Whitt, the Goal is Playing
By Jonathan Drew
Note: The following feature first appeared in the March 21
issue of the National Commodore Club's Flagship magazine.
a brisk Tuesday night in March the women's soccer team scrimmages
to prepare for its first spring game later that week. Goalkeeper
Lauren Whitt crouches in goal, waiting intently as her teammates
drive the ball towards her in formation. While routine practices
like this might bore some elite goalies, Whitt relishes her
every opportunity on the field.
look at every practice differently now," she said. "I just
walk out on the field and think, 'wow.' It's just great to
be able to get out there and play. Sometimes I'm exhausted
mentally and physically at the end of the week, but at the
same time it's a great feeling because I'm finally able to
get on the field."
Whitt's refreshing perspective comes as a result of two long
seasons spent rehabilitating an injured knee. The redshirt
sophomore, a member the women's national team that won Gold
at the 1999 Pan American Games in Canada, had been a mainstay
in goal for the Commodores her freshman year. Since then,
two subsequent ACL tears have kept her on the sidelines. She
first tore her ACL in a 1999 game against Alabama, and she
reinjured the same knee in 2000 during summer league play.
to practice in December, Whitt hopes to make up for lost time
and recover from an injury that spells retirement for many
think that for the average person such an injury is much more
devastating, but not for Lauren Whitt," said Vanderbilt Coach
Robbie Church. "She knows it's a struggle, but she's working
very hard. She's very inspirational to all of us."
able to practice at full speed, Whitt said that she wants
to return to the elite level of play that allowed her to thrive
in both NCAA and international competition. Her personal goals
include an SEC title and an NCAA run for her team before she
leaves. She also hopes to play in the newly formed women's
professional soccer league. To fulfill this goal, she realizes
that she needs to regain the confidence that she built during
her tenure with the women's national team.
of the most positive things about playing in the Pan Am games
was the exposure to international competition," she said.
"I remember what that level of play was, and I remember that
I could play there. I want to get back to that level. I think
that's one of the things that has been my driving motivation
for the last two years."
to Coach Church, Whitt has shown promising signs of improvement
this spring. Whitt says that, despite some frustration, she
has been encouraged by her improvement.
the first week of practice, I was way ahead of where I thought
I would be," she said. "For a while, I could tell a difference
with each day. Now I've plateaued a little bit. Right now,
it's all about getting my timing back."
injured, Lauren stayed involved with the team by attending
practices and games. For a season, she helped out the other
goalies with their technique, taking on some of the duties
of a goalkeeper coach. In addition, she endured grueling rehabilitation
toughest part of this ordeal has been just going in every
day and doing that much extra rehab," she said. "The past
two seasons I was doing two to three hours of rehab in addition
to going to all the team practices and team lifts. I would
go to McGugin Center at one in the afternoon and be there
until nine or ten at night."
even went out of her way to ensure the team's success by doing
laundry on a couple road trips and making telephone calls
for team reservations. In spite of her eagerness to help out
her teammates, she says that they were a real help to her.
think about how amazing my teammates have been," she said.
"They've done everything from carrying my bags when I was
on crutches to motivating me in practice now that I'm back.
I have real high standards, and I expect a lot out of myself.
They're very encouraging when I get frustrated with myself."
the frustration of her serious injury, Whitt says that it
has provided her valuable insight.
I have grown so much through the ACL tear that I almost wouldn't
trade the experience," she said. "I've kind of stepped back
and watched my teammates, learning more about team interaction.
Now that I'm back, I know people's characteristics, and I
can understand their behavior on the field."