It's not a big secret in the soccer world.
"Goalkeepers are a little bit off mentally," says Trip Rogers, a former keeper himself. "It's just part of the job description."
And just imagine that job description ...
■ Athletes willing to throw themselves in front of people charging at them full speed and then take a cleat to the face;
■ Must have cat-like reflexes and acrobatic tendencies to protect an expanse that is 24 feet wide and 8 feet tall;
■ Must be able to kick like a professional football player and understand angles as well as a geometry professor;
■ Oh, and your performance evaluations will only come after you mess up.
Tis the life of a goalkeeper.
"It's being prepared to do absolutely anything — to sacrifice any part of your body — to keep the ball out of the net," said Taylor Nossokoff, senior keeper for Paul Laurence Dunbar's boys' soccer team. "If you take time to worry or to think, you've already failed."
As the post-season starts for high school soccer next week, there are no more ties.
It's show time for goalkeepers and "oh, no" time for goalkeepers' parents.
There will be penalty kicks and shootouts.
There will be moments when centimeters mean the difference between advancing and going home.
"I get very nervous at this time of the year," admitted Kelly Nossokoff, Taylor's mom. "At any moment, one mistake and the season ends."
No person on the field is more keenly aware of that than a goalkeeper.
"It's a thankless job," said Rogers, who has coached keepers at the college and high school levels in the Lexington area. "Strikers can miss 1,000 shots and if they make one, they're the hero. If you miss one, you're the scapegoat.
"You have to be able to have a short-term memory, flush it quickly, recover and manage the rest of the game."
Three fears of the keeper
Bo Lankster admits that he cringed a little when his oldest daughter, Arly, told him that she wanted to be a goalkeeper.
"I did," the Tates Creek girls' coach said, "because of the danger aspect of it.
"Some of the most violent collisions are there. You've got forwards streaking after the ball who are just keeping their eyes on the ball, and you've got keepers who are going after the ball."
The danger is constantly on the minds of the parents of keepers.
"They're going to name a wing after her over at UK Hospital," Lynn Price said of her goalkeeping daughter, Kayla.
Price will never forget a call from her husband two seasons ago when her daughter's Henry Clay team was facing Anderson County.
Lynn was out of town when he called to tell her Kayla was injured. Lynn wasn't too worried.
Goalies get nicked up every game.
"So what's wrong this time?" she asked him.
His reply stopped her in her tracks.
"I don't know, we'll find out when we get to the hospital; she's in the ambulance in front of me," Lynn recalled him saying.
At the time, trainers thought Kayla had a ruptured spleen. Another time she was kicked in the neck and had to be immobilized on the field and taken to the hospital.
Kayla, who will play for the University of Kentucky next season, said she's had the neck injuries, concussions and broken ribs.
But those things won't keep her off the field.
"I love it too much," said Price, who has been playing the position since she was 9 years old.
Sam Wooten was 38 when he finally tossed his goalie gloves aside for good.
He didn't have a choice.
"I'd still be playing it if I didn't get hurt every time I stepped out," said the keepers coach for Transylvania's women's and men's soccer teams.
By Wooten's count, he has had seven concussions, two major shoulder surgeries and a compression fracture in his back.
He said there are three fears that keep a goalkeeper from development: a fear of injury, a fear of failure or a fear of embarrassment.
"If you can't manage those three fears, you can't be a good goalkeeper," he said.
None of the current or former goalkeepers — who all admitted to being a little "off" themselves — said they worried about injuries.
In fact, in that position, you can't worry or your career is over.
"You have to set fear aside," Rogers said. "You go into dangerous situations with your hands above your head. You take exceptional risks whether it's bending over to collect a ball — and donating your teeth to the grass — or being hit while you're airborne."
Everyone seesyour mistakes
There are some visions that parents struggle to forget.
"It's pretty nerve-wracking to watch people and balls aimed right at your child," Kelly Nossokoff said.
But teeth can be replaced.
Casts come off and stitches come out.
Parents of keepers also are stuck with visions of their children walking off the field with shoulders slumped, heads down, eyes filled with tears.
Often the goalkeeper, the last line of defense, feels the weight of a loss the most. Whether they are or not, they feel responsible.
"More so than the physical danger, I worry about this idea that the goalkeeper is supposed to be superhuman," Lynn Price said. "Everyone expects that (the keeper) will stop every single ball from going in the goal, and it's not possible."
Price noted that the glamour players like strikers are lauded for hat tricks, but when a goalie makes three saves, it's old hat.
