On a road trip to Florida, Georgia freshman defender Delaney Fechalos made a simple request.
Joined by a chorus of teammates, they turned their attention to freshman defender Natalie Goodman. Goodman, known as a talented singer, was thrown into the spotlight. Goodman got up and gave her rendition of American Honey by Lady Antebellum. Everyone was filled with emotion. She even had freshman teammate Mariel Gutierrez up and dancing. Interestingly, Gutierrez and Goodman share a connection that stretches beyond the soccer field. This bond is a love for the musical rhythm of fine arts.
Gutierrez has been involved in fine arts ever since she was a little kid. Growing up in Mexico, the Hispanic culture was apparent on every street corner. From the famous salsa music to the smooth rhythm of the tango, Gutierrez fell in love with dancing. She started doing ballet at the request of her mother at three years old. She would perform in local ballrooms and put on performances. Gutierrez would take this passion into middle school where she engaged in dance battles. While, she wasn’t the best dancer, it was here that she honed in on the rhythm and movement of dance. It was this discovery of rhythm and motion that intrigued Gutierrez.
“In dancing, you have a rhythm and movement that is important,” Gutierrez said. “You have to understand times to turn around, when to move your hips, and know where to place your hands.”
These specific movements in rhythmic dancing are also key techniques on the soccer field. For Gutierrez, she uses the techniques to anticipate where her opponent will be. This allows her to be in a better position to defend on the field. While not the swiftest, Gutierrez uses her mind to counter any attack from the opposition. This edge comes from the repetition of steps and rhythm that performing provides. It is something that Goodman understands completely.
“I feel like I can pick up a rhythm when we are passing around,” Goodman said. “When we are passing around, I know how fast or slow I need to play. Sometimes you need to change the rhythm. So when I play, I may need to speed up or slow it down.”
Goodman has been around fine arts her whole life. Along with being a singer, she is also a guitar player. From her time at Savannah Country Day School, Goodman has always been able to grasp the concept of rhythm. Under the tutelage of jazz band director David Elliott, Goodman became acclimated with musical pitches, beats and flow. Her memory of these fundamentals allows her to memorize a musical note and string them together into a smooth flowing song. This ability translates to the soccer field for Goodman. On the field, she is able hear the pace of play and get in harmony with the flow of the game.
“Because I have a musical background, I can pick up something one time and I know it,” Goodman said. “In soccer, I’m able to learn set plays quickly because I can hear it and perform it.”
Dancing and music have played a big role for both Gutierrez and Goodman. It is their ability to understand rhythms that gives them a mental advantage on the field. Through anticipation, they are able to beat defenders by playing smartly and effectively. It allows them to be in the right situations and in turn help the team perform better as a unit. Head Coach Steve Holeman recognizes their mental attributes and he sees how important it is to team’s overall performance.
“Mariel understands the game at a very high level,” Holeman said. “She is not physically the fastest player, but she anticipates well. She knows how to defend players faster than she is. She makes up with her speed with her intelligence.”
Holeman spoke just as highly about Goodman.
“Natalie is one of the hardest working players on the team,” Holeman said. “She plays center back and it’s extremely important to understand the tactics of that role. For Natalie Goodman, she just gets it.”