BOW — How exactly does one become a goalie in the game of lacrosse?
Or better yet, who would want to?
Well, in the case of Ryan Riggs, you raise your hand at the wrong time.
Riggs, however, has parlayed that snafu made six years ago into being named a U.S. Lacrosse All-American this past season.
Riggs, who will be a senior at Burlington-Edison in the fall, is the first player in Northwest League history to earn the recognition.
The Burlington-Edison team plays in a league sanctioned by the Washington High School Boys’ Lacrosse Association.
“I was very surprised,” Riggs said of receiving the accolade. “I was sitting in my fourth-period class and the coach contacted me. I thought for sure I had messed something up. Instead, he told me I was just named an All-American. I honestly thought he meant all-region. Once it got figured out, it was an awesome feeling.
“All that hard work had paid off. It made it all worth it.”
Riggs is one of two juniors to be named an All-American and one of 50 goalies throughout the country.
“I had a good year,” he said. “I had a great coach and my confidence was high coming into this year. I was focused on stopping the ball, passing. All things combined really.”
Riggs’ goalie coach, Bryan McClure, said Riggs showed a passion for the game along with plenty of potential.
“He’s a tenaciously hard worker,” McClure said. “He always wants more. ... From where he began to where he is now, he has come a long way. He was hungry for the sport, but now he’s starving for it.”
Riggs was once a multiple-sport athlete, playing baseball, basketball and football.
When he decided to no longer play baseball, his mother Chris told him about an upcoming lacrosse camp.
Following the camp, Riggs latched onto lacrosse and has never let go.
“That first week, I just kind of figured things out, figured out the basics,” Riggs said. “Then I got some better coaching.”
Better coaching in the form of McClure, who voluntarily coaches Riggs.
“When we first started, he was terrible,” McClure said. “Terrible. He’ll tell you that. We started by deconstructing his stance and went from there. We build from the bottom up. He works hard and now he’s on path to be not only a great player, but a great person.”
Riggs was also spurred on by his grandfather, who played lacrosse at an all-boys’ school back East.
“I liked it because it’s fast, and there isn’t a lot of stoppage,” Riggs said. “It’s fast-paced, up and down the field.”
And playing goalie fits his personality.
“It’s the suspense,” Riggs said. “The pressure to make that next save. I like that.”
Riggs was in the fourth grade when he unwittingly made the decision to become a goalie.
Thinking the coach was asking for those who wanted to play midfielder, Riggs raised his hand.
“The coach thanked me, but I really wanted to play midfield,” he said. “Once I started playing, I enjoyed it (goalie) so I just stuck with it.”
It took a little while to get used to the position, but once he did Riggs excelled.
He has put in long hours to hone his keen hand-eye coordination, quick feet and good anticipation for what opposing players may do.
“I’m getting close to 10,000 hours,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of shots and it takes practice to learn stick angles. You have to be able to react quickly. My hand speed is definitely my strength.
“There’s a lot to playing goalie. You are basically the quarterback of the defense. You are responsible to get the other six guys coordinated to do their job so you can do yours.”
Of course, all those hours take their toll.
Riggs has some battle scars. He missed the entire seventh-grade season due to a broken thumb.
“You get hit in the leg and sometimes you can see the logo on your leg,” he said. “Oh, it’s great. Sometimes there are some real stingers.”
Riggs is looking forward to his final high school season and is expecting big things from a group of players he’s been playing with since that day he first raised his hand.
Riggs wants to continue playing in college and said he has options.
“I have a 3.70 grade-point average right now,” he said. “I’m a pretty good student. I get my stuff done. ... I’ll sign to play somewhere in November. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”