As the only player directly between the ball and the net, many people view the goalie as what makes or breaks a soccer team. For senior Stuart Whitmer, this kind of pressure is what comes with being the boys’ varsity soccer goalie.
When he isn’t playing for Clayton, Whitmer plays club soccer for the rest of the year. He has played club soccer since seventh grade and was first introduced to the sport in second grade. He started playing as a goalkeeper and has maintained that position ever since.
“I’ve always been a goalkeeper,” he said. “I’d say there are a few times where I wanted to play in the field, but it was never really for me. I think I would get too tired.”
As the starting goalie this season, Whitmer has taken a lot more of a leadership role on the team. He and the other seniors on the team know how important it is to step up.
“It’s really up to the juniors and seniors who were on the team last year to really show the less experienced players what the pace of varsity looks like, and how to compete with that,” said Whitmer. With a lot of new freshman and sophomore players on varsity this season, Whitmer is taking on responsibilities beyond just being goalie.
“Our whole defensive backline is totally new, so it’s up to me to tell them where to position their bodies and where to go,” he said.
For Whitmer, training new defensive players has required him to become more familiar with the defensive position. He not only has to focus on making saves, but also on directing the defenders.
“You have to talk to them and you have to make sure that they know where to be because as the goalkeeper, you’re the only one who can see the whole field,” said Whitmer. “So it’s my job to tell them when there is a guy behind them, or when to go back.”
Stuart has always been a leader, it’s that simple. I’ve never seen Stuart get mad at anyone on the team and he always picks me up when I’m down
— Nolan Waites
Whitmer has made a huge impact on his teammates this season through his consistent positive attitude and dedication to the team.
“Stuart has always been a leader, it’s that simple,” said senior Nolan Waites, who plays the forward position. “I’ve never seen Stuart get mad at anyone on the team and he always picks me up when I’m down. He’s been a big help for the team this season and always shows up and is ready to play his best.”
Along with his teammates, Whitmer has grown close with his coaches, specifically head coach Brendan Taylor.
“With most of us coming off of districts from last year, we’ve all gotten really close with Coach Taylor,” said Whitmer. “He does so much off the field with film, and he does a really good job of teaching us how to play the game. The amount of effort that he puts into the team really helps us bond, which has been really great for the team’s chemistry.”
For the remainder of this season, Whitmer is focused on maintaining a low goal average and having more shoot-outs than last year. To achieve this, Whitmer focuses on having a goal-oriented mentality going into games.
“To prepare for games I will get to the field an hour early. No matter how many people are there, I will always be there. Then I will just sit and mentally be like, ‘Okay here are my specific goals for this game,’” said Whitmer.
As varsity gears up for the rest of their season, Whitmer’s determination and energetic approach to the game will continue to motivate the team all the way to districts.