It’s only the start of a long, hot summer of practices, but this is prime time for Matt Oster and Bailey Snow. It’s a time they look forward to every year, because it’s the one time of year when soccer practice is all about them.
Oster, the veteran goalkeeper at Danville, and Snow, his counterpart at Boyle County, are in the goalkeepers’ section of the Centre College Soccer Camp, and they said they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.
“It’s probably the best part of soccer season. You’re still playing soccer, you’re just not running a lot yet. And you get to hang out with friends you made through club season,” Oster said. “And it’s good to be around goalies. We support each other. It’s more of a team.”
Twenty or so members of the goalkeeping fraternity are spend much of their days together at the Centre camp, which concludes Saturday, half a mile or so removed from the other players.
They are among their own kind on the scrubby field at Kentucky School for the Deaf, and Snow said that’s part of what makes this such a good week.
“This is always a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a lot of team-building, (and) it’s nice to hang out with everybody you haven’t seen for a while, since last season.”
Oster said it’s also nice to have practices that are centered entirely around them.
“We get to focus really on what we need to do, because sometimes practices are more field-play oriented and we don’t get to train that much,” he said.
Oster is an old hand at the Centre camp. This is his third year in the senior section for ages 14 to 18 and his seventh year overall at the camp, and he said it’s still surprising to him that he’s no longer looking up to older, taller players.
“It’s weird to think about it’s my last year at camp. I’m going to miss it. It’s going to be different next summer not having to do anything with it,” said Oster, a senior-to-be at Danville who has been the Admirals’ starter for the past two seasons.
Oster has emerged as a leader in this group. At one point Thursday he got the goalkeepers going after a break, urging them to pick up the pace after a water break so they could return to the field as a unit and get back to the instruction.
Snow, who will be a junior at Boyle, is in his third year at the Centre camp, and he said he has enjoyed every year.
“It’s a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of fun, though,” he said. “It really helps out a lot. I really like it. It’s a good program.”
Of course, in practices that focus on goalkeeping, someone has to take the shots. The players take turns shooting at each other, trying to put their best fakes on their goalkeeping colleagues.
“We’re definitely not strikers, though,” Oster said.
Real strikers take their shots during games in the afternoons and evenings, and Oster said by then the goalkeepers are ready to take on all comers.
“I love it. It gives us a chance to show what we’ve learned,” he said.
Oster said he looks forward to the start of regular practices with his team next week, but he said it’s still not the same.
“We really get into it. It’s still fun, it’s just a little bit worse,” he said.
Snow started for the first time last season at Boyle, and he’s looking to build on what he said was a good first year in which he averaged 2.7 goals allowed per game with three shutouts.
“I think I did pretty well for my first year starting. They just kind of threw me in there; we didn’t have anybody else. I think I had a pretty good year, (but) I definitely could’ve improved on some things,” he said.
He said that is his focus at the Centre camp.
“Just polish up my skills, get ready for the upcoming season,” he said.
Oster, who had eight shutouts in 2011, has a more specific goal. With the end of his high school career fast approaching, he wants to make himself more attractive to college coaches.
“I just want to be able to change coaches’ minds about me. The most important thing is if they saw me last year, I want to show that I’ve improved,” he said.