Youth Spotlight: Serious injury fails to derail talented young shot-stopper
By Roger Gonzalez
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another installment in our series profiling people, places and stories in the youth game. This piece looks at one Delaware goalkeeper overcoming the loss of sight to continue his still very young soccer career between the pipes. Brave Nate Dight’s Hockessin Blizzard’s will compete in the Jeff Cup’s Boys weekend March 10th and 11th.
Overcoming counter-attacks, stopping penalty kicks and directing the defense of his soccer team are just the usual tasks Nate Dight goes through during a normal game. A 12-year-old sixth grader from Middleton, NJ and a member of Hockessin (Delaware) Soccer Club’s U-12 team, what the young goalkeeper has to deal with now on a daily basis pales in comparison.
Last summer, Dight’s world changed in an instant. Attending his elementary school graduation party, kids were entertained by various sporting activities. One happened to be golf, and in a second, a powerful swing of a club from a friend made fierce contact with one of Dight’s eyes.
“Nate’s mom called me and said that she had to talk about something and it was kind of serious,” club coach Robb Jamieson said. “She started crying and told me that Nate had a bad accident.
“I wasn’t concerned about soccer. It’s a real-life thing. Him being able to come back [to play] wasn’t something I was concerned about, I was just worried about him having a normal life.”
A gruesome result saw the player rushed to A.I. Dupont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, DE and right into surgery to try and save his eye. With family and friends supporting the young man, the prognosis wasn’t the desired one.
As a result, he was permanently blind in the eye.
“I knew there was no chance I would be able to see out of that eye again, so when the doctor told me my eye was ‘toast,’ I actually laughed at the choice of words the doctor used,” Dight said.
“I never felt sorry for myself and never use it as an excuse in anything in life, let alone the soccer field.”
Despite the accident, the team’s goofball, as the coach puts it, only missed six weeks of soccer as determination and desired aided in his comeback.
“I never had any doubts about coming back,” Dight said, who has a “shell” now over his eye, the same color as his other eye. “As soon as the doctors cleared me to play, I was ready to get back on the field. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have even missed one practice.”
Life is just as it was before.
“I didn’t know how much of it was going to affect me, but I actually surprised myself by making some of the old acrobatic saves that I made before I got hurt,” Dight said.
“At first, the depth perception was hard to get used to, but I have gotten used to it and I feel like I am back to the level I was at before the injury,” Dight said.
His recovery was aided by trainer Matt Brown, who has a friend on the Major League Soccer club Philadelphia Union, defender Sheanon Williams. Brown was able to get a team jersey signed by all the players.
“I thought the signed jersey was really cool because I knew I had people that were rooting for me,” Dight said.
In the end, for Jamieson, his star goalkeeper is the same kid as before.
“Nate is probably the best ‘keeper I’ve seen for his age,” he said. “I always knew he would get back on the soccer field.
“He is the same old person. We went to see him that day in the hospital. He had some aunts and uncles there…Nate was prank-dialing people from the hospital phone, talking the nurse’s ears off.
“His spirit has never wavered one bit.
Editor’s Note: If you’re in Richmond, Virginia for the Jefferson Cup Boys the weekend of March 10th and 11th, swing by and cheer on Nate Dight and his teammates. His Hockessin Blizzard team is the top ranked boys team in Delaware, and will be competing in the Elite 11v11 Division against Triangle United (NC), PSG FC Nova (MI), and more local rivals LDC United (PA) at Capital Park. Catch up with the team on their website here.