Leaders need to be able to adapt to whatever situation comes about, no matter how grave or difficult.

The Michigan men’s soccer team’s season is currently suspended, with a possible start date in the spring. For its players, the potential cancellation or further postponement of a season feels like a rock in their stomachs. But Wolverine captains Umar Farouk Osman and Marc Ybarra have a different narrative for themselves and the team. 

Michigan and other athletic programs across the country are facing an extraordinarily difficult situation. Yet, led by Osman and Ybarra, the Wolverines have persevered and stayed motivated through these peculiar times. During the offseason, even prior to their return to campus, Osman and Ybarra made a concerted effort to set an example that would trickle down to the younger players. 

“Before we started preseason, we had Zoom sessions every week to help with mental preparation,” Osman said. “The coaches gave us videos so that we were all on the same page and that we all understand the philosophy of the team so we have the same mindset.” 

For Ybarra, the difficulty of not playing during this unprecedented time is amplified by the fact that all of the players on the team were physically and mentally preparing for the team’s season over the summer. In August, it was extremely tough to hear that the season was postponed. Ybarra said the team is now preparing for a season in the spring, hopefully, with the NCAA Tournament moved from April 30 to May 17, 2021. 

For the Wolverines, leadership is of the utmost importance. 

“We are trying to create a driven culture, and it comes from the captains on the team, so we try our best to make sure the freshman feel comfortable,” Osman said. “We are all on the same mindset that we are here to work hard every single day, challenging ourselves and holding each other accountable in practice.”

According to Ybarra, there is a certain culture on the team to which the freshman are easily assimilating. 

“A lot of it is internal. We haven’t had explicit conversations with these players. They just came in excited and ready to go and a lot of them are playing really well,” Ybarra said. “The freshmen have been doing a really good job being smart, being safe. It’s definitely a different time to acclimate to the university, but I think the fact that we’ve had regular training is hopeful to give them a routine.”

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