Tack Så Mycket, Mr. Smith!
It was a perfect kick. The ball arched high through the crisp Swedish air sailing over “Umeå’s“ entire defense. The pass was so good it was about to catch its intended target in perfect stride. The player was fast and skilled. Three more steps and he would have a breakaway opportunity to win the game. The only thing standing between him, and the soccer goal would be some perfectly manicured Scandinavian grass…and Royce Smith.
Statistically, “Umeå’s” American goalkeeper’s chances of preventing the goal were miniscule. But the boy from Iola, Kansas wasn’t about to panic. Royce had a decision to make. A risky one. Goalies don’t like to venture far from their net and operate within the 18-yard box. The big rectangular area is their domain. Here they are protected by the rules and can use their hands. It’s the ultimate comfort zone…and Royce was about to leave it.
It took him a fraction of a second to assess the situation and shockingly…he exploded after the ball leaving the box with blazing speed. No longer being able to use his hands he launched himself into the air off both feet, soared high and cleared the ball with his head.
The opponent could only watch in disbelief as Royce’s courageous aerial display saved the game for “Umeå”. At the time he was almost 30 feet outside the box!
It was a spectacular play, but his teammates were not surprised. He had done it time and again. Royce was a force of nature all year long. He set a record for least goals allowed in a season, most matches without a goal and won the Goalkeeper of the year award in his Swedish league.
These kinds of results don’t just come out of nowhere – Royce is a consummate professional who has perfected his craft through hard work and meticulous attention to detail. In the last few years, he has brought success to teams in Canada, Belize, Northern Ireland and Sweden.
Yes, he is good. Very good. And not just at soccer. When he doesn’t crisscross the world being a professional athlete, he is a Direct Service Provider (DSP) at GoodLife Innovations.
“Supporting the men and women at GoodLife is extremely important for me,” says Royce. “It is very fulfilling, and it comes naturally. Being a goalkeeper, I must constantly elevate my teammates, stay calm in crisis situations and lead by example. All of this is also very important in the work of a DSP. It is a very rewarding job. Some people are nervous about being direct support providers because they think people with disabilities are different, but the truth is we are pretty much the same human beings. Once you realize this, the job becomes second nature.”
“Supporting the men and women at GoodLife is extremely important for me,” says Royce. “It is very fulfilling, and it comes naturally…”
Royce Smith was born in Chanute but grew up in Iola. His path to the professional leagues was steep. Since his high school didn’t have a boys’ soccer program, he had to make the trip to Lawrence for practices every day after school. Most games were in Kansas City on weekends.
“I owe my mom a lot. My dream of playing professionally wasn’t easy on her. She had to drive me for hours almost every day.”
Schoolwork was paramount so Royce had to become an excellent time manager. This serves him well to this day as he juggles responsibilities at GoodLife and the University of Kansas where he is studying psychology. Not to mention, he is now a husband and is navigating the complexities of family life.
“My wife and I met in Sweden in 2020 and got married last September. Now we travel everywhere together. Looking forward, I realize that when our family grows, I will be ready. My job as a DSP has prepared me uniquely to be a parent. GoodLife has taught me so many lessons. We will raise our children to understand the importance of treating everyone with respect and to have patience. Yes, patience is essential…and so is providing leadership but in a healthy way. And if you understand that situations are different for everyone you will be able to build strong relationships – both in work and in life.”
Royce is determined to complete his bachelor’s soon and then pursue a graduate degree.
Working, playing soccer, writing psychology papers, providing for his family… Amazingly, Royce has also amassed an impressive portfolio in yet another passion of his – multimedia. He has photographed, videotaped and edited various concerts, games and events. How does he find the time?
“Well, what has been a lifesaver is the schedule flexibility at GoodLife.”, claims Royce, “I work Thursday, Friday and Saturday. My shifts are 12 hours and that allows me to work full time and still go to school, pay attention to my family and pursue my other interests. That’s work-life balance. Having these four days off every week has proved invaluable.”
Royce will soon leave for Europe yet again to join his Swedish squad but once the season is over, he will be back in Iola with his other team – the one at GoodLife. He is so close to them they have become more than co-workers.
“You know, it’s no secret that in direct support there is a lot of turnover. But…those people who stick around are so valuable – they are family. Look at me – I travel around the world. I get to see these amazing places and yet I always come back. My hometown beckons me wherever I am. Why? Simple – it’s the people. They are what makes a place special.”
“Well, what has been a lifesaver is the schedule flexibility at GoodLife.” claims Royce, “I work Thursday, Friday and Saturday… and that allows me to work full time and still go to school, pay attention to my family and pursue my other interests. That’s work-life balance…”
One time Royce was using public transportation in Sweden. One of the commuters on the bus was a young man with a developmental disability. “He was having a behavioral problem but to my surprise he had no one to help him.”, remembers Royce, “He was alone. My Swedish wasn’t very good, but I approached him and spoke to him the best I could. Noticing that he was mesmerized by my corduroy jeans, I encouraged him to touch the material. He calmed down almost instantly. I think it was mostly my open body language and tone – you know, the kind of stuff you learn at GoodLife. In the end, we are all the same. I helped him get home and gave him two tickets for my next soccer game. Before we parted ways, he just looked at me, smiled and said in Swedish:
Tack så mycket! (Thank you so much!)
Yes, indeed! Tack så mycket, Mr. Smith! For being you! For enriching so much our GoodLife family! And for not being afraid to step out of the box every once in a while…