Luke Whelan
Stratford’s Custis Donner can’t quite put the ball past the Holy Spirit Prep goal keeper Luke Whelan.
  • Luke Whelan, Junior
  • Holy Spirit Preparatory School

When Luke Whelan was in fifth grade, he decided to join the soccer team, simply because all of his friends at school played it and loved it.

“Honestly, I wasn’t any good at field positions, so they stuck me in goalie,” said Luke. “I ended up being pretty good at it, so the coaches encouraged me to sign up to play at NASA [North Atlanta Soccer Association].”

Now a junior, Luke was recently honored with US Youth Soccer’s Save of the Year Award for 2012 by the largest governing body of elite soccer teams in the nation, US Youth Soccer. He didn’t get to this point without a lot of hard work.

After being placed on the “C team” at NASA in sixth grade, Luke throughout middle school worked his way up and eventually was able to make it to the elite “A team.” As part of that team, he went to the State Cup.

Meanwhile, Luke continued to play for his school team at Holy Spirit Prep, starting for the varsity soccer team in eighth grade.

Currently, Luke is at the United Football Association (UFA), where his team is undefeated. “I’ve gotten 33 clean sheets [when the opponent doesn’t score] out of 35 total games,” said Luke. “It’s been incredible.”

While Luke could easily focus all of his time on his goalkeeping skills, he recognizes the importance of being a team player.

“I try to be with my team as much as I can to build that chemistry,” Luke said.

Accordingly, Luke’s life is extremely busy. Soccer is on the schedule every day except for Friday, with practices in Suwanee three days a week, and games and tournaments each weekend.

Whenever he isn’t with his team, Luke is training one-on-one with his goalkeeping coach Dan Pietro, the coach he first started working with at NASA several years ago. “He has not only natural athleticism and speed but also fast mental processing, which is really important in goal,” said Pietro.

Pietro has worked with many talented athletes and says Luke’s drive is what sets him apart. “Luke has a fantastic work ethic and always shows up ready to go,” Pietro said.

Luke credits his training with Pietro to his winning of the Save of the Year. “He’s really helped me work on explosive speed and explosive power, building up the power to push across the goal that fast,” said Luke.

Clearly, Luke’s determination has aided in his success, evident in his mindset about the game.

“I love competition, and that’s pretty much what it’s been about since seventh grade,” Luke said. “I’m out there to prove myself to everyone that doesn’t believe in me.”

In addition to soccer, Luke serves as a kicker for Holy Spirit Prep’s football team. He makes time to practice at local football fields.

While Luke primarily considers himself an athlete, he is still a student, and takes that just as seriously. Although his busy sports schedule could easily hinder his success in the classroom, Luke still manages to do well.

“I don’t start homework until I get home, which is around 10 p.m., and I average five hours of sleep per night,” Luke said. “I think it’s going to be worth it, though. I’ve built up a good work ethic, and I hope to carry that off to college.”

What’s Next:

Luke is visiting colleges and talking with coaches about signing as an athlete. His top choices include the Naval Academy, Furman University, the College of William and Mary, the University of Kentucky, St. Louis University and Belmont Abbey College.

This article was reported and written by Reporter Newspapers intern Elizabeth Wilkes, who is a junior at North Springs Charter High School.