For Robert Rathkamp, goalkeeper of the Auburndale Storm soccer team, just being on the field and playing with his friends is enough to keep a smile on his face.
The 13-year-old goaltender for the traveling soccer team was born and raised in Whitestone. When Rathkamp was seven, the scrappy youngster was introduced to soccer and he jumped at the chance to guard the net.
After a year of dabbling in the international sport, he decided to branch out and pick up a baseball bat, while putting his soccer training on a short hiatus.
“Baseball was just too boring for me,” Rathkamp said. “I couldn’t stand waiting for the ball to come to me.”
In soccer, Rathkamp said the game-play is intense and the ball just “never stops.” After a year of playing the outfield on the diamond, he knew that soccer was the right sport for him. His game got more adept and his skills improved with every game he played.
“On the soccer field, he has been working so hard that he will be one of the best goalies to come out of our area,” said Giulio Petruccelli, coach and trainer for the Storm. “He is only 13 years old but shows a lot of maturity – he will become a division one college goalkeeper.”
Along with shining on the field, Rathkamp has worked his away up from being an average student to being on the brink of excellence with his grades.
“My favorite subjects are gym, lunch and math,” joked Rathkamp, who attends M.S. 194 in Whitestone. “I worked hard to get my grades up and I’m pretty proud of them.”
During his free time, Rathkamp plays video games and hangs out with his closest friends. If the cards fell into place, he said he would love to design video games when he gets older.
His parents, Donna and Billy, believe that he persevered though a rough patch in his educational performance, and now has the ability to consistently balance his athletics with education.
“He is diligent with his training and schooling and never complains about any of it,” said his mother Donna.
The Auburndale Storm had the privilege of having a major league soccer team, the Red Bulls, provide a training academy for the youngsters. Rathkamp excelled during this period and was complemented by all the pros.
Rathkamp thinks of himself as a great defender and chose to be a goalkeeper because they are “invincible” on the field. He has had plenty of shining moments as a goalie, but one memory really sticks out for him.
“We were playing this team from Dix Hill, and I was forced out of the goal when I saw a player kick the ball over my head,” Rathkamp recalls. “It was rolling towards the net, and I had to dive for it … three inches away from the goal, I smacked it passed the goal and saved the game for us.”
When asked about his plans, the keeper had only one thing to say – “I’m going pro!”