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A Look Back: Advice to Younger Goalies

By: Mackenzie Porter - MWSU 24'

 



In 2007, I first picked up a lacrosse stick, and it was love at first sight. Now, 17 years later, on April 26th, 2024, I'm facing what might be my final lacrosse game. Sitting here in my hotel room the night before the game, I'm consumed by overwhelming emotions: excitement, fear, happiness, sadness, and everything in between.


Reflecting on my career as I sit here, I'm reminded of the significant decision I made to transfer after playing two years at Rutgers University. Despite being approached by top Division l and II teams with impressive rankings and titles, I opted for a different path. What drew me in was the chance to join a school where I could contribute to the creation of a new lacrosse program from scratch. In 2020, I left the East Coast behind and ventured to Missouri to become part of the inaugural women's lacrosse team at MWSU. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing about that decision. While the journey of building a program was far from easy, it was undeniably rewarding. Witnessing the transformation from our humble beginnings to where we stand now fills me with extreme joy. As we gear up for the conference tournament tomorrow, marking our second consecutive year in the competition, I can't help but feel very proud  of our program and this year's team. Each season has been a testament to our growth, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of it. With all that being said, this was the path I chose to take. However, as goalies, our journeys often echo each other's, regardless of what level you play at. Across all levels of play, I believe we encounter similar mental obstacles as goalkeepers.


The paragraph above might have made my journey seem straightforward, but I want to be clear that it was anything but easy. Mentally, I struggled every single year. I'm going to be vulnerable with you all right now. There were countless nights, after games, when I would retreat to my room, sit on the floor, and just cry. Some readers may not relate to this level of emotion, and that's okay. Staring up at the scoreboard after a loss was particularly tough because, as a goalie, I couldn't escape the reminder of the number of "mistakes" displayed. I put "mistakes" in quotes because it's a term I found myself using often. To regain control of my emotions, I had to remind myself of two things: goals are inevitable, and it takes a collective effort for the ball to reach the net, involving all 11 players on the field.


About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about being the lone goalie. This year, that changed, I wasn't alone anymore. I was lucky to have two more great goalies by my side. But going from being the lone goalie to having two more goalies was a big adjustment. It was just me last year, and now the idea of being substituted is nerve-racking. It's not selfish to feel this way; it's just honest. Being the starting goalie for years and then having two new, talented goalies join the team is exciting yet scary, especially when they're young and full of energy, unlike me, feeling a bit old and rusty.


As the season progressed, I found myself deeply grateful for the presence of two other goalies. It reminded me of the immense value in having multiple goalkeepers on the team. Some days, as a goalie, you just won't have the same connection with your defense or the same visibility on the ball. And that's perfectly fine. It's tough to admit when you're not performing at your best, but in a team sport, it's crucial to recognize when you might not be the missing piece for that particular game. During this past season, I had to have a conversation with my coach. I expressed that she needed to pull me from the game, not because I was performing poorly, but because I felt we needed a shift in momentum and I wasn't delivering those crucial saves to support our defense. It required humility to acknowledge that a change was necessary in the goal. I share this experience because I believe it's important. Not to suggest that you should pull yourself from games, that's ultimately the coach's decision, but as you gain experience, you develop a deeper understanding of yourself. You also build a relationship with your coaches that allows for open communication. This fosters a supportive team environment where everyone prioritizes the collective success over individual performance.


For me, being part of a goalie family, both as a player and as a coach, revolves around establishing trust and respect among teammates. It's about knowing that we're all in this together, striving for the same goal: the success of the team.


I want to finish with advice I would give to my younger self. And that advice would be: when you feel completely lost or second-guessing your decision to transfer, just remember it will all be worth it in the end. Success does not come easy; it takes hard work and dedication. You may fall several times, but the feeling you will have at the end of your career will overpower all those tears that were shed. I would tell my younger self that you must always stand up for yourself, because in the end, it's your journey and your story to write.


Lastly, I'd tell my younger self not to lose faith, as it's a guiding light in tough times. Since embracing Jesus, my perspective has shifted. I'd remind myself that identity isn't tied to lacrosse alone; I found something deeper in 2023. Now, my faith shapes how I handle stress and emotions. I find peace in trusting God's plan, knowing He's with me. “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalms 9:10 NIV). Now, I face the future with courage, knowing that although one chapter closes, another awaits, with the divine presence guiding me every step of the way.

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