Making the stop: Stratton shares love for soccerBy Matthew Speakman | 11/03/2016 7:01am
Kat Stratton had six saves against Arkansas when the teams met this September. CW / Jake Stevens
With her father, Lee Stratton, coaching her first recreational team, Kat did not react well when she had to play.
“I would sit on the field criss-cross applesauce and cry the entire time,” she said. “That was my first experience, me crying because I did not want to play.”
Even though Kat’s first practice did not go as planned, she quickly started to enjoy playing sports of all kinds. Two weeks later, she got mad at her father for taking her out of a soccer game.
Kat grew up the daughter of a college basketball player. Lee has coached basketball for over 20 years as well. From an early age, he tried to instill in her the values of being an athlete, which included handling herself after losses and always treating people with respect.
One game, after losing a club match, Kat went straight to the bench and refused to shake hands. Lee knew it was time to teach his daughter a life lesson.
“When we got home, we went straight back to the field,” Lee said. “We ran on the field, no one was there but me and her, and she ran to her goalie position. She ran off of the field and shook imaginary hands. That was the last time we had that discussion.”
Even when she was in elementary school, Kat loved sports. Except the ones she picked up were different from her peers. She never wanted to be in dance classes or anything of the kind.
In fact, the first time her parents tried to get her to go to a dance recital, things did not go over well.
“We had her in the gym waiting to go over to the auditorium for the recital,” Lee said. “We thought we could get her over a stage fright, but we could not get her out of the door. She said, ‘All I want to do is play soccer.’ ”
Kat is the product of an athletic household. Outside of her father’s basketball career, her brothers, Matt and Chris, played almost every sport growing up. Kat learned that in order to hang with her brothers she had to be just as tough as they were.
“I was always playing tackle football with my brothers and their friends,” Kat said. “My oldest brother is seven years older than me, and my middle brother is five years older. That’s why I am so tough these days. They told me that if I cried that I could not play anymore.”
Even at school, Kat played as many sports as possible. She was aggressive, too.
One day, Lee came home and noticed bruises on his daughter’s arm. He asked where they came from, and she simply shrugged his worries away.
“We played football at P.E. today,” Kat told her father.
Regardless of where the opportunity arose, Kat wanted to be apart of any and all sporting events.
When they were kids, Kat had to go to her brothers’ baseball practices. She always looked for ways to play around on her own, though. Her parents even found her in full catcher’s gear once, ready to take fastballs.
“We were always going from the gym to the baseball field to the football field,” Lee said. “Kat was always tagging along. It was so good for her to be around her brothers and getting to play with the boys. It helped her with her athletics.”
As both her brothers found success in their collective sports, Kat started to learn how to conduct herself when things went wrong. She developed a work ethic watching her brothers play baseball and also took inspiration from Matt receiving an academic scholarship.
Chris made it to the MLB, being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft by the San Francisco Giants. Kat said her brother’s attitude on the mound has always been something she pays attention to.
“I see how calm he is even if he gets hits off of him or gets a home run hit on him, he does not freak out.” Kat said. “I get a little bit more mad, if you watch our games. I freak out a little bit more but that is just me being competitive. I have seen how he handles adversity and how he handles everything, and that has really helped.”
As she got older, Kat became a full-time goalie. At first, she was scared of the position. She did not want to be scored on, but her parents said she hated running.
Therefore, once the team needed a goalie, Kat’s hatred of running combined with her fast reaction time finally drew her to the position.
“She always liked to play in the goal because she did not have to run as much,” her mother, Janet Stratton, said. “She could always kick the ball very far too.”