Many club sports see the team train together for months, getting to know one another and learn the intricacies of their abilities.
High school athletics, meanwhile, can paint a very different picture.
The St. Robert Rams girls soccer team, a Tier 2 squad in the York Region Athletic Association (YRAA), had to hit the ground running due to the weather and conditions entering May.
“We had our first game on (a Tuesday), and our first practice was the day before,” Rams Grade 10 player Jordyn Ho said.
St. Robert has a single varsity team, meaning that girls from all years play on the same squad.
While that may be a benefit over the long term, the variety of athletes involved led to some early-season confusion.
“I think that, because we haven’t played together much, it’s harder,” Ho said. “Coming in, we didn’t even know each other’s names. As we get to know each other better, it (becomes) easier to play together.”
Trying to direct traffic when you only know about half of your teammates can be an exercise in futility, as veteran Ram Sarah Andoh found out.
“It was a struggle at times,” said the Grade 12 student, who last played on the team in 2017. “Even out on field, it’d be, ‘oh, you have, um, um, open’, and the name would get lost.
“Also, a lot of us are new to the school, a lot of players are juniors, and it’s just a matter of getting used to being around each other and playing with each other, and getting to understand how other people play.”
This is Ho’s first season on St. Robert’s varsity soccer team, and as a result, she came in knowing almost no one.
“I’ve played (rep soccer) with one player before on Richmond Hill, but that’s it before this season,” Ho said.
One thing that certainly helps endear Ho to her new teammates in putting balls in the net, which she did twice in St. Robert’s opening game.
“I think it builds teamwork and encourages your other teammates,” said Ho, who received a number of high-fives from her fellow Rams after both strikes.
While Ho and Andoh both play club soccer outside of school, many of their teammates only play house league, or don’t even compete in organized footy beyond YRAA action.
Getting some experience working together has helped both the veterans and newbies figure out where they are at as a unit.
“Now, we can see what everyone’s strengths are and what things we need to work on,” Andoh said. “Like with myself, where I know I can improve my passing, and (fellow striker) Giulia (Vigliotta) knows that, so she can come closer to me,” Andoh said.
The experienced Rams are taking the chance to try and help out their teammates whenever possible, which includes directing them on the field, encouraging them, and sometimes just simply putting trust in them to get the job done.
“It’s interesting to see the different levels of experience,” Andoh said. “I think it’s valuable to have people at so many different levels, too, because then we can learn from each other. Those at lower levels end up getting training that they wouldn’t normally get from the girls at the higher levels.
“One thing we can definitely work on as a team is spreading out and not getting into a cluster,” Andoh added. “If you lose it, let the next girl get it and get ready for the pass.”
Before the season began, many of these girls were strangers to each other.
Now, when Andoh sees them between classes, it’s another friendly face.
“Yeah, for sure,” Andoh said. “Half of these girls (coming in) I had never seen before, but I’m a really team-oriented person, so when I pass people in the halls, I’ll be saying ‘see you at the next game or practice.’”
Photo: St. Robert’s Sarah Andoh corrals the ball in regular-season YRAA action. Stephen Sweet photo.