The Life of a Dad of a Goalkeeper


Know what’s hard?

Besides trigonometry and keeping your socks on while you sleep. Try watching your kid play goalkeeper. It’s tough when they’re 6. Butterflies and airplanes distract them when the ball bounces past.

When they’re full grown and playing full-grown kids who’ve learned about aggression on the soccer pitch and from reality TV and Twitter, it’s tough x 10.

My kid, the goalkeeper, throws her body around like a sack of yesterday’s laundry. It’s a wicked combination of pride and horror for a dad. It’s like a perfect steak and cheese sub on a gorgeous spring day, but with a nest of hornets and punch in the gut.

Madison describes herself on social media as a “midfielder trapped in a goalkeeper’s jersey.” A year ago, when no one else would stand in goal, she grumpily agreed to train for the job. She’s athletic and strong and just naive enough to be a team player.

GatoradeCharacterCreator (3)
We made this cartoon image of Madison a while back, on a Gatorade site I found on Twitter. That’s her, but with considerably more bruises and long sleeves and pants.

Or team player enough to be naïve.

Goalkeeper math isn’t easy

Her work is art and brutality all bound up with athletic tape, mud and blood. If an opponent enters the 18-yard box undefended, Madison is like the salmon vs. the eagle in that nature film.

She’s 5-foot-5, protecting a goal 8 yards wide and 8 feet high.

It’s dive, clutch, eat for the eagle. Sometimes, the salmon rises out of the water and slaps the eagle first. When that opponent enters the 18-yard box, Madison flings herself lengthwise into the path of the ball.

She also takes a body swipe at the girl’s feet, her own defenders, stray freight trains, charging rhinoceroses, and whatever else dares occupy the path.

Madison cradles the ball on her stomach on the slide and lets go and lets God. It’s human bowling with pins in ponytails and shin guards. These Evel Knievel saves rouse her teammates and bring the parents to their feet.

They also piss off the girls who believed they were on their way to easy pickins.

SoccerGOALIE800PX__58528 1410398068 1280 1280

Madison has 55 saves in five games. Incredible, but you don’t always want a ton of saves. Her teammates bust ass to keep her clean. 55 saves takes a toll. You’re stealing souls back there, sacrificing your ribs and ability to walk the next day to stop an attack.

And ticking off the opponent along the way.

Much appreciation

Madison has had F-bombs tossed at her in close range. Girls have kicked and smacked and stomped on her. She spends the car ride home with me after games counting and identifying wounds.

When parents stop her after practice to express appreciation, she smiles looks them in the eye.

But what about dad? I’m proud too. There’s also a hopeless feeling. Dad knows when his girl is hurt. He just does. He sees the attack build from the other side, hears the words dumb teenage boys in the stands use to suggest hurting her next time.

Dad knows when his girl takes longer than usual to get up off the ground. When she bends at the waist, tucks her chin to her chest, breathes deeply.

Then looks for dad on the sideline.


I stand with arms crossed. I don’t want to interfere. I don’t want to yell out for her, although maybe doing so would remind those around her that she’s someone’s little girl. Only she’s not little.

She’s strong and brave and even with blood and bruises, she’ll slide out again.

travel 2

Gaining respect

Friday, she took a beating in an 8-1 loss. She had 14 saves to go with post-game motrin and an ice pack that couldn’t cover everything. And a measure of respect from a seemingly blood thirsty opponent.

After Madison slid out on a shot and send bodies flying, she took longer to get up.

As she rose to a knee, she said she felt someone tugging on her arm. No. 5, from the other team, helping her up. You okay? she asked. I think so, Madison said. She always says that. And the game was back on.

It’s hard to watch your kid play goalkeeper.

It also must be hell to play against one like her. And not stop to give some props.

goalkeeper quote


  1. You have every reason to be proud of her, Eli 🙂 My twelve-year-old granddaughter and nine-year-old grandson play soccer and love it – she slightly more than him, but having said that, a couple of weeks ago, Samuel scored 8 goals. The other team scored zip 😀
    I love their enthusiasm; they put everything into it don’t they.

    1. Thanks Lyn! Scoring goals opens up the game for kids – they see it differently after they’ve scored.

      They do give it their all and inspire me. I was horrible at sports so I’m glad they didn’t pick up on those genes!

  2. Wow, I’m so glad Abby refuses to do any competitive sports. I’m not so sure I would be able to keep from embarrassing her by rushing the field and asking her if she was okay.

  3. Just reading that made me ache, but good for you for raising a strong team-player. Even in little kid soccer the few times M tried it out, parents didn’t want their kids to be goalie in case they got hit by the ball. Wrong sport to be in, I think…

    1. I’m proud of her being a team player for sure. No parent ever wants his kid in goal! You really can’t be afraid of any physical harm if you have a kid in sports, though. Or, hell, in life. Life is a full-contact sport.

  4. Wow. Talk about a tough cookie.

    Also, you should make her some cookies. She’s earned them. 🙂
    (And then eat one yourself – you’ve earned it, too)

    1. Isn’t she though? And still manages to wear fingernail polish and straighten her hair and stuff.

      Cookies are a great idea. It’s almost certain (hell, it IS certain) that as we get in the car after a game, she’ll say, “I’m starving.” and it’s almost certain (hell, it IS certain) that we’ll stop and get something to eat together.

  5. Elise is amazing and clearly gets a lot of her strength from her Dad!!!
    So hard to see your little (or bigger:) girl ever get hurt – hopefully it’s never a major hurt/injury.

