September 22, 2010 10:13:00 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
Jessee Mims has always felt comfortable on the soccer field.
Mims'' skills on and off the ball as a midfielder allowed her to make a difference in a match and feel like she was a contributor.
But the security Mims had worked so hard to establish vanished when she arrived at Itawamba Community College.
Instead of installing Mims as a fixture in the midfield, ICC women''s soccer coach Mike Sullivan experimented with the former Heritage Academy standout and started her at striker.
Confusion and doubt ensued.
"It was really difficult," Mims said. "I had never been a striker. I had always been the one who was making the passes (from center midfield). It was really difficult being up top as the one who has to score. I was having a difficult time adjusting, especially playing with a new team. I was not comfortable at all."
The experimentation continued as Sullivan moved Mims to center midfield, where she scored the first goal of her college career against Holmes C.C.
Something still wasn''t right, though. An injury to a key performer left ICC, which already has a smaller roster than usual, with a position to fill at right midfield, so Sullivan opted to move the right-footed Mims to that spot.
The move clicked immediately and has enabled Mims to re-discover her comfort level.
Mims scored goals against Northwest C.C. and East Central C.C. to raise her team-leading total to three. Her play also has helped ICC rebound from an 0-5 start to move to 3-5 and, more importantly, 3-0 in the North Division. ICC will try at 2 p.m. today to build on its winning streak when it plays host to Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. It will travel to Hinds at 5 p.m. Friday for another important North Division match.
Mims'' transition to right midfield didn''t come without an adjustment. In fact, Mims said it took some encouragement for her to realize she needed to change.
"The level of my game was not like it was in high school. I was kind of holding back the first few matches," said Mims, who gained a reputation for being a high-energy player in her two seasons at Heritage Academy. "I wasn''t like the Jessee I used to be. My mom noticed and especially my dad. He told me to loosen up and to play your game and that ''you''re better than this.'' "
When that didn''t do the trick, Sullivan took Mims aside and talked to her like no other coach had in her career.
"He pulled me out of the game and said, ''Jessee, you have the skill, you have talent. We all know this. It is not showing up. We need you to get mad and to get physical, and we need you to play like you did in high school.'' He told me he was going to put me in at right mid and I was like, ''Yes sir.''
"He had my heart racing a little bit. I was worried because I felt like I disappointing him. He gave me the incentive because I was afraid and I had a lot of weight on my shoulders and I just wanted to get it done finally."
Mims said Sullivan didn''t get on to her when they talked. She said the discussion made her realize she needed to snap out of her doldrums and that she needed to get it together to help her team.
The move to right midfield has allowed the Mims that soccer fans in the Golden Triangle know to re-emerge.
"She is good on the ball, she has a lot of skill, and she is able to hold the ball a little bit," Sullivan said. "I have been on her about being a little more physical because this is a whole different game (from high school) and these girls will knock you around a bit."
Sullivan said it isn''t ideal to have a freshman be the team''s leading scorer. But he said Mims'' positive attitude and powerful right foot have helped put ICC in plenty of scoring positions. He said he will continue to stay on Mims to shoot the ball more so she can take advantage of her ability to read the game.
"She has done well to this point, and she definitely puts herself in good position to score," Sullivan said. "We have to get her finishing more of her chances as we get deeper into the season and closer to the playoffs. You have to take advantage of every opportunity, especially when you get into the playoffs."
Mims isn''t sure where she will end up when ICC gets all of its players back from injury. She doesn''t think she is attracting more attention because of her recent success, and she won''t mind if she does. Now that she is feeling comfortable again, Mims is confident she will be able to do help her team in a variety of ways, whether it be scoring, setting her teammates up, or providing a dangerous distraction on the right side.
"I loved center mid when I played there, but now being able to play another position and having the opportunity to play right mid, I like it better," Mims said.
Said Sullivan, "I knew she was a good player, and coming in I felt like she would be in the starting lineup, but I wasn''t sure where. It took a little bit to figure out where she and the others should be. But we''re 3-0 in the division after a tough start and we have turned things on. I think everybody is in the right spot now."
That''s good news for Mims, who is feeling comfortable again on the soccer field.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.