Haley Shelton’s soccer career started with a bowling ball.
Shelton, the goalkeeper for the University of Nebraska at Omaha women’s soccer team, said, “When I was three, I went bowling with my family. Rumor has it that I set the bowling ball down and kicked it. They signed me up for soccer, and I haven’t stopped playing since.”
Shelton was recently named The Summit League Defensive Player of the Week. This is her second time receiving this award as goalkeeper. Shelton was also on The Summit League Academic Honor Roll in 2013, 2014 and 2015. She was a Summit League Academic Distinguished Scholar in 2014 and 2015, and she won the UNO Academic Career Achievement (ACE) Award in 2015.
Shelton, who is originally from Kansas City, Missouri, was recruited to UNO as a central defender. She subsequently moved to a mid-field position. She later had a serious back injury which made it hard for her to continue in that position. Coach Don Klosterman saw her play as goalkeeper in a club game. He asked if she could train to be a goalkeeper, and she agreed.
“I think a lot of people would’ve given up and quit, but that’s not in Haley’s DNA,” Klosterman said. “She is very driven. She is a leader and is good at being in control. The funny thing is all of the qualities you need as a goalkeeper, she had. She didn’t really know that until the injury, and she was kind of forced into becoming a keeper.”
Though the switch was challenging, Shelton is glad she became a goalkeeper. She enjoys the technicality of the position. She has to know where her hands, elbows, core, knees, hips and feet are because one body part out of position can lead to a missed save.
Sometimes people think the goalkeeper has a lonely position, but Shelton disagrees.
She says, “You still are constantly involved,” Shelton said. “You can see the whole field and control the game without being directly involved. I’m a very vocal player, and I can instruct my backline on how to operate. I can see the whole field, and I can tell that I have an impact even though I’m not necessarily making a save or kicking the ball.”
Shelton does not take all the credit for her success. During her first season as goalkeeper, Shelton was afraid that any mistake she made would cost her team the game. Her teammates knew she was a talented goalkeeper and motivated her.
“Now that I am established as a keeper, my teammates are critical in stopping goals,” Shelton said. “A good forward will always beat a good keeper. They are proactive, and I am reactive. They get to choose where they hit the ball, and I am guessing or reacting to where they hit the ball. It takes a team to save a goal.”
When Shelton heard she was named The Summit League Defensive Player of the Week, she was shocked. She believes that winning the award was a team effort. She explained that she gets the stats, but she could not have made many of the saves without her teammates.
“If I am successful it is not because I am an amazing keeper, it is because we have an amazing defensive unit,” Shelton said.