Dec. 19, 2001
SAN DIEGO - By Jennifer Pfluke
"Whoa! What is he doing?"
That was Kim Pickup's reaction after spotting former college coach Jerry Smith's new bleached-blonde 'do and earring last weekend during the 2001 NCAA Women's College Cup. Pickup, a Santa Clara graduate, had gathered with a group of friends, also SCU grads, to watch the tournament.
Smith, who is in his 15th year as the Broncos' head coach, changed his look as a result of a deal he'd made with his team. If Santa Clara won the West Coast Conference title, he'd do whatever the girls decided. They won, and he let himself be dragged off to the mall, from which he emerged somewhat resembling Spike, the British vampire featured in the cult TV hit "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
"When they first showed him on TV, I was like, 'Crisis!'" Pickup laughed, "and then I heard them say that the team had made him do it. But actually I really like it, and I don't think he should go back. It looks good. But the earring has to go."
In addition to winning the WCC title, Santa Clara also claimed the national title in the Broncos' first trip to the final. Pickup, who graduated in 2000, was part of a team that made four consecutive appearances in the semifinals but could never push its way through to the championship match. Although she was thrilled for former teammates Danielle Slaton, Anna Kraus, and Aly Wagner, she admitted feeling a twinge of bittersweetness.
"It's funny because my friend Jacqui Little [who played with Pickup at SCU and was recently traded to the Washington Freedom from the San Jose CyberRays] had called me and said, 'Now are you going to be happy if they win?'" Pickup explained. "I knew what she meant, and I said of course I'd be jealous, but honestly, there's not an ounce of bitterness because I know how hard they worked. We were just unlucky.
"I was so happy for them and for Jerry, because he had this huge monkey on his back, and for them to finally get there is awesome. And I still feel a part of it. My friend was saying that we helped build the legacy, and maybe some of those players there now wouldn't have gone to Santa Clara if our recruiting class hadn't gone, so you still feel part of it, and you're proud."
Besides hanging out with friends and making fun of Smith's hairstyle, Pickup's been keeping busy with other things as well. She occasionally serves as a nanny for the three daughters of Spirit teammate Joy Fawcett, and with the WUSA in its offseason, she's also making sure she's staying fit.
"I decided that I'm not going to give myself total time off because it's so much harder to get back into shape rather than staying in shape," she said. "So I've still been keeping up with training, and actually we have a good group that trains two or three times a week. There's [Spirit forward] Shannon MacMillan and me, and also [Philadelphia Charge goalkeeper] Melissa Moore, [Philadelphia forward] Mandy Clemens, and some others. A lot of the Philadelphia Charge and San Diego Spirit have been working out together.
"The other day like 16 people showed up, so we had an 8-v-8 going, keepers and everything. It was perfect."
Earlier this fall, the Spirit convened for a postseason training camp. While most of the other teams chose to have two week-long camps, San Diego met for one two-week camp. According to Pickup, the camp served as an incentive to stay in shape, and she felt the team looked great.
"As professional athletes you should be expected to stay in shape without having to be told, but knowing we were going to into camp and have fitness tests was a real motivation," she said. "It was a lot of fun to be able to regroup with the team. I miss the girls, so it was good to get back out there and see them. I was surprised at how well we did."
With the start of the league's second season creeping up on them slowly but surely, Pickup's focus, along with that of her team, centers on a meeting that San Diego head coach Carlos Juarez held at the conclusion of last season.
"We want to just improve as a team next season, and start off strong," she said. "It's going to be better this next season because we're going to have Joy from the beginning. Our goal is to obviously win the championship but also to play the game we do. Carlos recruited a lot of talented people, and we like to play. Hopefully we can do that and win too."