Seymour breaks in Luke Sharpe at goalkeeper

Mar. 17, 2014 @ 05:56 PM

 Luke Sharpe has plenty of football experience.

But Seymour’s starting goalkeeper is a rookie on the soccer field.

“I played when I was in middle school, like MVP, with a church. That’s about it. I’ve never played goalie before,” Sharpe said. “They were like, ‘We need a goalie.’ So I was like, ‘I might as well try it.’ ”

The athletic wide receiver, who caught 12 passes last fall for the Eagles, isn’t off to a bad start. He allowed just two goals in three games this weekend at the Rocky Top Cup. One of those came late in a 7-1 rout of Carter on a curling ball he got a fingertip to. 

“He was nervous (the first day),” said senior Jake McBrayer. “He was definitely nervous. We all just encouraged him a lot, wanted him to like it. We all helped him know what he was doing. He did pretty well his first day. I was impressed.”

Breaking in a new keeper isn’t a novel concept for Seymour. The Eagles did the same thing with Chris Grimo last year. The process isn’t just about physical skills but teaching tactical knowledge as well. Tom Gorman, a former goalkeeper who coached the Alcoa boys to a state tournament and the Oak Ridge girls to a district title, said a goalkeeper’s vision can be one of the more underrated attributes.

“The goalkeeper can be your quarterback,” Gorman said. “They see more of the field than any other player. They can direct the defense. It’s not really just about catching a soccer ball but reading everything that’s in front of you.”

McBrayer said Sharpe has grown more vocal in the last couple of games, something that was evident in the win over Carter. The junior was the loudest player on the field, shouting encouragement to his teammates nearly non-stop.

Seymour coach Drew Payne said he’s glad Sharpe is acting as a motivator at the back. Now, he needs to pick up the tactical knowledge so he can direct the Eagles.

“It’s showing that he can talk,” Payne said. “Now I’ve got to get him talking proper soccer lingo, not just being a rah-rah motivator type of guy. He’s getting there, though.”

Payne said, as expected, Sharpe was pretty raw when he first joined the team. The coach has had the junior work with Matthew Ridley, a former goalkeeper at Maryville College. Both Payne and Sharpe’s teammates said Ridley has really helped the rookie’s skills come along.

Gorman said a football player’s athleticism would translate nicely, especially a receiver used to catching the ball. When he coached the Oak Ridge girls, Gorman would often recruit softball players — because they weren’t scared of the ball — to play keeper.

Gorman and Payne agreed that one of the toughest things to teach is how to dive or even fall down correctly. There’s skill involved and it hurts, no matter how good you are.

“They can be real athletic and kind of cat-like in their reflexes, but when you really got to lay out, it’s not a natural human instinct the way you’re supposed to land as a goalkeeper,” Payne said. “… That’s where he’s trying to get better at.”

Keeping Sharpe’s confidence up as he goes may be the most critical part. Payne said he was happy to see his defense tell Sharpe not to worry about the late goal against Carter after he appeared frustrated from losing the shutout. It’s that kind of support that could key the rookie’s success.

“Just talk to him, give him support,” said senior Jacob Lewis-Jones. “… He’s come a long way. He really has.”