"When a goalie makes a mistake, everyone knows it," said Scott Kelley, whose son Sean is a former keeper at Paul Dunbar and is now a professional goalie with the Austin (Texas) Aztex. "But when a field player makes a mistake, a lot of times nobody knows it."
When Lexington Christian girls' coach Steve Fugmann was a keeper in high school he came home one day lamenting that fact.
"We only get noticed when we get scored on," Fugmann said he complained to his father.
His father's response?
"You know those defenders in front of you, the ones that have been saving your butt all season, they never get recognized ever," his dad reminded.
Fugmann laughed as he recounted it. "I never complained again after that."
But knowing that doesn't prevent a keeper from reliving crucial mistakes over and over and over again.
"Especially after big games, a certain play will run in my head for at least a week afterward," Kayla Price said. "I dove and I was a second late. I would have had it if I'd just been a second faster."
University of Louisville goalie Taylor Vancil said the job is often so mentally taxing that she has dreams about it.
"I've definitely kicked a few holes in walls," she said with a grin after a win last month.
Pressure makes diamonds
Even though the pressure is great, the payoff is coming in the next few weeks.
Nossokoff said she will be sitting in the stands doing what she can to help her son.
"I try to help him by swaying or kicking or moving where he needs to go," she said, laughing.
If a big game goes to penalty kicks, she knows it will make her feel those same sick butterflies in her stomach.
"I usually watch, but when it's a tough game, I pace or walk or something," she said. "Part of me wants to watch and part of me is like, 'Tell me when it's over.'"
The parents may be scared but their kid keepers will be ready to go.
"It is a little bit of pressure, but without that pressure, there are no spectacular saves," Taylor Nossokoff reminded.
Keepers are a little bit crazy, you know.
"Goalkeepers do seem to be the ones always riding the edge," said Wooten, the Transy keepers coach. "But when you've got a great one, their team plays with so much more confidence. You see it on the field."
BOWLING GREEN — Emma Talley checked her scorecard not once, not twice, not three times.
"I checked it five or six times today," the Caldwell County junior golfer said smiling. "That was a big ordeal, and I didn't want to be in that situation again."
Talley signed an incorrect scorecard last year and was disqualified after her win in the Leachman/KHSAA Girls' State Golf Tournament at Bowling Green Country Club.
Talley's honesty made national news.
"It's unbelievable how being honest will pay off," she said. "I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal. I'm happy people know me for that now, and hopefully I won't do anything to screw that up."
She left nothing to chance Wednesday en route to the state title, her second in the past three years.
Talley's 5-under-par 139 was nine strokes better than good friend Megan Wilshire of Scott County, who had finished third in her previous two state-tournament outings.
"To finish second this year, I was pretty proud," Wilshire said. "Everyone wants to win, but Emma played great, and I did the best I could."
Green County won the team title for the second year in a row, this time 13 shots better than Sacred Heart. Glasgow and Lone Oak finished tied for third, followed by Scott County.
Senior Kate Larimore and sophomores Olivia Parrott and Cassidy Scantland led the way for the Dragons.
Coach Rick Davis, who will return four of his five golfers next season, said it was great to repeat.
"How sweet it is," he said, clutching the trophy. "It's fantastic. Talk about a great group of girls."
Davis was impressed with Talley, as well.
"We'll be watching her on TV someday playing in the LPGA," he said. "She's that good."
Talley, who was the only player to finish under par, was granted an exemption to play in the tournament by the KHSAA after she missed last week's region competition while playing for Team USA in the Junior Ryder Cup in Scotland.
"The USA winning the Junior Ryder Cup was just marvelous, and I had a wonderful time over there," she said. "But then capping it off with this was unbelievable. I feel so blessed and honored to have this opportunity."
Talley said she struggled early on Wednesday, including a double bogey on the ninth hole, before finding her groove, earning birdies on four of her last six holes.
"I was playing too careful all day, and I just got mad and played my game the rest of the day," she said.
Wilshire was feeling good about her day until trouble struck at the 14th.
"I hit it in the water and then hit it into a tree," she said. "I struggled on that hole and tried to fight back."
North Hardin sophomore Lydia Gumm, playing in her eighth straight state tournament, finished in third place, followed by West Jessamine standout Emily Haas. Abby Smith of Franklin County rounded out the top five.
Haas struggled mightily on the opening day and was in eighth place after double bogeys at 1, 7 and 11 Tuesday.
"It was mental mistakes, not thinking through my shots, not really committing to my shots," she said.
She more than made up for it on Wednesday.
"I was pretty happy with my round today," she said. "I could have made up a few shots here and there but, for the most part, they were all better than yesterday."