In the movie Grease, Danny Zuko tried sport after sport and finally found one which suited his talents.
Malakey Zananiri knows a little about what that must feel like.
An avid basketball fan, Zananiri, was cut from the Byron Nelson team following his freshman year, but his desire to be involved in sports led him to a new love.
So Zananiri showed up for the first day of soccer tryouts with absolutely no experience in the sport and soon became the Bobcats’ starting goalie.
Zananiri admitted his teammates had initial skepticism about a teammate with no experience.
- Nelson goalkeeper Malakey Zananiri, on the nerves of beginning his soccer career as a sophomore
“I could tell there was a certain level of skepticism about a first-year guy and I don’t know what I’m doing,” Zananiri said. “But most have been really supportive and they’ve done a lot of player-coaching.”
Some of the skills from his wide receiver days on the football field as well as his jumping ability from basketball have contributed to his ability in goal.
“My hand skills from catching and the speed of basketball all tied together,” he said. “It’s helped me become a good goalkeeper. I could tell I had a little bit of natural talent but I had to work a lot at home.”
None of his family had ever played soccer, but all were supportive of his move, Zananiri said.
While the Bobcats have struggled with their season, there’s been continued improvement. Zananiri knows some of the responsibility for sustaining that is on him.
“I feel as my success grows, the team success can grow,” he said. “When you limit your mistakes, the team can win. I guess that’s how it works. Every game I talk to my coach, he tells me what I did wrong and the next game I think about what I did wrong and try to fix it.”
Nelson head coach Howard Putter is excited about the potential, as Zananiri is athletic and is eager to learn the sport and the position.
“He has been a dedicated player working to get better throughout the season,” Putter said. “Malakey has been a very coachable player, learning from both playing and watching the film from every game and consistently not making the same mistakes.”
His biggest area of improvement has been in commanding the defense. Controlling the back of the field is a skill dependent on increased confidence which has taken time to grow.
Asked about the nervousness of his first few games, Zananiri just replied, “Oh, man.”
“I think the biggest advice I’d give to kids wanting to play goalie is to have confidence,” he said. “I’d give up a goal and I’d be sulking and it would show in my body language. My coach told me the best asset a goalie can have is a short memory.”
Some of that confidence began to build for Zananiri in the Georgetown tournament against Austin Anderson.
“There was a crossing shot up high and I went up for it over the back of someone and caught it and rolled over the top of him,” Zananiri recalled. “I thought, ‘I can really do this.’”
The sophomore knows he has much more to learn and is realistic about the circumstances which have afforded him an opportunity to step in and play.
Zananiri said he’ll spend the summer working with a goalkeeper coach and work to master the skills.
The coming seasons are expected to improve for Nelson and for Zananiri.
“Although we have not had our best season this year compared to recent years, Malakey’s positive attitude and dedication has made the future of the team bright,” Putter said. “Being a young player and new to the team, he has stepped up to be a great leader and we have truly benefitted from his contribution.”