Concerns of a Youth Goalkeeper

To Whom it may Concern;

Hi, I am Rilee Bleakley, a 12-year-old goalkeeper for the Lightning soccer team in Lexington, SC. I am writing to you today to express my concerns for my fellow goalkeepers as well as myself and for all soccer player’s safety.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been intentionally kicked in the ribs, the hands, and many other areas of my body after having control of the ball while in the box. After all of these incidents, I have had to go to school barely able to walk, write and after two hits in the same game to the ribs, was on the verge of pneumonia as a result of my injuries. 

               Rilee Bleakley

Each time the referees ignored or failed to protect me, but worse they did nothing to prevent it from happening again. Even though my coach, my parents, and sometimes the other team’s coach have expressed their feelings, nothing was done by the people who are paid to protect me, the ones that are supposed to know the rules to the game.

I fear that one day my fellow goalkeepers and I will be hit in a critical area of the body that could cause permanent, life long damages. Though most referees would call something like this, a goalkeeper is a defenseless and vulnerable player with only shin guards to protect us. Many kids of my age would quit doing what they love out of fear of getting hurt. 

Kids should not have to stop being kids or give up their love for the game out of fear because the referee will not protect them. I love being a goalie and love my team and the game, but I hope that I don’t get to the point where I want to hang up the towel at 12 years old.

I hope this message gets across to all the right people and that all referees, administrators, and league officials read my message and will take more action to protect the children that love to play the game of soccer.

Thank you,

Rilee Bleakley

Rilee plays club for Lexington Girls Soccer Association. The referees are assigned through the SC Referee Association.

To send Riley messages of support, email her at

Lake and Main reaches thousands of readers throughout the Midlands, readers who, no doubt, will not approve of negligence that not just ignores the safety of our young athletes, but, essentially, promotes play that jeopardizes their well-being.  We will follow this closely.

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