Leadership is not always defined as words said in a huddle, or simply by having a stellar work ethic.
Sometimes true leadership is defined by a sacrifice made.
Such is the case for Whetstone High School senior girls soccer player Cira Tibbets, who was looking forward to scoring goals as a striker for the Braves during her final varsity campaign. But she ended up playing in goal.
“She’s always been one of our more vocal players and she is someone who has stuck up for her teammates and been a very active person on our team,” coach Bailey Waitkus said.
“Our goalie last year (Avery Bair) dislocated her shoulder in the City League championship game and that discouraged her from coming back to play soccer.”
Waitkus spent the spring trying to find a goalie.
She looked at players from the basketball team for the type of skill that would be required and talked to multiple players already in the soccer program about moving positions.
But eventually Tibbets came forward.
“I was talking to her, and she said she wanted to help the team and do whatever she needed to do to make sure we had a successful season,” Waitkus said. “After a little bit of thought, she agreed that she wanted to step up and fill the role.”
Waitkus was happy to fill the position but did not have expectations that the move would work out for the Braves so well.
“I did not think she was going to really take on the role the way she did,” the coach said. “She is phenomenal, and she puts in extra work. She’s constantly asking the coaching staff what more she needs to do. She went to the Nationwide Children’s camp with our team and did extra goalie work. Because she’s naturally gifted and athletic, she picked up on the role easily and gracefully.”
Multiple times this season, Waitkus has turned to her bench in wonder after a play Tibbets has made.
“Committing to play goalie was a difficult decision to make because I really enjoy playing in the field,” Tibbets said.
“But I knew that as a senior and as a leader of this team it would be a way to step up and really show out for my team. I was thinking that the team needed me, and I decided to do it.”
Because Tibbets has so much experience as a field player, she has been a weapon both in making athletic saves and in extending the field as someone who can come out of the box to take a pass and redistribute the ball.
“My teammates are comfortable enough to pass it back to me,” she said.
“I can get it and look up the field to find teammates to pass to. It’s easier for me because I’ve been a field player.
“I have the ability to do both and they kind of come together when I’m in a spot where I need to figure out where to go with the ball,” she added.
The Braves started the season 4-6 and were 3-0 in the City League heading into their Sept. 26 game against Centennial.
Whetstone edged the rival Stars 1-0 Sept. 7, then beat Centennial again at historic Crew Stadium last week to claim another City League title.