Playing goalkeeper is one of the most difficult positions in sports. It requires a certain type of person to be a successful netminder: possessed of courage, a tactical mind capable of examining an entire field of play, a laser-like focus to stay sharp between long stretches of inaction, and a general disregard for their own well being. Goalies have to literally be willing to sacrifice their own body and safety to stop a shot which, depending on the sport, can be coming in at anywhere from 30 or 40 miles an hour in soccer to almost 100 mph in sports like ice hockey and lacrosse.
In soccer, goalies are required to protect 192 square feet of real estate. Also, adding on to the pure dimensions of such a task, there are 11 players on the other team willing to do whatever it takes to make the job even harder. They will kick, shove, slide tackle, headbutt, and generally smash into a goalie every chance they get for the entire 90 minutes of each match. Soccer isn’t a high-scoring game, so every save is critical.
The best goalkeepers are great at what they do because, frankly, they don’t think about any of this. Even though she’s young, Simone Bennet is that kind of goalie.
Simone understands teamwork, leadership, and commitment. She is willing — and very, very able — to do what it takes to defend her team’s goal every single match. Her mindset and team-first mentality is why her collection of big, shiny trophies keeps growing.
“Soccer and my coaches have taught me to not only work hard and train hard, but to be a loud, vocal leader… to be patient and keep my head up when things don’t work out exactly how I want,” Simone said.
Simone and her Washington-based club team, ISC Gunners, recently competed in the Surf Cup tournament, an invitational San Diego tournament for top club teams around the country. It was the team’s biggest tournament of the year — the kind of competition that lets everyone know who came to play. During one of the matches, Simone found herself alone on the goal line, facing down an opposing player in perhaps the most challenging situation in soccer: a penalty kick.
The attacking player stands just 12 feet from the goal line, the ball placed upon the penalty spot, and has about as clear and easy of a shot on net as is possible. With the game tied 0-0 and just a few minutes left until the first half ended, it’s fair to say that most players would crumble under the pressure. Hundreds of eyes are trained on the two dueling players, like in some old Clint Eastwood Western. In close games, one goal can decide the entire outcome.
But with everything on the line, Simone did this:
Saving a penalty kick is not easy. In fact, anyone who has played between the pipes knows that it’s close to impossible. The shooter holds all the cards. They have a giant margin for error whereas the goalie has to, more often than not, simply guess. Most goalies just hurl themselves towards one side of the goal while trying to make themselves as big as possible.
Arguably, a save gets a bigger crowd reaction than goals do, because fans know how improbable it is. How hard. How terribly, horribly hard it is.
“All my teammates erupted with joy,” said Simone. “So did the parents on the sidelines and coaches, too!”
The kind of technique, anticipation, and execution she was able to display are rare. For any age. Simone was pumped, for sure, but there was a whole other half left. As great as a moment that it was for her, one of her best memories of playing, she said, she still had to get up and keep going.
Simone’s a player, but she does not play around. She’s business; full of gumption and grit, and her save was more than just, well, a save. It saved the game. Saves like the one she made in San Diego, when every play matters, is exactly what a team comes to expect from a seasoned goalie like Simone.
While her dreams are big and her future is bright, Simone was first inspired by watching and learning from some great role models: her two older sisters and dad. When she was just 3 or 4, she remembers watching her dad play in men’s leagues, and she loved watching her sisters play on weekends with their own club teams.
Naturally, tournaments, goalie gloves, cleats, and uniforms add up, and even more so when kids keep outgrowing everything. Simone’s team worked with Double Good to raise funds for the equipment and fees related to playing soccer at a high level. Traveling all the way from Washington to San Diego isn’t easy for families, but fundraisers can always be a boon to the financial strain.
“Because this fundraiser was online,” Simone told us, “I was able to use my time to focus on schoolwork, spend time with my friends, and of course play more soccer.”
When asked who her biggest supporter was, though, Simone had one person in particular she wanted to thank, their family friend Lee D. The Bennets met Lee at a women’s professional game.
“Lee loves to support all women’s soccer, young and old,” according to Simone. “Thanks so much Lee!!!!”
With her immense talent, big heart, and will to win, the sky’s the limit for this young lady. Keep making saves, Simone.
Got your own team that needs to cover travel costs? We got you.