Leading one step at a time
by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union
Not everyone that is asked to be a captain in capable of doing it. To be a solid captain, a person needs to be able to put aside their difference on and off the pitch for the good of the team. They need to be able to get their point across. They need to be the second coach on the field.
When talking to Gianna Telfair you can tell she has what it takes to be a solid leader on the field. The young lady is very personable, but can also get her point across. She is the steady influence on the back line for the Clarence High School soccer team.
You could almost say she was groomed for the role. Like most players, Telfair started her way up the Clarence ladder. She started her soccer career on junior varsity before finally getting called up to varsity.
It’s not like, however, she was a starter right away. She rode the bench as a reserve in the beginning - something that players hate doing. She didn’t pout - she just worked harder to earn the trust of her coaches and teammates.
Now, you can’t get her off the field. Telfair is the steady Eddy in a three-women back that has helped Clarence get to where they want to be year in and year out. She is the vocal leader on the team. The girls look up to her.
They see the hard work she has put in to be a starter at the varsity level. They see that it never came easy for her, that she has had to work for everything that she has earned.
“The past couple of seasons I have grown into a leader because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve had to work hard to move up the ladder: from being on JV, being a substitute, to becoming a starter and a captain. I can see how each girl has a position on the team and from that I’m able to share my knowledge and experience to help them get to where I am today. No matter the role on the team we’re all a family,” stated Telfair. “While having a heavily young team this year it’s important to motivate everyone to be ready for the varsity level. As a leader, I like to remind the younger players that we are a family and to work hard for each other.”
Telfair is that rock for the Red Devils. Her play in the defensive zone is one of the reasons why Clarence is challenging each and every years for Section VI titles. It’s not easy being a defender, they don’t get a lot of glory.
Defenders are the last line of defense. A lot of times they only get recognized if a goal gets on the net - then everyone wants to know who was on the field. It’s a thankless job.
Telfair works hard at her craft. Besides high school soccer, Telfair also plays travel. She knows to be one of the best on Western New York it takes practice. She hones her skills and takes her position on the pitch very seriously.
“To become a reliable defender you have to be able to learn from your mistakes and turn it into a good impact,” stated Telfair. “Defenders have an important role because they’re able to see the whole field, therefore, it’s important that they communicate with their teammates.”
It’s also important to shutdown the other teams best player. Goal scorers love to score goals. They love to do their elaborate celebrations after putting the ball in the old onion bag.
When a defender like Telfair is able to shutdown an opposing teams best player the celebration is more kept inside. As Telfair states, there is no better feeling when you are walking off the pitch and you just shutdown the opposing teams best player, or players.
“I get very excited when I’m able to shut down the opposing team's best player,” stated Telfair. “Usually when this occurs the other team has a hard time making an impact. This then helps my teammates to become more attacking and score goals.”
It has been a heck of a ride for the senior. This is her last year playing varsity soccer for the Clarence Red Devils. All those memories, and memorable, playoffs runs will come to a head soon enough.
Senior day is never easy, and Telfair tries not to think too far ahead. But, she knows it’s coming. All those years getting up early and playing in tournaments and making an impact on the pitch will soon come to an end.
Telfair right now has one eye on the present, but also one eye on the future.
“With this being my last year I make sure that I put a lot of heart into every game, every minute, and every play. I always work hard and appreciate the game and the family I have around me, because not everyone is able to have the same experience as I do,” stated Telfair. “When the weather starts to change into fall and there are less home games it becomes difficult to stay determined. However, I keep in mind that our goal is to win states and I will keep working hard until that’s achieved.”
It’s also important to stay in the now.
The game is physically demanding and hard enough. Just recently, Telfair and her teammates played back-to-back double overtime games That’s close to 200 minutes on the pitch in a three-day span,
While it takes a tole on the body physically, mentally it’s not easy. A player like Telfair, who doesn’t get a ton of rest on the pitch, has to be mentally strong to be able to grind through 200 minutes of soccer in just three days.
She has to be able to forget what happen from the last game and focus on the now. Sometimes the mental part is tougher than the physical.
“It’s important to be mentally prepared every single day on and off the field. While being mentally prepared on the field it’s important to remember that if you were to make a mistake that it’s a learning experience to become a better player,” explained Telfair. “Having a healthy diet and staying hydrated is an important aspect in being mentally prepared off the field.”
Gianna Telfair is ready to take the next step in her life. As one chapter of her book is closing, another is opening.. The blank pages are ready, now all Gianna Telfair has to do is start writing.