Tragedy pushes Hobbs toward the net

The goalkeeper lost her father to a car accident in 2007.

Junior and Gophers Soccer goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs poses, displaying her recently acquired tattoo dedicated to her father at the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Tuesday, October 6.

Joe Sulik

Junior and Gophers Soccer goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs poses, displaying her recently acquired tattoo dedicated to her father at the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Tuesday, October 6.

Kaitlin Merkel

Every time Gophers junior goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs makes a save on the pitch, a reminder of her biggest motivation is in full view.
 
Hobbs’ new tattoo, located on her right forearm, was completed this past spring to commemorate her late father, Roy Hobbs.
 
“He’s always with me, even when I’m in the goal, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, come on, Dad, can you help us out?’ if we’re down or if we’re tied,” Hobbs said.
 
The tattoo says, “The Natural,” after the baseball movie, and has the dates of her father’s birth and death.
 
In the movie, the main character is thought to have a “natural” talent for baseball. Hobbs said her father also had a natural talent for almost everything he did. Perhaps
fittingly, both Hobbs’ father and the main character in the movie were named Roy Hobbs.
 
“[My dad] was super athletic, and everything he picked up he was very good at. He was so naturally gifted at everything,” Hobbs said. “He tried to kind of bestow it on me because he could see something special in me, especially with athletics.”
 
Roy Hobbs died suddenly in a car accident in December 2007, but Hobbs said she’s confident he still supports her every game.
 
“I know he’s always with me, and I know he would love to be here if he was still with us,” Hobbs said. 
 
The sports bond ran deep for Hobbs and her father, who was her soccer and basketball coach. Hobbs said her dad was passionate about soccer, especially goalkeeping, and always pushed her to improve.
 
“He made me go outside in the front yard and practice extra,” Hobbs said. “He pushed me really hard at a young age. I think that’s where a lot of my hard work and passion comes for the game.”
 
After his death, Hobbs said she struggled with how to cope athletically without his motivation, but she eventually relied on their shared love of soccer.
 
“He was a basketball referee … but when he passed away, I was like ‘I really don’t want to play basketball anymore; I want to do soccer,’ ” Hobbs said. “I knew he would be happy if I chose soccer over basketball.”
 
Teammate and Gophers senior defender Haley Helverson said soccer is Hobbs’ form of release.
 
“Her ability to notice that she’s in a bad place and to pull herself through it and focus on soccer, that’s her getaway,” Helverson said. “It’s amazing.” 
 
Now embracing the opportunity to play collegiate soccer for the team, the Hugo, Minn., native grew up watching, Hobbs said she wants to lead her team both on and off the pitch.
 
Minnesota head coach Stefanie Golan said her goalkeeper is the ultimate teammate.
 
“She 100 percent cares about the team first and wants to do whatever it’s going to take to make the team successful,” Golan said. “She wants to grow. She wants to improve, and she cares about her teammates.”
 
One way Hobbs puts the team first is living in the dorms with the Gophers freshmen class in order to make their transition easier.
 
“It’s a really good relationship; I think it’s good for them to have someone who knows the ropes and can help them out in any way,” Hobbs said. “I try to help them out if they have questions or even outside of soccer, we all hang out, and it’s a really good dynamic.”
 
On the pitch, Hobbs has found plenty of success as well.
 
At the end of her freshman season, Hobbs was the first Gophers player ever to be named the Big Ten goalkeeper of the year.
 
After a sophomore season full of struggles on and off the field, Golan said Hobbs has been central to Minnesota’s success this season, in which the team has recorded six shutout wins.
 
“She has grown a lot as a player,” Golan said. “She’s better able to manage everything that she deals with in her life, and she has an absolute focus and consistency of focus when she comes out to train and play this year.”
 
Hobbs, who started playing goalkeeper after her twin sister Haley grew bored of the position, now uses every opportunity in the net to honor her father.
 
Hobbs has recorded 50 saves so far this season and is reminded each time by her forearm of the reason she is in the net.
 
“People kind of saw [my dad] in me, and then I kind of grew into the person I wanted to be for him,” Hobbs said, “I know he’s always here with me, and he’d be really proud.”