Nothing but net

Hendricks reflects on the differences between protecting the net in the fall, and attacking it in the winter

Peter Rathmell

Going into this season, the Washington & Lee Women’s Soccer team was left with one glaring hole: they did not have a back-up goalie. In an effort spearheaded by Assistant Coach Rachael Sushner, the coaching staff decided that rather than recruiting another goalie or switching a promising, young player’s position, why not find a second goalie amidst the W&L student body?

Cue junior Shelbi Hendricks, a three-year letterwinner on the Women’s Basketball team. Hendricks, having essentially no previous soccer experience, agreed to take on the challenge of learning an entirely new sport in a short period of time.

“I hadn’t played any soccer since like, elementary school,” she said. “I even played four sports in high school [swimming, volleyball, softball and basketball], but not soccer.”

In a matter of months, Hendricks transformed from just a basketball player into a two-sport athlete. It all began with her talking to some of her basketball coaches and, half jokingly, saying: “Maybe I should try this [goalie]?”  The next thing Hendricks knew, she was in Lexington in August for soccer’s preseason training.

According to Hendricks, the transition from hardwood to grass was not always the smoothest. From the get-go, she knew that she had a lot of catching up to do if she wanted to be able to compete at the college level. One rule in particular took a while for her to get used to: the out of bounds rules.

“In basketball, if you breathe on the line then its called out, but in soccer the entire ball has to cross the line, which took a lot of getting used to for me,” said Hendricks. “Overall it was a huge learning curve, but our coaches did a great job teaching me everything.”

But Hendricks took advantage of the similarities between the two sports when she could. Several aspects of the two sports carry over from one to the other; as she improved as a goalie, Hendricks claims that she has also seen a marked improvement in her basketball game, just in her first two-sport season alone.

By practicing everyday as a goalie, Hendricks believes that she is now better able to catch difficult balls and be stronger with the ball on the court. These are skills that, although they may seem small and insignificant, carry enormous weight on the basketball court, she said.

When asked about which was her favorite sport, Hendricks dodged the question.