The first organized sport I remember playing was soccer. I wasn’t very fast or coordinated so I was placed as defender and/or goalie, depending on the health and/or timeliness of the mothers of my teammates. One might think the most talented player should be the goalie, it being such a seemingly important position, but one would be wrong. The position and prestige of goalie in my league may be compared to that of a Little League right fielder; a polite way of saying: “you’re a nice kid; try not to screw up in the off-chance that something actually does come your way.” The strategy was entirely offensive, and practice was generally spent shooting, passing and running. If the other team scored, we (the defenders) blamed the forwards for not scoring. It was a sweet deal.
When I was about twelve or thirteen, my team was playing in a tournament against Scott Valley. I was playing goalie and doing quite well (i.e. our offense was kicking ass). Late in the game, one of the players on the opposing team made a push and broke through our forwards, middle-backs and defenders, running as fast as he could toward me, dribbling and showing off a bit for the crowd (composed almost entirely of parents).
The night before, Dan Kutzkey, a lifelong friend of mine and fellow (actually good) goalie taught me how to dive and block shots. He assured me that this was what real, professional goalies did and that if I didn’t do it I was just another lame wanna-be goal keeper. I practiced exactly twice and was convinced that I had learned all I needed to learn to master the technique.
As the challenger approached I readied myself for the spectacular dive I was sure I could pull off, blocking the shot, stunning the crowd with my skill, saving the day, and finally proving myself as a contributing member of the team. He shot, I dove, and my head hit the side of the pole, knocking me out cold. It would have been splendidly heroic had I actually blocked the shot, but I didn’t. When I woke up I remember feeling sick and very embarrassed; I can’t remember whether we won or lost.
The unfortunate part was that had I simply stood still, I would have blocked the shot; he kicked it right at me.