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Cotton: Indiana Men’s Soccer and the complexity of adversity

One of the unique dynamics of team sports is the complicated nature of adversity. Consistently, we work to praise teams that maintain a unified approach to handle sports’ intricacies, but sometimes unification simply isn’t feasible.

Last season for Indiana Men’s Soccer was truly remarkable. It was almost easy to qualify it by describing it as “special.” What came with that “special” label was a season that lacked any sense of real adversity.

The Hoosiers never faced a deficit in the entirety of the regular season, and the team itself did things defensively that were nearly inconceivable.

This “special” sentiment lasted all until the very last moment of the season. It lasted until one split second of college soccer trauma ended a season in despair, as the Hoosiers went on to lose in the National Championship on a walk-off goal in extra time.

The absurdity of it was the end result. IU’s biggest adversity of the entire year actually came in their offseason.

With nearly eight months to ponder it all, the question has now become, how do you handle it?

Conventional wisdom provides you with two common approaches.

One approach would be to take that adversity and move past it. Forget about what you can’t control in the past and only worry about what you can control in the future.

“We’re over it,” Indiana midfielder Francesco Moore said.  “We don’t think about it too much, but obviously you want to win a championship, so even if we won the championship this year it wouldn’t have mattered going into this year because we still want to win. We want a championship. We want a Big Ten Championship and a National Championship.”

The other would be nearly the opposite. Remember your failure and turn it into motivation.

“We don’t talk about what happened a lot, but it’s definitely all on our minds,” Indiana defender Andrew Gutman said. “We all want to get that sour taste out of our mouth and I think that’s a huge motivation that a lot of teams in this country don’t have.

For Indiana Men’s Soccer, and for most of life, there doesn’t seem to be one right answer.

This upcoming season can be treated as a completely different year from the last, or as a continuation of the past season fueled by a need to avenge a missed opportunity.

On one side of the coin, it’s a completely different year.

“I think every year is different,” Moore said.  “Regardless if we won last year, everyone is playing for a new championship.  Everyone starts out at 0-0. You don’t start off with the same record as last year. It’s a different year this year.”

Indiana will be without two of its biggest contributors. The Hoosiers will have to fill the 10 goal void left by Mason Toye, and Andrew Gutman will have to replace his long-term partner in crime with a freshman in Jack Maher.

“It’s definitely different,” said Gutman. “I’ve played a lot of years with Grant, but Jack is well beyond his age and he plays like he has been here for a couple years.”

Without those two, it’s hard to imagine replicating the past.

“What we did last year probably won’t be repeated for another 20 years,” Gutman said.

On the opposite side of the coin, this year isn’t really that different. The Hoosiers have an unprecedented nine returning starters coming back, and all of them faced both the incredible ups and the traumatic downs of last season.

Ultimately, it’s complex. Teams are comprised of people, and people are human. Everyone approaches adversity differently, and nobody should really expect otherwise. What matters moving forward is that each individual on this Indiana team must master their own individual coping mechanism because sports are more mental than commonly perceived.

There is one thing however, that everyone should agree with.

“Obviously it’s upsetting, but if losing a soccer game is the worst thing that happens in your life, you have a pretty good life,” Moore said.

I am a senior from Long Island, New York. I’m currently studying Marketing in the Kelley School of Business along with Journalism in The Media School at Indiana University. I want to tell stories and help others tell their own. I want to provide a unique perspective. Most importantly, I want to entertain. The Hoosier Network is the ideal place to do that. Follow me on twitter @EdwardKoton15 Email me at Please, pretty please, venmo me at @EdwardKoton

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