Petty using psychology to find ways to help SSHS win

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Mar. 1, 2007 - As a future psychologist, SSHS goal keeper Kai'la Petty is getting some training on the soccer field.

Petty, a four-year starter in goal for the Lady Cats, said trying to read opponents' body language - especially in one-on-one situations, helps her make saves.

"I have to read other players, what they are going to do, especially on PKs and shootouts," she explained. "They have the whole goal, and it's only me, so I have to try to read their body language to be able to make a good save."

In 16 games this season, the senior daughter of Tina and Tony Wisniewski has made 95 saves. Both she and coach Martin Bryant attributed part of that to the communication she has with the other defenders.

While Petty's most visible function is stopping shots, her ability to direct the defense is just as important, Bryant said.

"She knows that's a big part of her job because if she spends the time making sure our defense is lined up, it makes it a whole lot easier on her in the end," he explained. "There's more talking in soccer probably than in a lot of other sports because you don't take timeouts. You can't stop and regroup. You've got to be able to regroup on the field.

"A lot of times, when there's a crowd involved, players have to do without the coach, so it's important to have someone in the net that will talk and communicate with the defense."

But, Petty knows that when a shot is sent toward the net, the focus of the entire stadium shifts to her.

"For me, what I like is the intensity because all eyes are on me," she explained. "When someone else messes up, there are people behind them to correct their mistakes, but when I mess up, there is nobody behind me.

"I think it's up to me to talk and to help get everyone pumped up. Especially when I make a good save, it gets everyone pumped up, and they can turn around and score."

With Erica Verner, D'Kota Hutchings, Brittany Lamphere and Devyn Cullins in front of her, Petty has had a strong group of defenders to help protect her this season.

"We're like a sisterhood," Petty said of the team chemistry. "We're very close. If we're yelling at each other on the field, we're doing it in a constructive way so we can be better. We know it's like that, so it makes us better."

She said Bryant, a former high school keeper himself, has helped her by not just telling but by demonstrating methods to use in goal.

"Kai'la has gotten better during the year," Bryant said. "She really listens well, takes what I give her and uses it in a game."

She will be using her skills on Saturday, when the Lady Cats (9-5-2 overall, 4-1-1 in District 16-4A) host North Lamar as those two teams and Paris jostle for playoff positioning. Unless something drastic happens in the last four regular season games, SSHS and the two Lamar County teams will be the playoff representatives, but with only two points separating the three teams, the playoff race is wide open.

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