Milford Mill goalkeeper Shakiyah Walker saw plenty of action this fall, averaging about 18 saves per game. Coach Melvin Malenski said her efforts kept the Millers' girls soccer team (2-9) in every game as they continue to resurrect a program in its second season after eight years without a team. She had one game with 32 saves and earned a berth in the Baltimore County Senior All-Star Game. A longtime basketball player, Walker, 18, tried soccer for the first time last season and fell in love with it. Interested in medicine and business administration, she works as an intern at a local business helping senior citizens with their benefits, but she said she might become a doctor. She has a 3.2 grade-point average.
How did you start playing soccer?
My basketball coach, Coach [DeToiya] McAliley, she was like, "Kia, you playing a fall sport?" I was like, "No, not really." She was like, "Well, go find something to play," so I thought soccer seemed interesting. I had never really played soccer, so let's go play soccer. Let's try something different.
Did you start out as a goalie?
No (laughs). I actually started out on defense, but I just kept saying, "Mr. Malenski, I want to be goalie. I want to be goalie." He kept saying, "No you're going to be on defense." Then, I don't know what happened, but they let me try goalie and I did a couple of practices. I was a little nervous, then I don't know what happened, but we got to a Saturday game and they let me be goalie. I was like, "Wow," and I actually did good. I think I had 15 saves that game. I was really excited, and after that, I was just always the goalie.
What is it about you that makes you suited to being a goalie?
My determination, because I'm determined to be the best at whatever I do. Because I wanted the position made me fight even harder after I got it. I didn't want to be saying "I want this position" and then I get it and don't live up to it.
How much of being a goalie is mental?
Being a goalie, I think, is the most important job on the team. People underestimate goalies, I think, because a lot of people say it's the people who score the goals who are the most important, but I think the goalie has the most important job because you see the whole field. It's like you're the director and all of your teammates are the actresses, and if they don't pay attention to you and they don't listen to what you say, then the movie's not going to come out right.
Why do you think soccer isn't particularly popular in the African-American community here?
I think that a lot of black kids see it as being more of a quote-unquote white sport or for people overseas. I don't know why they have that mind-set, because a sport is a sport. Anybody who's good at it should play it. I mean, people feel as though basketball and football are for the black people. I don't understand that. When it comes to sports, sports have no race. There shouldn't be a color code on sports.
Would you encourage other girls to try it?
I do. When some of my teammates started getting injured, I started trying to recruit people. Everybody's like, "Well, I don't know because it's soccer." I told them, "Just come watch a game," and I had a couple girls who came to watch and they were like: "I like it. I'm going to play next year."
How did it feel to vote for the first time?
I felt good. That night was just like I felt really big, because I was a part of history. I was more excited because my grandmother [Margaret Grimsley], who is 73 years old, got to vote. I was excited more for her, being older, because she watched Martin Luther King give his speech in Washington. For her to be able to vote for the first black president was big. I called her, and she was just crying because she was alive to be part of history.
Had your grandmother told you much about that time 45 years ago, what it was like?
She just told me that it was a lot of everybody looking for hope and looking for a change, and she said she went to watch [King] and there were a lot of people there. When she went to the polls, it reminded her of being on the hill in Washington. There were so many people there. All the people coming out to vote reminded her of that. She was really excited about that and glad she lived to see it.
Did you stay up to watch the election coverage?
Yes. I was up forever. I actually kept falling asleep watching them tally up who won which states. I was sleeping when I heard the new president is Barack Obama. I was all ecstatic. I watched it with my two best friends, and I was more overwhelmed than anything because I felt like I contributed to that.