Academy Coaches Daniel Mendonca & Kyle Vizirakis share UofW Shutouts Record
All too often in Windsor, local achievement, connections and success stories …. especially those in local sports and soccer, tend to be overlooked. Sure, you get a 5 minute story on the CTV news, or 300 words in the Windsor Star with a nice little photo, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about truly examining the path, the process and the struggles endured in achieving any success in sport or life.
You see, in 2009 our Academy founder, Daniel Mendonca, achieved what I consider to be a phenomenal individual and team feat, backstopping the University of Windsor Lancers to an assumed to be record (CIS apparently does not keep shut out record stats) 10 SHUTOUTS in 14 games. Yes, that means that over 70% of the competitions ended without Daniel & the Lancers conceding a goal. The story picked up a little steam and got some coverage but in the end, didn’t even get any OUA recognition. Daniel did not even end up getting an OUA Conference All Star Team nod that year. Goalkeepers don’t always get the pretty awards they deserve, perhaps because many do not know the internal struggles it takes to produce 1 simple shutout, let alone maintain that presence of mind throughout a season.
Fast forward to this past 2015 OUA season where our LLGKA Senior Coach, Kyle Vizirakis, embarked on a personal mission, which I was lucky enough to witness first hand. Kyle came in to training camp focused on keeping clean sheets for his team as often as possible. Once the season began with two straight shutouts, that was all the motivation he needed to believe and make the push for more.
It has been a little joke, between the two of them (Kyle & Daniel) that with Kyle finally coming into his maturity as a Goalkeeper, he would eventually make a run at Daniel’s record. Daniel had been working with and training Kyle on and off since he was recruited to attend the University of Windsor. Kyle, as also many of you reading this article know, has also recently grown into one of Windsor’s top Goalkeeping Coaches.
It only makes sense to me that both of their performances began to mature at the same time they became coaches. Simply because, being a coach myself, the one thing coaching demands of you, is CONFIDENCE in yourself & the process that got you there.
Goalkeeping is the loneliest of positions, there is no arguing that. We stand alone all game waiting for our team to make a mistake. We wait and wait and wait. The BEST of US are extremely proactive in attempting to prevent these mistakes. The BEST of US goalkeepers, communicate, direct and organize the defensive shape in front of us to minimize these mistakes. Inevitably, however, we all know that mistakes are going to happen.
The goalkeeper must stand strong. When all of our 10 teammates have been beaten, we must stand strong. We must have the CONFIDENCE to know that we are strong enough to hold off the opposition. We are the Last Line of defence and must hold off the opponent long enough for our team to regroup. Observers on the outside often see the goalkeeper as “cold-blooded” and “emotionless” when we are at our best. They see the external confidence of a goalkeeper and expect that we have “no fear”. There assumptions could not be further from the truth.
Maybe I do not speak for all keepers, but I speak for the best ones I have known, trained, developed and watched compete. Goalkeepers are inherently self-conscious to the point of vulnerability at our inner core. We are the most aware of our weaknesses because EACH and EVERY weakness of ours has been on display at one point or another. Our worst moments are statistically recorded for all of history to remember and we are the only position that I can think of where our individual inability to perform is directly correlated to the final result. Our failures are mocked by scoreboards everywhere.
Every goal that we have conceded has been repeatedly analyzed & replayed in our head more than people on the outside will ever know. The anomaly of a truly great goalkeeper is not that we possess “No Fear”, but is in fact that we possess EVERY fear. A great goalkeeper has spent endless hours in true self reflection of his/her failures, not to dwell on the past, but to ACCEPT it and MOVE FORWARD.
Our introspective nature is what develops our strength and self-confidence gradually over time. Our analysis of our shortfalls, our experience and our training galvanize us for future battles when we once again are called upon. When all those around us have fallen or failed to prevent a strike, we are the Last Line of defense. Our fearlessness is developed from our failure, acceptance and ability to move past it.
“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Micheal Jordan
Now back to this past season, observing a keeper at work, on a mission. Kyle Vizirakis isn’t cold-blooded or emotionless in his practice. In fact, this 2015 season, he was the most compassionate teammate and leader that he has ever been. His leadership matured in a way that momentarily brought me back to Daniel’s record year, where his connection to his team was crucial to his performance and en-grained in his everyday practice.
Beyond the leadership, beyond the teammates, the most notable adaptation is the awareness of himself. Kyle self-evaluated all season, every session, every match. He first to watch game film and the last to leave. He took copies home, asked questions and came back to training with intention and a motivation that could only come from within, just like that of the record holder and mentor before him. He embodied a true confidence, mission & purpose that you could sense at every practice.
The CONFIDENCE and DRIVE proved effective. Kyle went on to complete 10 SHUTOUTS in 14 Games this season to EQUAL that of Daniel’s record. With the regular season now extended to 16 games, he had the chance to surpass that total, but Kyle and the Lancers were unable to hold off the opponent as a team in the final two games.
Others may look at the simple stat line and be impressed. Kyle got his OUA All Star recognition as deserved and Kyle & Daniel even had a nice little CTV News video together. But that is not what should be applauded or examined in my opinion.
These two keepers succeeded in the most grueling process for any athlete or person, overcoming their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. They had to truly confront their personal failures, accept them, examine them and prepare to prevent them in the future. They had to turn their self consciousness into SELF CONFIDENCE. Both Kyle & Daniel experienced significant personal challenges and character questions the year before their record and when looking back, I think the questioning and challenging of themselves taught them how to accept adversity and use it to become stronger.
“I never met a man whose first victory wasn’t over himself.” – Truman
Developing a deep rooted CONFIDENCE in themselves and their game directly contributed to their individual and team success during training and preparation for competition. The Shutouts, Records & Achievements are just a bi-product of that process.
Watching these two mature at different ages and different stages it only seems fitting that as Goalkeepers in the game, they are no longer ALONE. They now SHARE an achievement and “record” if you will, where they stand side by side.
In world of goalkeeping, when you are going through the grueling process or self examination; trying to turn vulnerability into strength, self-consciousness into self confidence and come out better for it on the other end, KNOW that YOU are NOT ALONE. Every Goalkeeper is there, has been there and will be there for you.
There is no lonelier position than that of a goalkeeper, but there is no closer bond than that of fellow keepers. Anyone who is brave enough to put on the gloves and become the LAST LINE, we SUPPORT & SHARE the process with you.
*****Written by Ryan Mendonca Senior Academy Goalkeeper Trainer*****