a big tackle — that kind of excitement just coming from the fans is something that we really missed.”

— Hunter Heyman

The solution to this problem, Hunter said, required the team to find motivation from each other, rather than from external sources. 

“One thing that we tried to do to support the team, especially these last two games, was our bench becoming our biggest fans and our teammates becoming our biggest fans,” Hunter said. “A kid goes into a tackle hard and you’ve got the whole bench riled up, and it’s exciting.” 

According to Hunter, the team learning how to play with heart simultaneously taught them how to play as one.

“Team chemistry was kind of an issue coming into the season, but nearing the end, especially after spring break and after the second Latin game, I think we really kind of meshed as a team,” Hunter said. 

Hunter’s skills as a captain also strengthened this team chemistry, according to senior teammate Julian Mondragon. 

“I think the biggest quality of his that stood out, this season especially, is his passion for the game and for his teammates,” Julian said. “We always say that the soccer team is a family, and Hunter really brought that out in the team this year.”

Similarly, junior player Philip Kellermeier said Hunter is a very humble leader and added that Hunter did a particularly good job at making new players feel included. 

“We had a whole new team this year. He welcomed and supported many younger kids that may have been intimidated by high school soccer,” Philip said. “He would make these amazing saves that keep us hopeful of winning.”

As a captain, Hunter leads by example, encouraging the team to find purpose in their playing.

“That was something I saw last year a lot from Miles Rochester,” Hunter said. “He wasn’t always the most talkative on the field, but he would just work all the time, and I was like, OK, if I can just be the hardest worker on the field, that’s what everyone will see and everyone will respond to.”

Moving forward, Hunter believes his time on the team will stick with him and his teammates, especially thinking back on such an unusual year. 

“Coach (Josh) Potter tells us all the time about his soccer team in college, and how they see each other all the time — how they take care of each other,” Hunter said. “Developing that social group — that close-knit connection — is something that I’m going to take away and plan to focus on later.”