ORANGE PARK, Fla. – When you have won 13 consecutive district titles, 12 of the last 13 regional titles, and 8 state titles including the last 5 in a row, there has to be a secret to the success to the St. Johns Country Day girls soccer program. But if you ask head coach Mike Pickett, there is no secret at all.
It is just trust in the system.
In his 19 years as the Spartans head coach, Pickett says that the "system" is simple; no one is above the team and everyone has a role.
"We have always had kids that accept their role," says Pickett. "No matter if it is five minutes a game, maybe no minutes a game, or eighty minutes a game. We have had no prima donnas or divas that think they are bigger than the program, so the system is really simple. We try to do the little things well and everyone knows their role and plays it the best they can."
At St. Johns Country Day, it is possible that you could have a role for more than four years. Being a private school, Pickett says that being able to not only put girls in middle school on the team, but give them minutes on the pitch is a valuable part of their success.
"Five of these girls have been on the last 5 state championship teams, they were 6th and 7th graders at the time. Every year that I have been here we have had the same landscape of seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshmen, and then a big crop of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who have been pulled up to varsity. The goal is to get them up to the varsity level as quick as possible when they are ready to compete," says Pickett.
Being one of those five girls on the past championship teams, senior center back Sydney Monroe has been brought up in the system and has been a part of each aspect of it. She says that getting familiar with what is expected does not take long.
"You are extremely familiar with it," says Monroe. "I've been watching the system since I was twelve years old. I know what it is coming into it and you learn a little more each year."
Senior center back Olivia Schultz adds that along with learning a little more about the system each year, the team gets closer and closer on and off the field because of it. It is that camaraderie that gives them a big advantage.
"We know each other. We know our strengths and weaknesses, we know how to handle each other. We can get each other through adversity when it is there and pick each other up."
Being a senior not only comes with "system" responsibilities but also a tradition to uphold after winning 5 state titles and counting in a row. There must be intense pressure to continue the streak but Pickett insists that pressure is not the right word for it.
"It is more of leaving a legacy. I think that each class wants to leave their own legacy and no one wants to let anyone down or be that class. At this point we have built it long enough to be successful and we will keep tweaking it as we go."
But not too much tweaking according to Monroe. She says that the system and winning in it has become the norm around the program.
"This is all that I have known since 7th grade," says Monroe. "We have never known anything different, so if we don't win, that would be weird."