My high school soccer Coach approached me the summer before my senior season with an interesting request. He asked me to start training to become a goalkeeper, and offered to pay my way to an elite goalie camp in order to refine (or develop for that matter) my skill-set. As a central midfielder my entire life, I was a little reluctant to accept the offer. There are very few transferable skills between the two positions; they might as well be completely different sports. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a shot, and packed my bags for Bowdoin to attend SoccerPlus Goalkeeper School.
Surprisingly, I took to the position rather quickly. I had developed adequate coordination and reaction-time via participation in several other sports throughout my childhood, and my goalie-specific skills came along nicely under the tutelage of some of the world’s best teachers (the Director was a back-up for Manchester United, one of the best soccer teams in the world). I left camp that week excited to begin my summer season, anxious to display what I had learned to my coaches and teammates.
Game by game, as the summer program dragged on, my performance steadily improved. In one particular match against a large, talented class A squad, I made several noteworthy saves in a thrilling 1-0 victory. Heading into the final summer tune-up tournament our team hadn’t lost a game, and I had allowed only a handful of goals. Despite a few glaring errors early in the acclimation process, I was enjoying my successes, and still had several components of my game to improve on. I was thrilled at the prospect of being a feared varsity goalkeeper.
Then, SNAP. In the very first game of the final tournament of the summer, my hand was stepped on and broken in a frantic scramble for the ball inside of the penalty box. In as little time as it took for Coach Beckwith to slip me the camp deposit, all of my untapped potential was crushed underneath the force of a measly cleat. Despite the brevity of my relationship with the position, I was genuinely devastated by the realization of never being able to make a diving save or booming punt in front of hundreds of fans at my school’s home field. I can’t imagine the mental toll it takes on athletes who have dedicated their lives to a particular sport, and are unable to fulfill their desires due to injury. Does anyone else have an experience like this? If so, how did you deal with it psychologically?