Wallis Lapsley
Nayib Morán

Wallis Lapsley: ‘To Be a Goalkeeper You Have to Have a Thick Skin’

Wallis Lapsley was born in Seattle, Washington and played his collegiate soccer at UC Davis, where he was named 2019 Big West Conference Goalkeeper of the Year. After living in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas for about a year, he fluently speaks Spanish. During the first week of preseason, he’s using his free time to learn Italian through Duolingo. He’s always looking for ways to gather information, whether that has to do with soccer or other topics that interest him. 

Question: When you started playing football was goalkeeping your first choice?

Wallis Lapsley: Actually, when I was little I played like the little kid soccer, so three on three, where there are no goalkeepers. I didn't start playing goalkeeper actually until I moved to Mexico. I played a bunch of sports growing up, but the only soccer shirt that I had was an Oswaldo Sánchez goalkeeper jersey. I remember walking around the park in the city where we lived with my dad, trying to find a team and asked if I could join. I remember showing up and I had my Oswaldo Sánchez jersey on, and I was like a head taller than all the other kids. So they were just like, ‘Okay, portero!’ And since then I've just been a goalkeeper.

Q: What are the goalkeeper qualities that every goalkeeper should have?

Lapsley: You have to have a thick skin, so I think goalkeeping sometimes you're the hero and then sometimes you're gonna be to blame. So being okay with making mistakes and having those mistakes be super visible to everybody around you. And then also having the ability to have a short memory, so if something doesn't go your way to move on to the next play and be ready to learn from it, but also just be ready to let it go and not let it affect you. 

Q: In the training sessions, what I’ve noticed is how vocal you are on the field, do you already know all the players’ names? 

Lapsley: Almost and I think if I'm not 100%, I'm pretty close. I think I have all the players’ names, but there are still one or two staff members I'm not totally sure about. For me, I like to stay engaged in the game as much as possible, and for me communication helps me do that. And then also, it kind of makes my life easier if the guys in front of me are as organized as they can be. People definitely respond better when you use their name and ask them to do something versus just say, “Hey, you do this or whatever.”

Q: When it comes to your teammates in the goalkeeping position -- Ryan Meara and Kendall McIntosh -- they have experience in MLS, any pointers they’ve given you?

Lapsley: I've been super, super grateful to be able to work with Ryan and Kendall they’ve both been really, really nice and welcoming and supportive. Both are sort of sharing their own perspective. Somebody like Ryan, who's got kind of a more similar build to me in terms of height and our style of play. Just by being around him and training and watching the way that he does things and talking about certain situations, you know, I pick things out like that. And then somebody like Kendall, who's got a bit of a different style play, just kind of picking his brain about how he anticipates things. And how he sees the game in front of him. And then yeah, just being around both of those guys and training, seeing their habits, specifically Ryan, the way that he does stuff, trying to emulate that as much as possible, because both those guys have been around in the league for a while. And that's something I'm hoping to do. So figure out a good way to start is to follow their lead and kind of do what they do.

Q: What are your initial thoughts on the team’s style?  

Lapsley: I love it. I really love it. It's an exciting way to play; an exciting brand of soccer to watch. And I think, for me, that kind of passion and intensity, those are two things that are important to me in terms of the way that I kind of live my life, but especially the way that I like to play soccer, and the way I like to be a goalkeeper. So to see those kind of values embodied in the style of play, and just the values of the organization, as a whole, it's been really exciting.

Q: Over there at UC Davis, you got a lot of honors in the last two years, what do you think was the key to having such a successful collegiate career? 

Lapsley: I think the Archbishop Desmond Tutu said it best when he said, “A person becomes a person through other persons.” And I think my success in college was totally predicated by the people who I was fortunate enough to be around whether it was coaching staff, my teammates, and my friends and family. They all kind of played a huge part in giving me support, and then also challenging me to improve and to push myself and to put myself out there in situations where I wasn't maybe comfortable, whether it was going to train with teams in MLS, or pursuing a different sort of path of study. Within school, just trying new things and being comfortable making mistakes and the support that I had from like I said, from my friends, family, teammates  and the coaching staff at UC Davis, allowed me to take chances and then fortunately for me, more chances than not went into my favor. So it's been a really fun last couple of years for sure.

You can listen to all the 16-minute interview HERE: