Pat Onstad

Goalkeeper's Log: On being a 'keeper

Dear Diary:

I thought some of you would like an insider's perspective of goalkeeping. Our position is obviously unique to the sport but it is very important to the success of any team. I have still yet to win a game in my career (having never scored a goal makes that easy) but I sure can recall many a game where I lost it. It may sound a little harsh but our job is really quite negative. You can play spectacularly and keep a clean sheet only to draw or you sometimes can have a stinker and see your team bail you out with an amazing offensive display and win. Either way it is unlike any other position in sports. Sometimes you are only called upon once or twice in a game yet others you can be under constant pressure. So our job becomes one of preservation with the hope that someone else can win the game for the team. It is an odd job, often leading to odd characters, but also rewarding.

I began as a forward in soccer and as the saying goes worked my way back to goalkeeper. I can remember to this day the game when I realized that I was destined to stay between the pipes. I was 12 or 13 and at the end of each season our club would have a "Field Day" where all teams within the club would play friendlies against their own age group. An older team was missing their goalkeeper that day and I decided to play for them. I remember a player crossing a near post ball and instinctively I dove out, caught it and quickly got to my feet and switched play with an accurate throw. Now I know it doesn't sound like much of a play but it was so easy for me that even my coach at the time saw it and he suggested that I give goalkeeping a try. Then again maybe he just wanted to put the big guy in goal.

I have always enjoyed the pressure of goalkeeping. I would be lying if I said that I never get nervous before games, but I find I am much more relaxed once the game begins and I can just rely on my ability and not think too much. In fact, I find it much more nerve-wracking when I am on the bench, at least I have some control as to how we do defensively if I am playing (it must be murder for the coaching staff). There is a great scene in a movie called "For The Love of the Game" (baseball movie) where Kevin Costner is just about to pitch at Yankee Stadium with the crowd going nuts when he says, "Clear the mechanism" and all around him goes quiet. I don't use a phrase, but I find that all goes quiet when I'm on the field except for the players, referee and the coaching staff. It seems as if the bigger the game, the more relaxed and focused I become. I guess when your shining moment (blunder) is in your home debut what else could possibly be worse?

Goalkeeping is a fantastic position that takes a little different personality compared to the rest of the players. Let me tell you there are many different characters that play this position, but those stories are for another diary entry. However, if you ask my teammates they will probably tell you that I am one of the most normal goalkeepers they have been around. Of course, I did choose to become a goalkeeper so there must be a few cards missing from my deck.



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