by Tatyana Breitkreuz
Decked in Adidas and neon, the goalie shouts directions to his defensive force, preparing for the onslaught of the opponent. After some quick swerving and sidestepping, an undefended attacker drives the ball toward the goal. The goalie sees the lone forward approaching and begins rushing toward the ball. Only a second before the attacker takes a shot does the goalie, with perfect timing, smother the ball into his body as he slides across the damp grass. That’s one save by the goalie, and one save for the team.
The UNW men’s soccer goalkeeper may look recognizable, but he isn’t the man he was last year. Junior Turner Main has found himself inside the penalty box as a goalkeeper since his freshman year at Northwestern, but it wasn’t until last year that he faced his most challenging opponent yet: sophomore slump.
“I just came back from a year where I started the back half of my freshman year and had earned second team all-conference,” said Main. “I felt like I was the best goalkeeper in the conference and let things go to my head.”
This slump seeped into Main’s soccer career, especially when the team wasn’t performing as he had hoped.
“I felt like I was above some people on my team and that I knew what I was doing more than them,” admitted Main. “When I messed up, I tended to blame it on someone else or yell at them instead of instructing and encouraging my team. It wasn’t constructive at all.” The frustrated sophomore athlete didn’t just keep this attitude on the field but let it trickle into his academic life as well.
“Last year I slept through a lot of my classes,” mentioned Main, a marketing student at Northwestern. According to Main, he never really felt present in school. He wasn’t fond of chapel, he had a continual negative attitude toward his classmates and he wasn’t fulfilled by the “Christian atmosphere” that he saw his friends thriving on. However, to Main’s surprise, he still managed to earn decent grades in his classes. If it wasn’t for one of his best friends and teammate sophomore LeRoy Malone, he probably wouldn’t have had the motivation to keep going.
During the summer following the year of his sophomore slump, Main had one of the best game plays of his life. In May, he joined the Chicago Eagles, a ministry group based in Illinois that trains athletes to share the Gospel through the environment of soccer, which took a group of soccer players down to São Gonçalo, Brazil, to lead a Christian-based soccer camp for young athletes. Main was surrounded by others who, while they didn’t have their lives together, had a relationship with Christ, which encouraged him to improve his walk with God.
“Our identity is not in soccer it’s in Christ,” stated Main. “My walk with Christ is improving my soccer because I’m happier now. It’s the best soccer I’ve played in my life.” He also mentioned the joy he has playing the game. “There are great guys on the team it’s hard not to have fun!”
Recently, Main was honored with the UMAC Player of the Week award.
“It was cool as a goalie to get [the award], but I knew without my defense, I wouldn’t be able to get it.”
Main has had a complete transformation. Along with his better technique, handling of the ball, and a fun-loving and encouraging attitude, he knows that as long as he keeps his attitude in check, he’ll never go back to the days of sophomore slump.
“This year I would say that Turner is more Christ-centered and more respectful toward everyone both on and off the soccer field,” Malone said. “Turner has changed for the better. Oh, and ladies, he is single.”
“In a way, it was kind of good to have a bad year, but it wasn’t fun,” noted Main. Whether it’s a breakout game like at St. Thomas with 10 saves, or a game that’s more of a fight, Main has made it a goal to enjoy the game like it’s his last because to him, it’s the best soccer he’s ever played.
“It’s short and simple,” shared Main. “Play for Jesus. It shows why we’re here. I like it just as much as [Northwestern’s] ‘Compete with Purpose.’”