    1. She IS amazing – but all I’ve done is support her fully. This is all on her – I was a lousy athlete who one season got hit by pitches more times than I got hits. (I also had more errors than hits. How’s that for legendary?)

      so far, it’s just been the rigors of the game, Kim. Just like the rigors of life.

  6. It definitely sounds like an intense position to play – not for just anyone.
    I need to give a shoutout to #5 from the other team. You rock, “#5 from the other team!”
    And “I think so” is my answer too.
    I often just think I’m all right – I don’t always know it. Thinking it is often enough.

    1. If you don’t have a goalkeeper’s mentality, you’re in for a much rougher day, for sure.

      Yes, No. 5 impressed me. She appeared kind of mouthy and evil at first, but after a couple of run-ins with Elise, I saw she was just a competitor – and one who could recognize a worthy opponent.

      Thinking you’re all right is the tough part sometimes, isn’t it? Probably if you’re definitely not all right, you’re not going to get up.

  7. I’ve always admired the goalkeeper, waiting back there, only to be struck at and then flinging one’s body. It takes a protective nature, I’m sure (“it’s my goal, back off!”).

  8. I hated trigonometry with a passion!

    Love the idea of the salmon bitch-slapping the eagle! Also love that a girl of the opposite team helped her up, that’s sportswomanship!

    It must be so tough seeing their kids being roughed up on the field. I’ll yet have to learn to deal with it. The other day the boys were playing soccer in the yard when I heard C not crying but making similar sounds. Obviously an older boy had kicked him in the stomach with cleats.
    I breathed in, breathed out, opened the window and just stood there. “He ran into my foot, it wasn’t my fault” the big boy defended himself. “No, you kicked me!”
    Looked like he could defend himself and I didn’t have to get out there and bitch-slap an 8yo. God knows I would, though. Two weeks later you can still see the bruises!

    Now what’s with the socks? If you’re asleep, they won’t go anywhere..?

    1. She’s so self-made, and had a wonderful keeper coach get her going. I can only take credit for helping to establish that early learning environment where she could learn skills while she learned to love the game.

      1. I hope she continues to make you proud of her mate, you’ve brought up some great kids.

  9. Say four prayers indeed. I shall never forget the time my son was in goal and the coach’s dad ran behind the net and booted the ball to midfield. Except he misaimed and booted it right into my son’s face. I’m chatting with the other parents. Did I notice? Nope. Fast forward to driving home from skiing later that afternoon. “Mom is it normal for half of your face to feel numb?” he asks. Oops.

    1. I’d sacrifice a pigeon if I thought it could help, Kelly. The perils of the goal know no bounds, do they?

      You’re one of those chatty parents, eh? I don’t sit down or stay still much on the sidelines, but I do pass by your gaggle.

  10. this must be how my mom felt when I played 3rd base. nothing hurts like a line drive to the shin. I can still feel it some days. I don’t know if I should be happy my kids seem to have no interest in sports, or if I am missing out on something. Although, it’s hard enough to just watch them climb the maple tree in the front yard some days.
    love the picture!! 🙂

    1. “God watches over drunks and third basemen.” – Leo Durocher

      I’m pretty sure Elise’s ankles will pop for the rest of her life! Reminders of your glory days in sports, right?

      There’s still time for your kids to try sports, but it’ll just have to start with them, right?

      Glad you like the picture – that was a great day for us.

  11. This post brought tears to my eyes. Especially phrases like “then looks for dad on the sideline” and “an ice pack that couldn’t cover everything ” and “No. 5, from the other team, helped her up”.
    You have completely summed up – on a single page – exactly what is the game of soccer is, how the parent of a soccer player feels, and what it is like to be the parent of a soccer goalie.
    My son played goalie for just a couple years – I have had empathy for every goalie parent ever since!
    Found your blog from Kelly at JustTypikel. Now I see why she enjoys it!

    1. Wow, thanks Susan. Honestly, I teared up a little writing it. It wasn’t what I set out to write for the day, but that game, that effort … made me really examine what this experience has been like.

      It’s quite a life, parenting a keeper, isn’t it? So glad you wound up here, and I owe Kelly some thanks! I hold her in the highest regard here in the blog world.

      And beyond.

      I look forward to checking your blog out too. Are you in Ft. Collins? I grew up in Greeley! Always a Colorado State fan.

  12. So true! I have had 2 kids that played keeper at the same time! My son just graduated and my daughter is going to be a freshman next year. She’s currently playing club soccer and school sports. She’s a beast in goal. Watching games is so stressful for me but she looks fearless. I’ll be found away from the other parents far down the sideline where I can watch her and not hear anything else. lol. In shootouts you might find me with eyes closed or back turned. I can’t take the pressure.

    1. Glad this post resonated with you! I can’t imagine two kids in goal at once. I love the idea though!

      As you know, there’s a huge difference between a keeper and a kid playing keeper. As parents, it feels impossible at times to watch our girl fling her body in harm’s way time after time, but when they’re beasts (like your daughter and mine are), you know they know what they’re doing.

      What people said used to bother me. Boys telling players to take out my girl. Dads complaining that she’s stopping their shots. I had to learn to tune them out and pray to whatever patron saint helped keep keepers safe! Shootouts are another animal and subject for another post.

      I have a rising freshman playing, too, but center mid. Maybe they’ll end up squaring off, your girl and mine!

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