Leading the charge

When you look at those wearing the captain armband, you can’t help wonder what type a leader they are. Are they the type that screams and yells to get your attention? Or are they the type that sits back and waits for that one teaching moment?

It has been said that leaders lead from the front. That leaders are the ones that show others the way. But, not everyone is a leader. It isn’t easy being the center of attention. It’s different scoring goals or racking up points.

It isn’t easy standing in front of the media having to answer an insane amount of questions on why your team won or lost. Of course if you win the questions are easy to answer. If you lose, the questions become much harder.

A true leader will never throw his or her teammates under the bus. It doesn’t matter if that person had a bad game or not. At the end of the day it’s up to the leader, or captain, to stand up and take the heat. If you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.

For Williamsville East High School soccer player Mikayla Crofford being a leader became easy for her. She already knew the game of soccer, so the next step was to teach those around her how to play the game the right way.

“I think that when I started to really learn the game of soccer, being a leader came naturally. I also think that my coaches throughout the years have helped me come along as a leader,” stated Crofford. “This year we had a lot of younger players on our team. Being a captain required a lot of communication with the team and communication with the other captains. As a senior I had to help coach with getting messages across to the team and encouraging them during the games. After a tough loss it was up to us to help keep the team’s spirits up.”

Tough losses have been few and far between for the Flames over the past couple of season. The Flames have been loaded with talent, and that has showed on the pitch. The more wins they have earned the more coaches have come out to games.

With so much talent on the team, colleges coaches who come to the games to scout one person may leave impressed by another. Every game the girls feel the need to be at their best. After all, they never know who would be in the stands watching.

“I believe that being on such a successful team definitely helps coaches notice players,” stated Crofford. “I think that we as a program have a reputation of having good athletes, so coaches are interested in coming and seeing us.”

When college coaches came to take a look at Crofford they knew they had something special on their hands. Playing the unsexy position of a defender, Crofford is one of the best defenders in Western New York. Her technical skills were one of the main reasons why the Flames had such a solid defense.

Crofford prides herself on making sure she has good touches on the ball, and having the defense in the right frame of mind on the field. Communication is key to be a solid defender, and Crofford is a perfect example of what good communication can do.

“Playing a solid defense is all about communication between the back line. There always needs to be a constant support of the player stepping to the ball and everyone needs to know who their marks are,” explained Crofford. “I play a very technical game and every decision I make with the ball is intentional. I pride myself in having a good touch and always getting to the ball first. I’m a leader on the field and very defensively minded.”

Crofford’s type of game will translate just fine at the next level. If anything, Crofford will just get bigger and faster as she transitions from high school to college. When the recruiting process took place Crofford was all for it.

She was ready to see what other schools had to offer. When Indiana Wesleyan came calling, Crofford knew it was a good fit right from the start.

“The recruiting process for me was very easy. I went to ID camps at colleges that I was interested in and made sure that I stayed in contact with them. Overall I did not mind the recruiting process,” stated Crofford. “The biggest thing in choosing Indiana Wesleyan is the atmosphere on campus. That atmosphere was in the soccer program too, as well as walking around campus. The coach also brings out the best in my play.”

Even with her best in high school, Crofford knows to be able to compete at the next level that she will need to get ever stronger and faster. She knows there is no offseason and the best way to improve her game is playing.

That’s why she has taken her talents to Global Primer Soccer (GPS). After years at Blackwatch. Crofford needed a change. She needed a different voice. She wanted to take her game to the next level and felt that GPS was able to provide that for her.

“Blackwatch was very good for building a good technical foundation, but this year GPS was a better fit for me,” stated Crofford. “Blackwatch has given me a very strong technical base and sense of the game. GPS has increased the speed and intensity of my play very much.”

Playing the game is easy. Be a leader, and someone to count on, is tough. But, Mikayla Crofford is making both look easy, and in the process helping her teams succeed.