Stargate goalkeeper Alvin Cheang sprawls to make a save against Fort Lupton earlier this season.
It’s his senior year in high school, and Stargate School soccer player Alvin Cheang decided to try something new on the pitch.
“I decided to play goalkeeper because I saw that the position was open and also I had the support of a lot of the soccer team to try,” he said. “They thought I’d be good, so I decided to try it. Now, I’m fully committed to the spot.”
The last time Cheang was in-goal was a one-season stand for the Colorado Rush Soccer program when he was 11 years old.
“I thought it would be fun,” he said. “I only played goalkeeper for that year. I didn’t start to play soccer again until my junior year of high school.”
"So, I just kind of stopped playing until junior year because right out of quarantine I felt I should start being more active," Cheang said.
“He has made excellent progress since the start of the season,” said his high-school coach, Daniel Welch. “Alvin has a lot of natural ability and is a great athlete. He has excellent reaction skills so is an excellent shot-stopper. We lost our first game 5-2 (to Fort Lupton), and with the exception of giving up three goals in 10 minutes, he kept us in the game with some great saves.”
Cheang spent a lot of time last year on the Eagles’ bench.
“I wasn’t the best with ball control, and I didn’t have the experience to play on the field,” Cheang said. “On the small chances that I got to play, I would get tossed into center defense mid (midfielder) for a bit, which I was very thankful for even if it wasn’t that much time.”
The hardest adjustment has been realizing that as a goalkeeper, he can use his hands.
“It felt uncomfortable to get down to a ball that may get kicked into me,” Cheang said. “I think the easiest thing to adjust to would be diving, because it is kind of like volleyball diving (he plays on the Eagles’ volleyball team in the spring), but just on your side instead of on your belly.”
Welch said Cheang’s biggest adjustments have been on the lines of confidence in his decisions and communicating with his teammates.
“His confidence continues to improve, so he is trusting himself more and more every day,” Welch said. “As a goalkeeper myself, I have been working with him on giving directions to the defense and calling ‘keeper’ when he is coming for a ball. The easiest adjustment has been shot stopping. Alvin is very quick, and we tell him, ‘Any save is a good save.’ even if some of them may be unorthodox at times.”
Goalkeepers take an on-field leadership role, too, and Cheang found that confusing at first.
“I would slip up on my words and directions because I would be moving around,” he said. “I’ve started to get used to my movement and being loud with my teammates, but I still occasionally slip up in my directions.”
Cheang is the second goalie in as many years for the Eagles.
“I didn’t really expect or think too much when I hopped into goalkeeping, but the experience has been incredible because of how supportive my teammates and coaches have been,” he said. “I honestly don’t think I would have committed to this position if they didn’t motivate me. I hesitated for a good while before jumping in.”
“The most pleasant surprise has been his attitude,” Welch said. “Alvin is super positive and wants to improve. He has stayed after practice to ask about technique and drills to improve. After our first loss, I thought I might need to give him a pep talk, having let in five goals. When I checked in with him he was really focusing on the great saves he made and was getting great compliments from his teammates for the game he had.”
“The change in position has taught me a lot on the field and off the field,” Cheang said. “Being the goalkeeper has, for sure, helped me a lot socially. I have to communicate with my team, and being goalkeeper has also taught me to stay sturdy and commit without hesitation.”
“Alvin stepped into the position as we graduated a goalkeeper last year,” Welch said. “He was a conference recognized player, so we knew we had big shoes to fill. Alvin has come in and really made the position his. One can quickly gain from speaking with Alvin that he is a sincere and kind person. He has been really fun to work with because he is receptive and positive, traits that many athletes don't share.”
Cheang saluted his teammates and coaches.
“They have helped me and supported me without ever putting me down for something,” he said. “They always give me feedback on other approaches I could have taken to clear or save the ball. They are constantly helping me and encouraging me, which I think was the only reason I really committed to the position. Because otherwise, I may have given up after missing my first few saves during practice.”