espnW: Avery Rape

Making a difference in any way

November, 16, 2013
AveryCourtesy of Shane LardinoisAvery Rape is rarely on a stat sheet, but she embraces her role on Dukes soccer team.

As I go into the NCAA tournament, I have had time to reflect on my career here at Duke and what I’ve done for my teammates and the program. You will rarely find me on the stat sheet, considering I have one goal and one assist over my entire Duke career. I’ve never received any player of the week type of awards, and I’ve never even been interviewed after a game.

If I could be a genie, wave my wand and redo my entire career to be the leading scorer each of my four seasons, I wouldn’t. Why? Here are some lessons I have learned while riding the pine -- things I don’t believe I would have learned if I had been a superstar.

I was told recently your legacy is based on how you influence others, and that excellence isn’t an event. Through being on the Duke soccer team, I have learned how to connect with people. I embraced my role on the team and focused on how to make my teammates better.

I learned personalities, strengths and weaknesses. I can tell when people need to be motivated or cheered for, and I made that my job. I want to win and I help the team win because I know what the individuals on my team need in order to perform at their best.

At a program like Duke, we recruit extremely talented freshmen, but they come in hesitant and nervous. It is my job to help them settle down and give them confidence so they can be excellent.

For example, Cassie Pecht, currently a sophomore, is someone I feel as if I influenced the most her freshman year. She is a girl with unbelievable speed and skill with the ball, however, I could tell she was intimidated by the college game.

During games I would see her start to fade and shy out of the spotlight -- not play poorly, but not be the spark I knew she could be. Any second I could, I would pull her aside and say, “Cassie, it’s simple. Just take the ball and dribble it into the back of the net.” It’s about taking the complexity and pressure out of what Cassie was feeling and giving her a chance to settle down, laugh and simplify everything that was going on around her.

This season, Cassie was there to support me. Out for the season with an injury, Cassie has always been the first to approach me before I go into a game and tell me, “Avery, dribble the entire team.” She was telling me, “Play with confidence because I believe in you and I support you.” It is moments like that that I know I have made a difference.

If I were an all-star on the team, I don’t know if I would have forced myself to find a different way to make an impact. The feeling I get when I know my teammates have learned from me, been inspired by me and respect me is way better than any feeling I could have gotten from scoring a hundred goals.

Shout out to the others out there playing left bench because if you make the effort, you can mean more to your team than you think you do.

Go Duke!

Make a great game better

October, 18, 2013
Avery RapeCourtesy Shane LardinoisIn Avery Rapes version of soccer, special teams members could sub in on the fly for a free kick, corner or PK, and with their expertise could produce more goals.

DURHAM, N.C. -- Soccer may be the most popular game in the world, but America doesn’t seem to love it. I hear all the time that it’s boring, or there aren’t enough goals, or plays aren’t that exciting, there’s too much running, blah, blah, blah.

Obviously, as a player, I’m biased, but I also understand the complaints. Don’t worry, my friends, I have the answer to America’s futbol problems. I invented a way to make the beautiful game even more beautiful.

It all started my freshman year when our team was practicing a variety of “set pieces,” including corners, free kicks, penalty kicks, etc. I thought to myself, how cool would it be if I could just be really good at kicking free kicks and that was the way I would score a cornucopia of goals and become an American hero.

The problem was that I needed to get myself on the field in order to be able to take those free kicks, and that meant I needed to be really good at way more than just shooting the ball. Naturally, I was like why change my game when I could just change the game. Welcome to what I call my “Special Teams Theory.”

Here’s how it works: A really special and talented person, such as myself, specializes in bending it like Beckham and shooting laser beams upper 90 to the point where we can do it in our sleep.

We special teams people are dedicated to perfecting our kick from all different angles outside the 18-yard box and from the corners. We don’t spend our time practicing things of lesser importance such as dribbling, passing or those freaky skill moves. We become the Machiavelli of scoring goals from a standstill.

The rules: You can sub in special teams members on the fly whenever there is a free kick, corner or PK. They go in, kick the ball and come straight off the field after the kick. You don’t have to ask the referees, but the special teams player must leave the game as soon as possible after the ball is kicked, and she may even wear an alternate color jersey for extra swag.

The benefits: More goals! These special players should be pretty awesome at what they do considering it’s all they have to practice. Not only would there be more goals, but the goals would be more impressive as a result of specialization.

Girls would have more of an opportunity to shock the world once they developed Cristiano Ronaldo-type free-kick skills. Every single set play would become a seriously dangerous opportunity.

This would make the game more exciting for the players, the fans and the highlight reels across the country. Lastly, another small bonus is that special teams players wouldn’t have to be as fit as your typical soccer player -- although it is always encouraged for health purposes.

FIFA, feel free to call me to hash out the details when you decide to adopt the STT.

Go Duke!

Carla Overbeck still inspires

August, 27, 2013
World CupHECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images Carla Overbeck and her U.S. teammates captivated a nation and became heroes to little girls when they won the '99 Womens World Cup.

DURHAM, N.C.-- She won four national championships with the North Carolina Tar Heels and was an American hero to girls across the country when she helped win the 1999 Women’s World Cup as captain of the U.S. women’s national team. Carla Overbeck has every reason to be arrogant and distant from the Duke women’s soccer program, but she has been more to Duke soccer than just an assistant coach for the last 21 years.

Carla always has been an inspirational member of our team, but last Tuesday as my teammates and I sat in my apartment and watched ESPN’s “Nine for IX’’ episode “The 99ers,” we were reminded why we started and continue to be passionate for the game.

As I watched the documentary, what stood out to me is the unbelievable character and personality of our assistant coach. As a team we got to see how strong Carla was as a player, a leader and a person. Most amazing was recognizing that she is the exact same person with us as she was with her beloved and renowned ’99 teammates.

Just this preseason you could see the impact Carla has had on our 2013 team. During the five days we spent training in the mountains of North Carolina, she showed us her motherly side when she immediately came to our aid as a strange man tried to get into our van. Carla didn’t hesitate to make a fist, get right into the guy’s face and get him away from our team.

She can be protective of us, but she can also be one of us. While driving up the mountain, we came across a bear digging through a trash can. The scream was so loud you would have thought it was one of the girls, but it was Carla.

She laughs, she jokes, and she makes fun of all of us, making our relationship with her not one of intimidation, but respect. She is goofy and fun, but come game time she is intelligent, inspiring and one of the most passionate people on the sideline.

If you do not know Carla’s story, you would have no idea how much she has accomplished and how tough she is because she is incredibly humble. She is more to us than a famous women’s soccer player. She is a phenomenal coach, mentor and friend.