The Goalkeeper


Sunday’s game meant a chance for the finals. She couldn’t be replaced, and the team was really putting the pressure on her.

The Goalkeeper

“Come on, Jodi! It’s only one little game! God isn’t gonna hate you for playing just this once on Sunday.”

“That’s right,” thought Jodi Allen, a 17-year-old from Sandy, Utah, and the star goalkeeper on her championship soccer team. “It’s only one little game”—nowhere near important enough to 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? They’d worked hard all season, winning the Utah state championship and the right to play in the western regionals in San Francisco. A win on Sunday could mean a chance at the finals. The backup goalkeeper had quit, and the roster was frozen. There was no one to take her place, and the same opponents had beaten them 9–1 the year before.

“Oh Jodi—who do you think you are? Some of us are LDS, 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 was a freshman and began playing on the varsity soccer team at Brighton High School, 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 all sorts of missionary experiences.

“At one tournament I met a soccer player from Oregon who wanted to know why I wouldn’t play on Sunday,” Jodi related. “That opened the door for me to tell him about the gospel. We ended up writing letters. I sent him a Book of Mormon. That was scary. But he read it and wanted to know more. So I sent him some pamphlets, and well, after a while he decided to be baptized.

“Then there was the time on the bus. (The girls and boys teams ride together.) I was reading the Book of Mormon. I have a big quadruple combination, and it was kind of conspicuous. One of the guys 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 dirty jokes.”

Jodi has been known to “give out copies of the Book of Mormon like crazy.” She always carries a spare in her bag with her soccer uniform, bringing comments like, “It’s nice to see someone who really lives her religion.”

“People have said good things about the way I play soccer,” said Jodi, “But that’s really the best compliment I’ve ever been paid.”

No, 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, “if I don’t play on Sunday, sure, 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 called 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 phone and had a prayer with her. After they hung up, they called an old friend in the Bay 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. They ended up tying their opponents, 1–1, and afterwards, many of her teammates apologized for being so critical of her.

The team ended up tying for third in the tournament, which was better than they’d ever done before. Jodi thought this would be a good note on which to end her soccer career, even though she was a junior in high school and could play for one more year.

“I’ve achieved just about everything I wanted to with soccer,” Jodi said. She had been ranked as the number one goalie in the state and had been scouted by a number of universities, 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 senior 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 one little game spoil all that.

[photos] Photography by Jed Clark