Nov. 25, 2013
For the Love of the Game - Cami Koski's Journey to Goalkeeper of the Year
By: Allison McClain
90 minutes in goal and her only thoughts racing through her mind are about the next ball she is about to save. The mental focus takes over and her hard work shows off.
She grew up a tough a kid - one that was built to make plays and born to break records. A multi-sport athlete that would credit her family as her ultimate backbone, this kid lived to play the game of soccer.
Cami Koski stepped between the posts during her middle school days and from there, she soared into one of Houston Soccer's all-time greatest goalkeepers to ever compete in the Scarlet and White.
"I didn't have any goalkeeper training in high school and really didn't begin playing the position until my seventh or eighth grade year," Koski laughs. "With no specialized training growing up, I was a bit raw between the posts."
Her ambitions were to play to the best of her ability and let her hard work shine through. It didn't take long for the University of Houston to notice that quality and snatch the local kid from Missouri City up for the next five years. She was listed as a freshman in 2009, but redshirted. That year of learning was followed by an impressive 2010 campaign that led to an incredible four-year playing career, which ended in 2013 when she was named American Athletic Conference Goalkeeper of the Year and tabbed a First Team All-Conference selection.
"My experience here at Houston has been awesome," Koski recalls. "It was an easy decision for me to come here because of the type of program I would play for and the fact that I am family oriented and was hoping to stay close to home so my family could watch me play."
Koski's ability to lead and learn all in the same game allowed her to showcase a profound talent to perform under pressure and without regrets.
"For a goalkeeper, the game is so mental," Koski explains. "In practice we dive a lot and are very involved, but in the games, it's all about staying locked in and concentrating on the game so in that split second out of 90 minutes when you have to come up big, you are mentally ready."
Playing for Houston, Koski gained respect as a player and teammate on and off the field.
"Cami is not only the most talented player I've had the privilege to play with, but she is also the hardest worker," said senior midfielder Kylie Cook. "Her determination to win and passion for the game is contagious and motivates other players to push themselves to new limits."
Some college athletes have a knack for success, some know how to handle adversity, and some have the ability to control the controllable and Koski is one that can easily handle it all.
"The one thing that sets Cami apart from other goalkeepers is her competitiveness," Cook recalls. "There are many saves she has made in her career that have left many people, including myself, speechless."
"I would say my favorite part about playing keeper is being fearless," Koski said. "I love when people question the risks I take during the game, but when I make that one play everyone remembers, you know it is all worth it."
She is a fan-favorite, a likable teammate and a coachable player. Koski strives to improve and is always willing to learn. She is unselfish and that played true when she was sidelined this season due to injury - playing in only 11 games. Koski kept her team motivated and challenged them to improve all while standing on the sideline hoping for the chance to return to the field.
Playing college soccer has taught Koski how to appreciate the little things and the relationships she has built over time. "You're not going to be best friends with everybody, but you can find something in common with every player on your team," she said. "It gets hard when you have 30 girls in one lockerroom going through their daily grind, but playing soccer has taught me more about how to work with other people that I may or may not have a lot in common with off the field."
A tap of the post and a quick prayer (focused on playing to her best ability) inspired by her grandmother before she steps into goal each game have been solidified as a pregame ritual her entire career. Those simplified moments that she embraces quickly turn into deep, focused thoughts on what her job is as a keeper for her team.
Koski may have broken more than a few Houston Soccer all-time records and she may leave as one of the best keepers that played this position, but none of that holds weight over just being fortunate to play.
"For me, I don't care about the numbers," Koski admits. "I love this game. I don't want to leave it. I want to go into coaching or do whatever I can to stay around soccer. It is awesome to leave my mark, but I never expected it to happen."
Her name will always appear in the Houston record books and her name will always be brought up amongst the Cougar community when talking about women's soccer, but those who know her best will remember her as the kid who simply loved this game.
"Cami is not only a great teammate, but she is the best goalkeeper I've played with and she deserves every accolade she has received," said Cook. "I truly just want to be remembered as the goalkeeper that put in the nitty-gritty hard work. I really like that quality in myself as a person and as a soccer player," Koski said.