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Getting It Right in the Head

It is strange how getting things right in the head can make a world of a difference. Just a few months ago, any football game with Gregg between the sticks was always going to be a hit or miss affair.

He first came to play for me as a gangling high school sophomore who was taller than most of his teammates. Even then, the potential was obvious to anyone who cared to look.

Oliver was the senior goaltender in possession of the first team place, but it was only a matter of time before the young Gregg took over. When he did, the ride had more peaks and troughs than an Oahu wave.

He was capable of outstanding flying saves that denied even the best opposition strikers. And in the same game drop harmless-looking balls into his own net.

This Jekyll and Hyde quality infuriated his teammates, all of whom grew up with him and would spare no words when he dropped the increasingly frequent clanger.

Liverpool FC used to have a goalkeeper who was prone to making similar howling mistakes. His name was David James. He soon carried the nick “Calamity James.”

If professionals in the top leagues could fall to pressure and get muddled in the head, then how much more a young wannabe sophomore goalkeeper? Try asking Gregg’s exasperated teammates, though.

In fairness, goalkeepers do not have to suffer what all outfielders do. Because for most of a football game, they really have little to do, when called to action they are, as a matter of course, expected to deliver.

There are few things more frustrating than to run oneself to the ground only to lose a game because of a goalkeeping error.

Little changed over the past six years since Gregg first suited up for the school team. The question always was, before a game started, “Which Gregg turned up?”

Then, at the start of this school year, something happened. I’m not really sure what, but even in training, Gregg was almost imperceptibly becoming more reliable, more consistent. Suddenly, the clangers were fast becoming history!

This morning, we lost a squeaker to the College of St. Benilde, 2-3 in the Ang Liga. Bummer, huh?! Well, not really…

For starters, Daren scored a gem of a goal. Collecting an inch-perfect through pass from Paolo, the skipper’s finish was exquisite, curling the ball around the advancing ‘keeper and into the net.

And everyone in the team knows that goals by Daren are as rare as white rhinos…

There was also another dominating performance from Pepot. Here is another late bloomer. Once we all thought he was more plant than human; but in the last three competitive matches we had played, his towering presence in the heart of defense broke up countless opposition attacks.

The most satisfying aspect of today’s losing engagement, however, was another outstanding performance from Gregg. He went for crosses even when the penalty box was crowded with opposing players, and held on to the ball each time as though he had pasted glue onto his gloves.

There was even a cat-quick diving save to finger-tip what looked like a certain goal around the post for a corner.

Truth is, Gregg had been doing all these things before. The main difference is that, these days, there are no more clangers. That’s what happens when you get things right in the head. Way to go, Gregg! Way to go…

[This story was first published on Facebook on 21 September 2008. Gregg is now a college graduate.]

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