FRANKFURT, Germany – United States women's soccer coach Pia Sundhage is not just feeling good ahead of Sunday's World Cup final. She is "feelin' groovy."
On Friday, Sundhage, who often sings in team meetings to keep her players relaxed and motivated, burst into an impromptu rendition of the Simon and Garfunkel classic "Feelin' Groovy" in front of a surprised yet amused collection members of the media.
There was little indication of what was to come when Sundhage was posed a question about which artists she drew most inspiration from as a coach.
"It could be anyone," she said. "I am a big fan of Simon and Garfunkel. It is funny, this life is about competition and competition, a lot of pressure and a lot of stress. Of course the players feel the same thing."
Moments later, Sundhage launched into a verse from "Feelin' Groovy" (also known as "The 59th Street Bridge Song") from Simon and Garfunkel's 1966 album "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme."
The song's theme and defining lyric – "slow down, you move too fast" – could be particularly appropriate for the USA prior to its showdown with Japan at Frankfurt's Commerzbank Arena.
The pace of the Japanese team – regarded as the speediest in the tournament – is one factor the American defense will need to both be aware of and adapt to if the U.S. is to avoid an upset.
The relaxed message can also apply to the players' mentality. Sundhage admitted it has been a challenge to keep the squad's feet on the ground following two exhilarating victories and a storm of media attention from back home.
"We need to get our legs back," Sundhage said. "We had a long game against Brazil and a tough one against France. We have a couple of days but I want to turn around the mental side and focus on our attacking personality.
"There are so many things to do before the final. Everything I do, whether it is singing or talking or showing them a video, is to give them confidence."
Sundhage took over from former coach Greg Ryan in 2008 and immediately attempted to instill a close team spirit and a sense of togetherness.
Sundhage occasionally signs in tandem with team doctor and former Sha Na Na band member Scott Powell.
"It kind of calms us down," midfielder Carli Lloyd said. "It is her way of motivating us and getting us to look at the big picture. It is about having things in perspective.
Yes, it is a World Cup final, but it is also a game, a game like those we have played thousands of times before. We have good perspective and she helps us achieve that."
- Pia Sundhage
- Simon and Garfunkel