Short and a Goalkeeper- by McKayla Wetsel
How I handled being Short, and a Goalkeeper When I was 12 years old my parents took me to watch the US Women’s National Soccer team. We had seats right behind the goal. I sat there and watched Hope Solo play, and told my parents, “One day that will be me.” Just like every good goalkeeper, I had dreams, and I had goals I wanted to achieve. I loved the game, and that has never changed. As time went on I quit growing, and became a “short” goalkeeper. Along with this I watched the “tall” goalkeepers get just about everything I ever wanted. I quickly realized being short and a goalkeeper wouldn't allow me to have the same experiences, or opportunities as those taller players I was surrounded by. But honestly, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love the challenge that comes with being short. When frustrations set in, I think about that 12 year old me and how she would have done anything to reach her goals. Being a short goalkeeper is incredibly difficult. Not just because of your physical height, but because of the mental toll. As a goalkeeper, you often get overlooked. Most MVP awards go to field players due to the amount of goals they scored that season, the articles are written about the player who scored the winning goal, or the center backs get all the credit for keeping the clean sheet. You get even more looked over if you are short. You may be better, you may have the better stats, but somehow that taller keeper you are competing against is ALWAYS “better.” As a short goalkeeper, if you allow just 1 ball to drop in over your head, it’s game over instantly. For the tall keeper that can’t get to the ground quick enough, or times their jump wrong and the ball drops in over their head, it’s simply “an amazing shot.” These are all facts. We as goalkeepers can’t change it. Here are 3 ways I’ve learned to handle being a short goalkeeper. The first way is, allow the doubters to become your motivators. There will always be someone that doubts you. That comes with being a goalkeeper, and even more if you are short. If you use them as motivators, that will allow you to avoid mental hardship, and continue to improve. I had one coach look me in the eye and say “You will never make the Region IV ODP team, or play D1 soccer, you aren’t good enough, you are too short.” These words were heart breaking. Tall goalkeepers are never told they aren’t good enough because they are “too tall.” I decided to use him, and his words as motivation. The very next year I was on the Region IV ODP team, and was for many years. I was the least scored on keeper for 2 of those years, finished first at the Interregional Event twice, won the USYS ODP Girls Costa Rica International Tournament, and was invited to travel with the team to England. It also wasn’t much longer than a year and a half that I committed to play D1 Soccer at Idaho State University. The second way is, keep the believers close. The people that do believe in you are vital for your success. They will be there for you when no one else is, when you’re ready to quit, and when you feel like you can’t take anymore. My recruiting process was really rough. I had been denied by more college coaches than I can count, just because of my height. Most every coach said I had everything but height. Tall goalkeepers will never understand the frustration that comes when the uncomfortable conversation is started about your height when you are talking to college coaches. After 2.5 years of getting turned down by one coach after another, I had come to a point where I was sick of it. I had started to think quitting soccer after high school would be my only option. For me this was devastating. Soccer is my everything. One day, I was at practice, and a conversation about college recruiting started between my coach, Patrick Rennie, and I. It wasn’t long before I was in tears, and telling him I was done. Patrick, being one of the few believers I had in my corner, put his arm around me, and said, “McKayla, I believe it will happen. You need to believe it will happen. You are good enough, and I will not let it not happen.” At the time those words were everything. When I was going through a terrible time mentally, he was there for me. It didn’t stop there, he would call, text, and email college coaches and talk to them about me often. He worked just as hard, if not harder than I did to get me recruited. It was that spring I accepted my D1 offer. I definitely couldn’t have done it without him. The people that believe in you are valuable. Don’t burn any bridges between them, keep them close. They are the people that when you are sick of the doubters, you will turn to. Even if the only people that believe in you are your parents, use them. Keep them close, you will need them. The third way is actually something a coach told me, “You aren’t tall, so focus on something else that will make everyone stop and watch just to see you do it.” For me, 1 thing wasn’t enough, so I focused on 3. I knew 1 was going to be 1v1’s, I liked 1v1’s and I felt confident taking people on 1v1. The other 2 things were areas I felt okay at, but never amazing. I decided to focus on handling and distribution. When I got to the point where I was talking with college coaches, every single coach I talked to told me that that they loved my ability to take anyone on 1v1, the way I was able to snag and hold any ball coming at any pace, and that I had great distribution and made smart choices out of the back. Eventually college coaches quit worrying about my height, because all they could talk about were these 3 things. As a short goalkeeper I’ve learned to use the doubters as motivators, keep the believers close, and to find something else to excel at. These 3 things have gotten me to where I am, preparing for my freshman season of college soccer. I’m so thankful for anyone that doubted me, but even more thankful for those that believed in me. To those who are in the same boat I am, anything is possible through hard work, determination, and always remembering why you play the game. Height is just a number, if you have goals you want to accomplish, go after them, don’t let anyone tell you, you are too short. Best of luck with your goalkeeping careers!