The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
“Joseph is a player who exemplifies the meanings of athlete and hard work. He’s the first one to practice, the last one to leave, and always encourages his teammates. He has an uncanny ability to read one-on-ones in penalty kicks. I tease him and tell him it’s a gift left behind from the operation. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to coach Joe for the last couple years and look forward to watching him develop, mature, and raise up his own kids one day.” —Dave Berto, Joe Scott’s head coach at Xifa Academy.
by David Falk with thanks to Mike Weaver
CHENEY, Washington— “I have been wearing my helmet since fourth grade (right after my surgery),” says Cheney High School senior Joe Scott. “I have truly had no problems with it; except in the blistering sun, but in those cases we just pour water down the hole at the top of the helmet that we humorously call “the blow hole.” Even though I probably don’t need the helmet anymore, I am so used to it that it would be counterproductive to stop wearing it.”
Catching you up with the story of Joe Scott is as much of a pleasure as watching his recent six-minute video highlight reel. That is to say, great stories are fun because they end up telling themselves.
Joe is a Xifa team-mate with high scoring forward Jacob Weaver. Read Jacob’s story here.
“As a player, he has had plenty of standard ups and downs, with an overall steady increase in his ability over the years. He plays for Cheney High School, which is one of the strongest 2A programs in the state,” Joe’s dad Brian Scott tells me. Brian is a Major with the Washington Air National Guard. “They’ve made it to the state Championship game the past four out of five years (finishing runners up each time). Joe made varsity as a freshman and earned a starting spot by the end of his sophomore year. His fever for the sport and ability has really exploded over the past year after taking the Blackhawks to the state final his junior year where they lost to a really good Fife team. He seems to be making the transition from a solid player to something a little more – but of course I am biased.”
Getting so close so often could wear a guy down. Cheney have come in second to Sehome (2008), Squalicum (2009), Bellingham (2010) and Fife earlier this year (2012). Joe’s life experiences have brought him to a place where he can already maintain perspective at his young age. “The first time I had experienced getting that close (with the Blackhawks) was definitely much harder, and I wasn’t even playing in the game because I was a freshman. After the game I told myself that I wouldn’t cry if we ever ended up in the same scenario. Sure enough, two years later (my junior year) we were back to the state finals. The championship game had ended, and once again, for the fourth time, Cheney took second place. I remembered what I said and I stayed true to my word. It was difficult keeping the tears in, but it helped my other teammates’ morale stay high for the rest of the stay, and hopefully for this coming season. CHS is a great high school to play for.”
On-the-pitch experiences have helped mold Joe, however, what his dad says has really shaped him both as a player and a person is what he has been through off the field. “While we were stationed at McChord Air Force Base (Tacoma), Joe had a deep brain tumor removed (when he was ten years old) at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital,” recalls Brian. “He had been playing football and just started playing goalkeeper. The tumor was growing and causing seizures that he would recognize as strange smells. We dismissed the symptoms initially, but eventually an attentive physician at McChord helped figure out the problem. Rather than trying to treat the tumor and seizures and live with increasing debilitation, Joe made the decision he wanted it out of his head. He was a good student and athlete, so his mom and I supported his courage to go right at the problem. An adult can surprisingly learn a lot about strength from a ten year old boy in those situations. We stepped up a fitness routine to prepare him for surgery by running trails around the lake by our house so he would be in maximum physical condition while on the operating table. It’s all I could do to help. He had an amazing recovery and was out of ICU and the hospital in a few days and off all medications within six months. Joe has had zero side effects, except for a pretty good scar. He had his last follow-up MRI and full clean bill of health two years ago. No more doctors!”
Joe looks back at those times and says he knew right away to work hard and be thankful. “The physical challenges (of the operation and recovery) gave me more of a reason to play because I know how close you can be to the end. It just gave me a reason. I had to start thinking about what I would do if I would be disabled and not able to play sports. And when I found out I could again, I worked that much harder.”
Joe is certainly a hard-worker in goal. “The style of goalkeeping I play is definitely aggressive,” he says. “Ever since I was little my dad has said “If you’re gonna get beat, get beat making the play.” And what he meant by that was, be aggressive and take the ball off of the striker’s foot as fast as you can.” Joe has a penchant for stopping penalty kicks. His Xifa Academy (Spokane) club team has won tournaments thanks to that skill. “For me, PK’s have almost nothing to do with shot stopping skills,” Joe says. “It is all a mental game. I know that all the pressure is on the strikers and that I am supposed to get scored on, so I do all that I can to get into the strikers heads. For example I will stand on the six yard box and smile at the player until the referee forces me back on to my line. Other times I will do a little dance while standing on my line to get into their heads. It’s all about distracting the players from doing their one simple task of putting the ball in the net.”
Joe’s dad Brian has watched his son grow into a young man, perhaps a bit sooner that he might have otherwise. “Dealing with all of those mature things really gave him a great perspective on life at a young age. He has a solid faith and he knows the things in life that really matter – certainly more than I did as a teenage boy,” Brian says. “He maintains above a 3.8GPA with honors courses. In middle school, I would have pictured him loving football all through high school. He gave up football and basketball to focus on soccer over the past few years. Joe’s desire for the sport has really grown exponentially and he has become more serious about it in a lot of ways. He has started weight and athletic training off the field. Now he is even begging me to get us on an Air Force space-A hop to England so he can go train there this winter!! That’s a tall order, but I am trying to find out a way to make it happen.”
His love for the goalkeeper position and maturity have led Joe to give back to other players. He coaches a half-dozen younger keepers. “Working with kids is just as helpful for me as it is for them,” Joe explains. “Not only do I get to train up the next generation of Cheney Blackhawks, but I am also able to go back to the basics and refine techniques of some of the easier saves for myself. Teaching others makes you really think about how to do something right.”
Joe likes outdoor adventures, but is really a home body and true family kid, according to Brian. “If there isn’t a real adventure like this summer’s four-day rafting trip with Grandpa Stone down the Salmon river, or going flying in a Cessna 182 with his grandpa Scott, he is just loyally hanging out with his sisters and parents at home. Pretty simple formula… family, faith, grades and soccer.”
Joe has a final senior season in 2013 to help get the Blackhawks back to the finals and a chance to turn around their runners-up streak. After that? “No matter what I will play in college,” Joe states with solid determination. “I want to play at a high level school; but if for some reason that doesn’t work I will start at a community college and build my way up. Then after college, I will find a career outside of soccer, but at the same time will try to play professionally. So if I can’t play professional ball I will have something to fall back on.”
Brian knows his son has a long road ahead to reach his soccer dreams, but he has already seen him come so far. “He and I both know the challenge for him in soccer to reach the next level will be getting someone to recognize a kid from Cheney, Washington, regardless of his performance on the field. He has developed a strong ability to overcome the most serious of challenges, so I won’t be surprised if he finds a way.”