By Anthony Lopopolo
Diving towards a hard shot destined to break the goal line in an early tryout, I didn’t think I had a chance at making the save.
Blindly, as if my instincts took over, the ball made contact with the joint of my elbow.
Pressure released like a valve. Although the pain I’d come to feel merely a second later, following the pop of a firecracker in my upper arm, would be my undoing.
But that’s the price I was willing to pay to establish myself not as some embedded reporter getting the scoop at the men’s soccer tryout at Cherry Beach, but as a potential goalkeeper.
Having played the high school circuit, I’m no schlep to the game. I’m no provincial athlete, either. I already knew that 2006 OUA all-star goalie and veteran Anthony Volpe was better than me.
In fact, as each player stated which clubs they played for before the tryout, I only said Richmond Hill, my native town. I didn’t boast any track record. I wasn’t bound by rep status. I first taught myself to play in my basement back when I was 8 and am proud of it.
Still observing Volpe, who was performing leaps I couldn’t attempt off a diving board, I reevaluated my competition. Shit.
But I opted to trek on, suddenly realizing the sweltering heat that began to mount on top of my pulsating arm. The field-side trainer said I sustained no significant injury. Even until now, I beg to differ.
Shaken by the knock – and whether I would aggravate it beyond overnight repair – I heaved a sigh of relief as shots whisked around my posts.
The coaches seemed satisfied. It was especially gratifying to see that Ivan Joseph, the newly appointed coach of men’s soccer, was giving me some time on his radar.
In the back of my head, I knew it was Joseph who compelled me to showcase whatever talent I had. He didn’t treat me like the sports editor of the Eyeopener. Through grit, I really wanted to lay it all out there. He gave me a willing chance.
Well, my wish was granted in the shootout. At this point, I didn’t think my arm could take any more punishment.
There I was, having balls tossed every which way toward goal, saving some while submitting to others. To my excitement, I got a nod of approval from Volpe.
And then it was over. Actually, it felt like the mercy rule kicked in, but the task was complete. All but one player knew about my being an undercover reporter, so I looked like any other hopeful on the pitch. I left my say.
Damaged and bruised like a mishandled parcel, however, I had resigned from further tryouts. I had my pride.
Later, at the beginning of the season, I’d see the coach in his office. “How’s the arm?” he questioned. As I told him I fully recovered, he dropped a line that made me think. “We could really use a third goalie, you know.”
Hm. Now understanding what it takes to be a keeper on an OUA side – and my own limitations as one – it was kind of him to say third.