It was 2010 and Alia Skinner was 8 years old when I first ran into her on the Clay County soccer fields. I had just started as director of coaching at the club and I remember this little girl coming up to me and saying “hey coach, I want to be a goalkeeper”, I looked at her and said “nope, you’re too young”. I don’t think she was too happy with my response so I made her a deal, I told her that If she played half the time on the field and half the time as a keeper I would be okay with it, she said okay.
At the time we were pretty short handed and didn’t have a dedicated goalkeeper coach so I started training her myself once a week. I quickly noticed how driven she was, and that she had the qualities that make great goalkeepers. She was self-motivated, hard working, competitive, a bit mean, a little crazy and a bit stubborn “it only took 5 years to get her to wear her hair up”. I remember training her together with a boy named Eric and she would get so upset if he did anything better than her that it drove her to work even harder.
The following year we hired Lauren Church as the clubs goalkeeper director and coach who I really believe is largely responsible for Alia’s skill and passion for the position. Lauren was one of the top college goalkeepers in her time at the University of Georgia, which was a big feat for someone barely 5ft, 5 inches tall. Having a short keeper coach was probably the best thing for Alia as for Lauren it meant that she would just have to work harder. Even so, we kept looking at her parents and wondering how tall “or short” Alia would eventually be. Well, we’re not exactly sure how it happened but Alia is now almost 5ft 9” tall which is a very good height for a goalkeeper.
Alia Skinner is now considered one of the top young goalkeepers in the United States and has been a part of the 2002 US National Team for 3 years. She be representing the United States in the International Women’s Tournament of Gradisca in Northern Italy from April 18-30. Alia has also committed to play D1 soccer at Virginia Tech starting in 2020.
I’m sure that Alia would credit her teammates or “Brothers” on the U-17 DA team and the many coaches that have helped her along the way including; Grant Hauth, Wale Leyimu, Matt Urbano, Kylie Wilson, Chris Barrocas, Philip Pooley and of course the great Tony DiCicco who who brought his yearly SoccerPlus goalkeeper camps to Clay County six years ago.
I can’t even begin to express how proud I am of the player and the person Alia has become. She is still hyper competitive, a bit mean and crazy but all of the great ones are. I am extremely blessed to have her on my side.
Congrats and good luck in Italy Alia, Go USA!
DA Academy Director