Monday, May 04, 2009

Anxiety and the Goal Box as Sacred Space

I've played a fair bit of goalie in my soccer life - often in blow-outs during high school and then in the cycle of "taking turns" playing in a recreational adult league. I never really felt nervous putting on the gloves and taking my place in the box. Maybe I am an exception.

This is from the Psychology Today blogs.

Why Does the Goalie Feel Like Hurling? Musings from a Soccer Dad

Sacred places are never a function of cubic feet, and they have little to do with monetary value. They are sacred because they are declared sacred via rules and rituals that go unquestioned and obeyed. Some old Shaman, probably as a joke, decided to tell everyone who would listen that this scrappy rock or that barren mountain mattered, and then, because people listened, it started to matter. O, how the gods must laugh.

Today I watched my daughter in just such a place. She turned her back on the rough and sacred land, the small rectangle of magic that was hers to keep safe and uncontaminated, and instead she focused through battle-hard eyes on those around her, all of them friends less than an hour before, but who now made their wonton intentions clear. They planned, without a single regret, to rob her of her holiness.

My God, no wonder she feels like puking when it is her turn to play goalie.

I know very little about soccer and a whole lot about anxiety, so I have had all sorts of time to study the fear of playing goalie carefully. Unlike a well-versed soccer Mom, I am in fact a soccer moron, so, naturally, I am the assistant coach. Over three years of coaching, I have been like an anthropologist, trying my best to characterize the anxiety of being goalie across both gender and development. I recognize as well that I have a scientific obligation to name this syndrome and thus confer it with well-earned validity.

Though I considered briefly "Schlozman's Disease," it seemed on reflection too non-specific, summing up instead the myriad worries that characterize my temperament and the potential temperaments therefore of my unfortunate progeny. After careful consideration, I have decided to go with "Severe Goalie Anxiety Syndrome," S-GAS for short, thus calling attention to the gastrointestinal changes that accompany the anticipatory hyper-adrenergic state occurring just before the Goalie Uniform is donned. (This is invariably made worse by the round of generously brought cupcakes grabbed quickly from a super-market "bakery," distributed with great fanfare to the warriors before the start of battle. Lest you should see cupcakes as confounders challenging the validity of the syndrome, rest assured that I am trained as a scientist. There is flatulence without cupcakes. Just less flatulence.)

So, the response of my daughter and her friends to the role of guarding the goal allows the thoughtful observer many opportunities to ponder. Is the pressure greater or less because you can use your hands in the goal? Do the special gloves confer the comfort of being different, or the anxieties of unique privilege? All high priests have their outfits, their robes and hats and incense, and they must feel different and little bit awe struck when they face the common folk in the audience, the holy space now at their backs.

The Goalie dresses differently, acts differently, is blamed too much for the loss and celebrated too much for the win. All this talk about it being a "team effort." HA! I betcha professional goalies have a lot more superstitions than their non-goalie team mates. A goalie on a hot streak will never, ever, change his socks.

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