Backup goalkeeper leads from the bench

Senior goalkeeper Matt Deemer saves a shot in practice. Photo by Jackie Cohen

Outside the campus Starbucks on a cool Monday afternoon, senior goalkeeper Matt Deemer had his feet up and a smile on his face, thinking about his soccer career, coaching the Villa Park High School varsity team and his 2-year-old golden retriever, Harley.

Deemer, an integrated educational studies major, is the self-proclaimed “average” backup goalkeeper for men’s soccer, and the “dad” of the team.

“This is my fourth year, and I think I’ve only played in a few games,” Deemer said. “I still go to practice and work as hard as anyone. (I have) a full understanding of my role now – there’s always a place to be and always a way to benefit the team.”

Deemer will tell you that he’s a funny guy. He’ll tell you how he was named Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) player of the week for playing less than two full games last season, and how his teammates couldn’t believe a guy who plays as little as he does would get that honor.

But the one thing both he and his teammates will tell you is that Deemer is a leader, despite his lack of playing time.

“He’s just a guy that has a lot of wisdom and a lot of experience around the game, so guys look to him for advice,” said senior midfielder Zev Gollis. “Whether it’s soccer or in their personal lives, he’s the go-to father figure on the team.”

In high school, Deemer was a starter and captain on his Carlsbad High School varsity team, which won the California Interscholastic Federation championship for the first time in the school’s history in 2014.

“I definitely reached my peak in high school,” Deemer said. “That was a fantastic four years.”

Deemer got into soccer through his older sister, Ashley. When she quit the sport and left an extra pair of goalkeeper’s gloves lying around the house, he tried them on and picked up the position.

“I just loved it,” Deemer said. “Ever since then, I was a goalie.”

Deemer credited his teammates for sealing his decision to attend Chapman after meeting and hanging out with the team one weekend.

“I definitely knew right after I got home that this was the place for me,” he said.

It took him a while to settle into being the backup goalkeeper after having been an important player in high school. It wasn’t until his junior year that he felt comfortable in his new leadership role, he said.

Matt Deemer

“In high school, I was the captain, and I felt like I had to do everything, but there are different ways to lead,” Deemer said. “It was a little hard for me to adapt. You definitely take a back seat, but once I grew into that role and understood what that role was going to be, I went with it and loved it.”

Deemer is also the Villa Park High School men’s varsity soccer coach. He coached the junior varsity team until this season.

“(Junior varsity) got second place two years ago, and last year, we got first place,” Deemer said.

The varsity program at Villa Park wasn’t going in the direction that athletic director Tom Fox wanted, so he gave it to Deemer, hoping he’d help the program grow, Deemer said.

“Over (the) summer, (Fox) called me into his office and said, ‘We’re going to give you the program. I know you’re young, but I think you can take it (in) stride and you’ll learn a lot from this,’” Deemer said.

Managing school, playing and coaching soccer, and watching his dog, Harley, is difficult, he said.

“I missed a final once because of her,” Deemer said. “Teachers completely understand. It is really hard coaching, playing and going to school. It is tough, but (it’s) so worth it.”

When Deemer started at Chapman, his mother, Lisa, an emergency room nurse, and his father, Andrew, a vascular surgeon, encouraged him to pursue a medical career.

Deemer, who was initially a kinesiology major, became undecided in his sophomore year. In his junior year, after discussions with head coach Eddie Carrillo, director of the leadership studies program, Mark Maier and his father, Deemer switched to integrated educational studies as part of his coaching aspirations.

“(Coaching is) something I’ve always wanted to do,” Deemer said. “I think I want the rest of my life to go in that route.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the director of the leadership studies program. It is Mark Maier, not Mark Meyer.

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