Being the first athletic class is never easy.
You have no example to follow, you have less around you than future generations will have, and you carry the torch for the first time into competition – how you fair will set the tone for your entire program moving forward.
It takes a special kind of person to lead under those circumstances, one who embodies fearlessness, selflessness, and humility.
Enter Westcliff senior goalkeeper Josh Glover.
“Josh is a player you can never replace,” Westcliff head coach Joey O’Keefe said. “We’ll never have another Josh. We’ll have guys like Josh, who step up and do big things, but a guy who can start a program, and lead a program like him – he’s irreplaceable.”
The Warriors fell 1-0 in double-overtime Monday night to St. Katherine on the Championship Stadium pitch at OC Great Park, an unfortunate side-note to an evening that both celebrated Glover on Senior Night, and created breast cancer awareness through Westcliff’s fundraiser Pink-Out.
Both the men’s and women’s teams wore special pink jerseys and socks created by Under Armour, and the crowd wore Pink-Out T-shirts. Fundraiser proceeds went to aid in the fight against breast cancer.
Before the game, Yolie Lindemanns, a friend of women’s team captain Blair Gunderson, was honored. Lindemanns was diagnosed on April 26 of this year and started chemotherapy on July 11.
Glover walked onto the field with Lindemanns, offering her a bouquet of pink roses beforehand. Glover, draped in the English flag, stood side-by-side Lindemanns as they were honored during a heartfelt pregame ceremony.
After the game, Glover was asked why the night was special.
“To be honest, all glory to God,” he said. “He’s provided for me in amazing ways. But, ultimately, tonight is not about me. It’s about breast cancer awareness, and to have that opportunity to use this night as that, and to raise money for such an amazing cause, is wonderful.”
The contest was another outing in which the Warriors dominated, but simply couldn’t find net.
Westcliff easily controlled the stat sheet, outshooting the Firebirds, 26-9, but with five minutes left in the second overtime, Hugo Calderon found Dalton Manley for a game-winning roller.
St. Katherine charged the field, and many Warriors, including Glover, stood motionless at net, stunned that the final home game of their story-book season was so abruptly cut short.
“This team is special,” Glover said. “It’s the foundation for big things to come. It starts with the coaches. They’ve been absolutely fantastic. They’ve been diligent. They’ve put in a style of football that they want us to play that’s different from anyone else. The boys are implementing it so well. So, I’m just proud of every one of them, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
O’Keefe echoed Glover’s sentiments.
“We are playing a different style than we started the season with,” he said. “The important thing to be proud of is the improvement has been through the roof. We keep finding the ceiling, and keep breaking through.”
Glover finished his final home game with a trio of impressive saves, each thwarting a serious threat on goal, including a one-on-one.
When asked about his leadership style, which has been a cornerstone influence on the Warriors this season, Glover was predictably humble.
“Someone once said, ‘If you’re out on your own, and there’s no one following you, you’re not a leader, you’re just a man taking a walk,’” he said with a smile. “I’ve been given the privilege to play with these guys, and in terms of leading, it’s just being the best I can be and pushing them to be the best they can be.
“Those lads are fantastic, they really are, and I just want them to be the best they can be.”
It’s not easy being first.
It takes a special kind of leadership, one that shines bright when the darkest days come.
Fortunately for many future Warriors, Josh Glover has already shown them how it’s done.
To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.