Gambardella Appreciating the Game in a Different Way
Téa Gambardella is in the midst of her sophomore season as a member of the Guilford girls’ soccer team. Soccer found its way into Téa’s heart as she grew up in an athletic family, and she loves the consistency that the sport brings to her life.
Soccer is Téa’s emotional outlet. For Tea, there is no feeling quite like the adrenaline rush that she gets when she’s patrolling the pitch for the Grizzlies.
“When I play, all the endorphins are rushing through my veins. I feel alive. There’s no other feeling that can match it,” says Téa. “Sometimes you get the thrill of an amusement ride or at concerts. That’s how I feel when I play. I like the aggression.”
Téa sticks to her opponent like glue when she’s on the soccer field. Opponents have a hard time shooing Téa away from the play. This is something that Téa’s brother Santino can attest to. The two of them grew up training together at Guilford High School in between spontaneous footraces from point A to point B.
Téa can read the field—and her opponents—like a book. Even in the heat of the moment, Téa does so with comfort while competing for Head Coach Regina Sullivan’s team.
“Specific to soccer, her vision, she just reads the game so well,” Sullivan says. “She sees the whole thing.”
Unfortunately, Téa has been forced into a completely different setting over the past couple of weeks. She doesn’t have a defender on her hip. There’s no adrenaline rush. This is because Téa’s right foot, which had never gone more than a week without a soccer ball at its toes, is now stabilized in a brace. For the first time in her career, Téa is confined to the sidelines.
It’s going on three weeks since Téa suffered an injury in a game against Foran. The sophomore forward, who has 10 goals and 3 assists in just 4 games played this fall, may miss the rest of the 2022 season due to a fractured growth plate and a sprain in her ankle. There are at least two more weeks to go in Téa’s recovery period.
“I feel like not playing, it would cause a huge hole in my life, almost. It’s all I’ve known pretty much,” says Téa. “Playing games, going to practice, I feel like it keeps me in check. And it’s a big part of who I am.”
Prior to this season, Téa had never been sidelined for any length of time due to an injury. Téa suffered a broken arm when she was in 2nd grade, but that was different.
“You can still play with a broken arm,” she says.
Coach Sullivan knows that it’s been frustrating for Téa to have to watch the action from the sidelines. However, Sullivan says that Téa continues to serve as a source of positive energy for her squad.
“She’s always learning,” says Sullivan. “She can’t even play right now, and she’s still studying the game and trying to be the best she can be—for herself, but also for her teammates.”
Téa has done this by bringing a notebook to each game and analyzing Guilford’s play. She’s now studying soccer from the outside looking in. Every play and every observation goes into two different sides of her notebook: glowing and growing.
Téa has evaluated her own game film in this way in the past. “Glowing” indicates positive results, while “growing” indicates areas that still need work. Nowadays, Téa is taking these notes as she watches the game unfold in front of her.
Téa misses playing soccer, but sitting out the past few weeks has given her a chance to expand her soccer mind. She’s not trying to outpace Santino. She’s not trying to overpower defenders with her hustle her use her sly creativity to slip past them.
For the time being, Téa is viewing the soccer field like a chess board. Téa has been forced to slow down and see the game from a more tactical perspective, rather than relying on her athletic ability.
“I’m very fast-paced. That’s how I’ve always been,” Téa says. “I think I still have a lot of slowing down to do, but I’ve come a long way.”
Guilford is vying to qualify for states with an overall record of 5-6-1 entering the home stretch of its regular season. There is a chance that Téa’s sophomore season may be over, but she’s hoping that her foot can heal by the time the playoffs come around. Guilford recently made up some ground in the standings by winning all three of its games last week.
“I have high hopes for this team, and there’s a lot of hope for this team,” says Téa, who also plays lacrosse for Guilford. “I believe in this team, and I have a really strong bond and trust with these girls.”
Téa still has a ways to go in her recovery, but she’s grown more confident in herself every day while dealing with her injury. When she does return to the field, the Grizzlies’ high-energy scoring threat is poised to be an even stronger leader and more calculated technician on the pitch. The past few weeks have been challenging for Téa, but she takes solace in thinking about one of her favorite quotations.
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor,” Téa says.