Parker Goins finally got the phone call she’d dreamed of all her young life.
She was invited to play soccer for the U18 national team, and she would spend 11 days in Spain wearing the colors of her nation playing against U19s from Denmark, England and Norway.
The only problem was when the call came, she was on crutches.
“I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is bad,’ ” Goins said.
Goins — a junior at Union High School in Tulsa and a verbal commit to the University of Arkansas — had sustained a severely bruised nerve in her lower leg when a high school teammate accidentally kicked her in practice. It was swollen, discolored and painful, and she couldn’t even walk on it, much less train to play international soccer.
“She bruised the outside of her lower leg, the nerve that kind of travels on the outside of the ankle into the foot,” said Dr. Ryan Pitts, a primary care sports medicine physician with Eastern Oklahoma Orthopedic Center in Tulsa. “She had a lot of numbness and tingling and discomfort with it. Some bruising, some swelling, but I think the tingling and the weakness was the thing that bothered her the most.”
Goins’ injury happened just 2 ½ weeks before she got the call. Pitts acknowledged feeling a bit under the gun to get her back in time to resume training.
“You follow the same principles you do with any athlete, but there’s a little added pressure because you don’t want to let them down,” Pitts said. “And obviously this is something she’s worked her whole entire life for. So you feel a little extra pressure.”
Finding a balance between healing the injury and Goins’ need to maintain her fitness was a challenge, Pitts said.
Eventually, the swelling receded, the pain went away and the strength returned. Goins got in about a week-and-a-half of intense training before flying with her dad and uncle to La Manga, Spain, where the U.S. tied Denmark 0-0 and then beat England and Norway 1-0.
“Of course, she’s an amazing athlete, but she did remarkably well,” Pitts said. “You know how it is with those kind of people, they just seem to recover quicker and better than the rest of us do.”
Goins came off the bench as a forward to start the second half of the first game and never sat again. She even delivered a brilliant assist for the game-winning goal in the 78th minute against England.
“She pressed back and (took on) the midfielder, a 50-50,” said her high school coach, Brian Elliott, who watched the game with the Union team in his classroom. “Ball popped out and she just scooped it and turned and ran right at the defense and just slotted a perfectly weighted ball for the wide player to run onto for the goal.”
Goins has world class speed and elite soccer skills, but the game didn’t always come so easy for her.
“Parker was a little different,” said her dad, Aaron Goins. “When she went out for soccer, Shannah (her mom) had to make her get out of the car. She didn’t want to get out of the car, she was crying, she stood by the coach, she didn’t want to practice. She just was real, real shy growing up. We had to kind of push her out there. But once she got out there, she had a good time and enjoyed it.”
Aaron Goins was an elite athlete himself. Son of a Tulsa McLain football player who went on to play at Oklahoma State, Aaron Goins was an All-State running back at Owasso. He signed with Barry Switzer to play football at Oklahoma, but after the Cincinnati Reds drafted him in the second round, he played professional baseball for two years. A broken foot derailed those plans, and he wound up back at OU, where he played under Gary Gibbs for one season.
Aaron Goins was renowned for his speed. So are his kids. Parker committed to Arkansas over North Carolina as a freshman, and younger daughter Kyler also is an elite prospect.
“Things came easy for (Parker), but she was technically developed by her club coaches,” Elliott said. “Now, she loves to run. But she’s got other skills, too.”
Goins is actually one of two Union players who have competed internationally. Junior Taylor Malham also has attended the U.S. U17 camp and also hopes for a call-up. Goins, Malham and Haley VanFossen are all teammates on Tulsa’s Elite Clubs National League team, Tulsa Soccer Club Hurricane, and all are committed to Arkansas.
Goins said she didn’t think she would get her call-up because in just two national team camps, she had limited exposure to national team coach April Henrichs and her staff. She went a year between camps without hearing much from Heinrichs.
“Everybody else had been to like 20,” she said. “They were doing it since they were little.”
Elliott said Goins has matured into a leader (she’s a team captain), and her dad said she only wants to be a good teammate.
“As humble as can be,” Elliott said.
Goins’ immediate goals are to extend Union’s current 35-game regular-season win streak, repeat as Class 6A state champions (last year’s club went 17-0 and also won the Top
Drawer Soccer spring national championship; Goins led that team with 17 goals and was the only Oklahoman named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s All-America team) and balance that with an intense club schedule and another national team camp next week in Chula Vista, Calif.
After that comes another international event in October, this time in Ireland.
Getting called back to play for the national team would be all business for Goins this time. But that first call-up, especially with the leg injury, was special.
“One of the best feelings, probably,” Goins said. “I was just so happy. It’s such a great honor and privilege. It was so surreal. Really cool.”