Sept. 4 was a special day for Tacoma Defiance.
The team’s 4-0 victory over Portland Timbers2 earned the team a playoff spot, the Pacific Division title and something…sweet.
A tradition that was established this year, Head Coach Wade Webber has been making two loaves of banana bread for the Tacoma squad after every shutout.
“There was definitely some celebration in the locker room,” said defender Hal Uderitz. “We clinched playoffs and our division title, but our assistant coach [Michael Morris] actually wrote on the board that we got banana bread, so the guys were definitely happy.”
As the team struggled to come out with consistent shutouts in the beginning of the MLS NEXT Pro season, the Defiance’s leadership group felt it was necessary to apply an incentive for every clean sheet to provide extra motivation.
“We hadn't been getting a lot of shutouts so we had a meeting, and one of the guys actually had done a similar thing at a previous club where when they got a shutout, they got some sort of reward like dessert,” said Uderitz.
With Webber’s prior experience utilizing the overripe bananas leftover from the locker room to make banana bread, he and the leadership group came to the conclusion that the delicious dessert would be the perfect reward after solidifying a shutout.
The strategy worked superbly.
“We got three [clean sheets in a row] right around the time we incentivized it,” said Webber. “It's something out there that you can compete for. And it doesn't matter if it's banana bread, or an extra 100 bucks or whatever the bonus is. Some players are motivated extrinsically.”
The banana bread reward has been a fun way to bring in extra encouragement to close out matches with zero goals against, but it served meaning in more ways than one.
“It’s about making sure the collective gets a reward for their efforts because so often we celebrate the individual,” said Webber. “What gets lost sometimes is the role that everybody plays in a successful performance, and so this is a way for me to reward the entire team.”
The togetherness it brought to the Defiance team is also something worth recognizing.
“It’s an external thing that they could talk about in a fun way because there's a lot of stress sometimes when you're playing,” said Webber. “And if you look at a teammate, and you give them a wink and say, ‘Hey, banana bread,’ it's something to sharpen their focus perhaps a little bit and the banana bread could very well be this little galvanizing thing that allows the guys, in a critical moment, to refocus and go ‘Okay, that's for shutouts and we're gonna do everything we can to get it.”
The Defiance presented Webber with a Chef’s hat and shirt after their shutout win against Timbers2, in hopes that there’s more banana bread to come as the team finishes up regular season play and heads into playoffs.
And that shouldn’t be a problem after last Monday’s performance.
“It was an exciting moment,” said Assistant Coach Michael Morris. “There was a very good collective nature from the guys, a high level of intensity and concentration.”
“It was good to not only score the four goals, but to get that shutout and also have what felt like a pretty comprehensive performance.”