The Goalkeeper


She had promised the Lord she would not play soccer on Sunday. Now she was faced with a championship game—and an important decision.

“Come on, Jodi! It’s only one soccer match! God isn’t going to hate you for playing just this once on Sunday.”

“That’s right,” thought Jodi Allen, a seventeen-year-old from Sandy, Utah, and the best goalkeeper on her championship soccer team. “It is only one soccer match.” But to play in it would break a personal promise she’d made to Heavenly Father years before.

But how could she explain that to the teammates who were pressuring her to play? As a team, they had worked hard all season, winning the Utah state championship and traveling to the regional tournament in San Francisco, California, to compete against other winning teams from throughout the western United States. They had successfully played a couple of tournament matches and now had the opportunity to play a team that had beaten them the previous year. Jodi’s team wanted revenge, and a win for the team would place them in the regional finals.

But the game was scheduled for Sunday.

“Oh Jodi! Who do you think you are? Some of us are members of the Church too, and we’re playing on Sunday. Do you think you’re better than we are?”

It wasn’t that at all. It was just that when Jodi entered high school and began playing on the school soccer team, she’d promised the Lord that she would never play on Sunday, and she asked the Lord for his help to do her best. And he had helped her—in more ways than she had expected. Because Jodi kept her promise, she was blessed with many missionary experiences.

“At one tournament I met a soccer player from another state who wanted to know why I wouldn’t play on Sunday,” Jodi said. “That opened the way for me to tell him about the gospel. When he went home, we began writing letters to each other. I sent him a Book of Mormon. That was a little frightening for me. I didn’t know how he would react. But he read it and wanted to know more. So I sent him some Church pamphlets, and after a while he decided to be baptized.

“Then there was the time on the bus going to play in a soccer match. (The girls and boys teams ride together.) I was reading the Book of Mormon. I have a big quadruple combination, and it was rather conspicuous. One of the boys who had been living in Utah said he’d never seen a Book of Mormon before and wanted to see it. He started looking through it and asking me questions about it. Before long, the whole back of the bus was involved in a discussion about the Book of Mormon. It was as if a curtain had been drawn between the front of the bus and the back, because up in front they were telling inappropriate jokes.”

Jodi always carries a spare copy of the Book of Mormon in her bag with her soccer uniform, and she has given away lots of copies.

Although she appreciates receiving compliments on her soccer playing, Jodi appreciates even more the comments about her “living her religion.”

So there was never a question about playing on Sunday—not even in this tournament. But making her teammates understand was another story.

“Look,” she tried to explain, “if I don’t play on Sunday, I’ll disappoint my team, and I feel bad about that. But if I do play on Sunday, I’ll disappoint so many more. I’ll disappoint myself, because I’d be breaking a promise. I’d disappoint my parents, who know how important that promise is to me. I’d disappoint my cousins, who don’t play on Sunday because of my example, and I’d disappoint my seminary teachers, who have taught me better. But most important of all, I’d disappoint God. I just can’t do that.”

It was a great explanation, but it didn’t do Jodi much good. All Saturday night the team tried to convince her to play. They made fun of her. They called her every name they could think of. Finally, at about midnight, Jodi telephoned home in tears. It wasn’t that she was tempted to give in. It’s just that she felt so alone.

Her parents listened. Her parents understood. Both her mother and father got on the telephone and had a prayer with her. After they hung up, they called an old friend in the San Francisco area and asked her to give Jodi some support.

The next morning Jodi got up and got dressed—in a dress, which she wore as she stood on the sidelines watching her team play. The final score was one-to-one. After the game, many of her teammates apologized for being so critical of her.

The team took third place overall in the tournament, which was better than they’d ever done before. Jodi thought this would be a highlight on which to end her soccer career.

“I’ve achieved just about everything I wanted to with soccer,” Jodi said. She had been ranked as the number one goalkeeper in the state and had been approached by a number of universities about playing for them, but when they heard of her policy on Sunday play, they lost interest. “I’d like to try to develop some other talents now—things like music and acting. Plus being on the seminary council will require a lot of time,” Jodi said.

So Jodi’s final year in high school will be a busy one, despite the lack of soccer, the sport she’s dedicated so much to for so long. She says she won’t miss it too much and that the things she’s learned from it will help her in other parts of her life.

“‘To everything there is a season,’ and the soccer season is over,” said Jodi. “I have no regrets. Because of soccer, many missionary doors have been opened. The Lord has blessed me, and others through me. I haven’t gone unrewarded. I’ve been humbled, pushed, and just about everything else, but I learned that I can stand up to it. The Lord knows he can count on me, and I know I can count on myself.”

Jodi couldn’t be happier knowing that she didn’t let just one soccer game spoil all that.

[photos] Photography by Jed Clark