Bobby Edwards shares on his decision to redshirt this year and how involvement with the team has evolved. To read all the player journals, click here.
You ended up redshirting this year. Talk about that decision and what ultimately pushed you that direction?
The decision to take the redshirt was a tough one involving a couple of different factors.
First and most importantly was my health. My foot has been healing; just not as fast as I had hoped. Four weeks ago at my last doctor’s appointment the CAT scan showed that although the outside of the bone was looking really good, deeper inside of the bone was still healing and the fracture site was still visible. I was cleared to begin slowly building back into full weight bearing activities (running, jumping, etc.), the key word being slowly. This has been hard for me sense it is my nature to train full out. Since this was the second time I broke it I really needed to take it slow this time to give myself the best chance to fully recover. One of the tough things with this injury is that the bone can feel good up until it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t, you’re looking at another three months out minimum. So redshirting this season reduced the risk of my getting injured yet again.
Second is the reality that a layoff impacts your form. I can’t expect to sit on the sideline for three months and then be back at top form as soon as I return to playing. I had to ask myself, “Is this the version of myself that I want to use one of my years of eligibility on?” You get five years to compete in four seasons of college soccer, and with only two left, each one is extremely valuable to me. When I step on that field, I want to be sharp on every play. Giving myself the extra year gives me the time I need to be in top form at the start of the 2017 season.
Lastly, the team hasn’t needed me to embrace the risk involved in coming back early. In my absence, Greg O’Connell has played well in goal and the defense as a whole has been playing great. With only a few hiccups here and there, teams haven’t been able to break us down. As the saying goes, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
How has your role with the team changed? How are you trying to stay connected with the team?
It’s been hard to watch the games from the sidelines, but I’ve done what I can to make a positive impact behind the scenes. Trying to offer positive energy, promoting team chemistry and doing what I can to assure that our practices are run at a high level are all ways I’ve tried to contribute. I’ve put extra emphasis on supporting the younger guys who don’t get to see the field as much. After practice, I sometimes get a group of guys together who want to stay and work on aspects of their game and do what I can to help them.
Jimmy Wandling, my high school coach at St. Benedict’s, often spoke of the concept of a “willing sacrifice.” Each year when we reported to preseason, he would give us a copy of the following quote by Pat Riley (taken from The Winner Within):
“The most difficult thing for individuals to do when they’re part of the team is to sacrifice. It’s so easy to become selfish in a team environment. To play for me. It’s very vulnerable to drop your guard and say, 'This is who I am and I’m going to open up and give of myself to you.' But that’s exactly what you’ve got to do.
Willing sacrifice is the great paradox. You must give up something in the immediate present---comfort, ease, recognition and quick rewards---to attract something even better in the future: a full heart and a sense that you did something which counted.
Without that sacrifice you’ll never know your team’s potential, or your own.”
I put this quote in my locker at SJU and try to remind myself each day of what it means to give a “willing sacrifice.” To be injured and on the sidelines is highly frustrating for any athlete driven to compete, so it has been a daily battle for me to acknowledge and push aside the self-absorbed thoughts my frustration gives rise to and to choose instead to do whatever I can to help our team succeed.
St. Joseph’s is 3-2 in conference and a 6-6-1 overall, a huge improvement from last year. What’s been working this year that wasn’t last year?
We only lost two players who graduated and one who transferred, so a big part of our success is that we have been able to keep a core group together who have benefitted from another year of development. The growing experience and leadership of our guys is showing on the field.
Last year going down a goal could seem at times like an impossible hole to climb out of because of our failure to score goals. This year we’ve done a better job on offense of creative attacking play and taking advantage of our scoring opportunities. This takes pressure off of the back line, knowing that even if we go a goal down that we aren’t out of the game.
Defensively, we have a well-defined system where everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. We have two younger center backs that are playing together for the first time this season and doing a phenomenal job. Our outside backs are experienced, with one of them a team captain. I’ve never seen a pair be so committed to each play of the game, constantly making runs to join in the attack and then sprinting back to get behind the ball. Following their example, all eleven guys on the field are doing their part to help out on defense. I mentioned in my last journal that we needed to figure out what our identity was as a team. I believe that this year we’ve become a team that is known for our physical team defense.