By Gabe Campis
Christina Jean-Charles journey to the Oklahoma State University soccer team has been long but prosperous. Growing up in New City, New York, Jean-Charles has had a love for soccer for a long time and this love gave her a chance to play at a high level.
Jean-Charles, a senior sociology major with plans to become a physical therapist, said her journey was difficult, but luckily her teammates have made the transition easier.
“It’s been a tough jersey, but it’s been an easier one because of the people I have surrounded myself with her,” she said. “At Oklahoma State it’s just like the women’s soccer team in general has made me like part of the family.
“And coming from New York, where the team was like my family, and then coming here where I have another family, it’s just made it so much easier to be comfortable here.”
She said she truly enjoys playing in Stillwater, but it has still been difficult to be away from her family.
“It’s definitely easier when you have friends and coaches like these,” she said.
Jean-Charles started off her collegiate career at Monroe College, a junior college in New York City, where she was stand out centre-back, holding midfielder, and full-back.
Justin Elkington, the associate head coach at OSU, was instrumental in recruiting Jean-Charles to Stillwater.
He said she stood out because of her phenomenal work ethic and talent on the ball.
“She was playing for Monroe Community College of New York, and she was at the (Junior College) national championships in Melbourne, Florida a couple years ago,” Elkington said. “Kind of the MO was trying to find a player that could help us in the midfield, and possibly help us in the back.
Elkington said when he saw her play, he saw her as a centre-back.
“There’s certain things you’re looking for as a centre-back,” he said. “But also when she stepped into the midfield, she played as a good midfielder as well. So she checked a lot of the boxes for both.”
Elkington said she commanded the field and the ball around her, and was a strong leader too.
“She had a little bit of a nasty streak about her, which I really liked,” he said.
Jean-Charles ability to play multiple positions is perhaps the best testament to her quality as a footballer. In her time at OSU, Jean-Charles has played multiple minutes all over the field.
In 2015, her first season for the Cowgirls, playing the majority of her time in the midfield, she led OSU in minutes played, with 1,790 and was second on the team with four assists. In 2016, Jean-Charles featured at right and left full-back and again in a central midfield role, contributing one goal and two assists in 21 games.
When Jean-Charles arrived in Stillwater, Elkington said it took a push from the coaches to get her focused, but after that she made a solid impact.
“Early on when she got here, she was a little shy and reserved,” he said. “We had to give her a nudge to say, ‘Hey look you’re an upperclassmen, whether you’ve been here five minutes or two years.’ And she took that really, really well and kind of ran with it.”
Elkington said Jean-Charles has been able to play in whatever capacity they have needed her in.
Preparing for each match without knowing which position you will be used in can be a frustrating job.
However, Jean-Charles said she found the right mindset to help her prepare.
“I just feel like I prepare defensively for both positions,” she said. “Defensive mindset is where it gets a little tricky, so I just prepare myself defensively for every position.”
Since bringing her talents to Stillwater, Jean-Charles has led by example if not so much vocally. Courtney Dike, a senior forward for OSU, said Christina is an important player for the Cowgirls.
“She is very mobile on the field, she’s very useful to our team, and she’s a very good distributor of the ball,” Dike said. “She’s very savvy and smart, so it’s so much fun playing with her and learning from her as well.”
OSU coach Colin Carmichael said it’s been nice to have a player such as Jean-Charles who can line up at various positions.
He said it he didn’t reach out to Jean-Charles until the end of the recruitment process, but he was thankful that he did.
“We reached out and got her to come visit during the Christmas break,” Carmichael said. “It was kind of a last minute deal to be honest. We kind of rushed through it and she came and visited and really liked it.
“It worked out well, I’m glad it did, she’s been a really good player for us.”
As a casual observer, one can notice a bit of discontent from coach Carmichael when Jean-Charles makes a mistake. He lends this to the fact that Jean-Charles is a good player who he expects to perform well.
“There’s high expectations if you’re a good player,” Carmichael said. “Coaches tend to demand more from you because they expect more. Christina is a really good player, and at times we think there are is a little bit more in her, and so that’s probably why I’m on her more.”