A day in the life

Melanie Leonida and Antonia Rigby sing karaoke on the bus headed for UAH Sunday, Sept. 9.

by Staff Writer Matt Wilson

The UNA soccer team arrived at Flowers Hall Sunday, Sept. 9, at 9 a.m.

The teammates loaded their gear underneath the bus that was headed for Huntsville as Coach Winkworth greeted me and showed me to a seat at the front of the bus.

The team would be spread throughout the bus, and I would be sitting near Winkworth and Assistant Coach Chris McBride. Winkworth pointed out the others that would be traveling with us to the away game and began to explain a recurring theme with the UNA soccer team: the family.

Winkworth’s wife was on board, as well as an older gentleman introduced as Chuck.

“Chuck comes on all of our trips with us,” Winkworth said. “He is like the team granddad.”  

Winkworth also said he always requests the same bus driver. “Jamesy,” as the team refers to him, fired up the luxury bus and headed to UAH for a rivalry fixture that afternoon. As the bus headed down Pine Street, the mood seemed focused and calm  — and then Winkworth grabbed the microphone at the front of the bus and made an announcement.

“Um, yes, let’s see, whose turn is it?” Winkworth asked.

The team piped up enthusiastically about which girl would have to sing karaoke, on the microphone, in front of the whole bus.

Melanie Leonida, Antonia Rigby and Schyler Arnold, all freshmen, eventually made their way to the front of the bus and with the aid of an iPod began a giggle-filled medley which included “Mysterious Girl” by Peter Andre and “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.

“This is one of the things that we do as a team, to get to know each other, especially the new girls,” Winkworth said. “The new girls have to take turns getting up and singing a bit for us.”

He also pointed out that this ritual was entirely voluntary and thus not hazing.

The song selection for the karaoke session would have been different if one of the Osmond sisters had been on the microphone. While talking about the contents of her iPod, Julia Osmond spoke about her love of Celine Dion.

“I love Celine Dion — she is just awesome,” Osmond said. “I have seen her in Vegas, and it was great.”

Two of UNA’s goalkeepers cover almost every genre under the sun. Morgan Grace explained her wide expanse in musical taste.  

“I listen to screamo before a game, so I can get pumped up,” Grace said. “But I also like country.”

Schyler Arnold said she enjoys a little bit of everything. Later in the day, as the team was exiting the bus, the White Stripes pumped from her Union Jack-emblazoned headphones.

At lunchtime, Chelsea Rial explained how the team eats Subway so often that they probably smell like five dollar footlong perfume. No Subway today, but Winkworth still chooses somewhere healthy, and, as Rial points out, no sodas for the team, just water.

As Jamesy pulls the bus back onto the road, Winkworth gets on the microphone again.

“Now it’s time to just think about the game,” he said.

The bus fell silent as headphones went on.  After touring the new field at UAH, Jamesy pulled the bus to the locker rooms. As the team gathered their things, Winkworth set the tone with one word to the ladies: professionalism.

After the locker room session, the team loaded back onto the bus — some with solemn, tight lips, and some singing along to iPods.

After they all took their seats, another bonding exercise began when Rial began reading a personally meaningful quote. She explained to the team why that quote is important to her and then shows the team a sweatshirt and picture that are meaningful to her.

Winkworth explained that two girls before each game go through this list. He said it is another way for everyone to get closer and become a true family.

As freshman Mikaela Renfro started her explanation of why the quote she chose was important, she had to stop and fight back tears. A good friend had sent it to her the day she suffered a bad injury.

Just before the team exited the bus, Winkworth rang the family bell one more time.

“Remember, ladies, soccer is the one thing that has brought all of you together, brought all of us together as a family,” Winkworth said. “Don’t let your sisters down.  Work your socks off for each other.”

The Lions defeated UAH 2-0 that day, and the weather was beautiful.

After the team showered and team trainer Lindsey Kent worked her magic with athletic tape and elastic bandages, the focus turned to dinner.

Jamesy parked the bus and as the team unloaded, Chuck leaned over and said with a grin, “It’s fun when you’re winning.”