Okay, how and why does one really become a goalie?
The reality might be different today, with the modern culture of hockey. When I was a kid, and in most times before that, it happened something like this: In the warming house or in the locker room, the coach would look at all the faces and see who was going to volunteer to be goalie. Of course, no one wanted to be goalie. Everyone wanted to be Bobby Orr. Take the puck from one end of the ice and score the goal.
Goalies don't get to score. They only get to give up goals. Goals for the other team. Goals that everybody can see get scored—on the goalie. No hero. Just heel.
So, who's going to get stuck being the goalie? It's always the dumpy kid who can't skate. Ironic, since being a goalie requires above average, strong skating skills. So, as a nine-year-old amid a score of other nine-year-olds who found themselves faced with the desperate plea from coach Mike, the hopeful gaze finally rested on me—the dumpy kid who couldn't skate too well.
Okay, I'll try it, I must have said. They strapped on all the equipment, which weighed a ton. I got a crash course in the craft (not quite yet an art) of goal tending. Keep you pads together. Hold the stick straight. Stay square to the puck. Move out to cut off the angle. Cover up the puck with you glove hand and put the stick hand on top. If you go down, get up as fast as you can. DON'T WORRY IF THEY SCORE A GOAL ON YOU; JUST HANG IN THERE.
I was then sent off to the lonely post in front of the net. I let in four goals that day, our second game of the year. After, I told coach Mike, “I guess I wasn't meant to be goalie.”
“Oh, noooo. You were just fine,” I recall him saying. He wasn't about to lose his only goalie or spend the next two months browbeating the team until someone surrendered. That was the start of the next decade of net minding, much longer than either I or my father would have imagined.
Over the years, I got better, and got noticed. I became a good skater. I honed an art, if not the exacting craft, of goal tending. Some of the very few successes I had as a child and young adult came from playing hockey.
In the early years, that first coach called me “Gump,” after the famed, no-masked goalie Gump Worsley. My uncle called me “Esposito,” after standout Chicago goalie Tony Esposito. Later, in high school, Daphne Wolfer, who was dating my friend Jerry at a rival school and was one of the popular girls called me “famous.” (Not sure if Jerry asked her to say something nice to me. Both she and he were especially nice people—especially for “popular” kids.) I needed the attention.
It is funny, ironic how we become goalies. Not long ago, I noticed the same process in which grant writers evolve in nonprofits.
How did I—or anyone else, for that matter, become a grant writer. The stories sound familiar. Did I become a grant writer as well because no one else wanted to do it?
Do you need a grant writer? You could advertise, like a lot of adult hockey leagues do to recruit goalies. They do this because they do not see volunteers among themselves. Otherwise, it is time for the coach to look at all the faces around your organization's conference table and see who will volunteer. And maybe the hopeful gaze will fall upon you, the kid who can't skate too well, but one day, the popular boy or girl will call you “famous.” Okay, grant writers NEVER really become famous. But no matter how hard or discouraging it gets, JUST HANG IN THERE.