Players of the first CNMI Women’s National Team looked back at their coaches and teammates and recalled the impact they created on the squad on and off the field.
Patricia Coleman, Lindsay Davis, Natalie Hill, and Emily Gries-Maxberry graced the pilot episode of Footcast with Norman, a 10-part series hosted by MP United Football Club technical director Norman Del Rosario and features former members of the national teams and their struggles and triumphs as they help work toward the development of the sport in the Commonwealth. The four players, during the Saturday launch, mentioned their two coaches who had different approaches in guiding them and their teammates that held the squad together at the most difficult, yet momentous times of the group.
The team had Jeff “Ziggy” Korytoski as its first coach and Gries-Maxberry remembered his grueling workout/practice sessions as they prepare for the first-ever Marianas Cup in 2007.
“The nightly runs at the American Memorial Park or the early morning uphill runs were so tough that one day I asked myself why I am doing this,” she added.
Coleman added that Korytoski’s method was made more challenging by that fact that majority of the members of the team were not that young and fit and they were pressured to achieve a certain fitness level at a short period of time.
“But Ziggy’s workouts really taught us to be more disciplined, how to take care of ourselves (avoid injury and observe proper nutrition), and manage our time well,” said Coleman, as she and her teammates had to juggle their time going to work, attending practices, having scrimmage, and doing personal or household chores.
For Davis, Korytoski got into her head, as it was him who encouraged her to dig deep and turned a bunch of recreational players into fierce competitors.
“His drills pushed as so hard that there were times some of the girls were almost crying because they don’t know if they can still make it to the practice the next day. However, coach Ziggy made me realized there’s something in me, that I don’t easily give up,” Davis said.
Korytoski, a former a scout for U.S. Soccer and the Seattle Sounders and is the current head coach of the ASC San Diego, had a brief stay with the NMI WNT, paving the way for former Japanese pro player Sugao Kambe to the take the cudgels for the squad.
“Coach Kambe also pushed us hard, but in a caring and gentle manner. His ways and demeanor of training us was something I don’t consider as punitive,” Hill said.
Davis recalled how encouraging and positive Kambe was when they played a Japan Women’s Football League team in a scrimmage in Japan as they were getting ready for the second Marianas Cup.
“With just about four seconds into the game, there was this player who blew past me and scored and coach Kambe was like, ‘it’s OK, go back to play,” Davis said.
Kambe also coached the NMI WNT during the East Asian Football Federation Women’s Football Championship 2010 Semifinals Competition in Taiwan in 2009 and witnessed history unfold, as the Commonwealth scored its first goal (Carrie Schuler) in an international match.
“We’re happy we’re able to give him that because I think after the tournament, he realized he’s done with us,” Coleman said.
Brenda Schultz was also a member of the first-ever NMI WNT and her teammates looked up to her.
“When we were just starting, there were people criticizing us, the players’ abilities. But Brenda was there to keep the team’s morale high. She stuck with us and held the team together,” Coleman said.
Coleman also mentioned Gries-Maxberry’s influence on the team.
“She kept as calm on and off the field. You know the situation when everyone was having challenges during trainings and games, but Emily kept everything drama free,” Coleman added.
Gries-Maxberry returned the favor to Coleman, saying it was the latter who encouraged her to join the team and “do it for the children.”
“We started it and though we faced a lot of challenges, we’re very happy for what the program has become,” Gries-Maxberry.
Davis and Hill, on the other hand, picked their goalie Rebecca Newman-Schroeder for keeping the positive atmosphere on the team that started from scratch and struggled to get ready for battle against highly competitive teams.
“Becca would always have this bruises after each practice or every game for diving for those balls, as we used to train and play in potholes and wild grass at the Airport Field, but you won’t see her complaining. She would always smile and was our No. 1 cheerleader,” Davis said.
“Whether we’re behind by a big or small margin, she was always there helping us pick ourselves up. I would always remember her dance moves,” Hill said.
Hill, Davis, Gries-Maxberry, and Coleman believed they had solid teammates that may not be as technical and experienced as their opponents, but can be counted on as they did everything they can and worked together to start something that would benefit the younger generation of players in the CNMI.