uhlsport USA
"Outstanding keeper instruction. This is a must for goalkeepers and coaches."
—Ottawa Internationals S.C. web site, Ottawa, Canada

Goalkeeping Tips, Tidbits and Random Thoughts

An athlete talking to themsleves during competition is hardly a new phenomenon.... The talk does not have to be vocal. By merely thinking you are talking to yourself and sending a message.
   -- Tony DiCicco, Goalkeeper Soccer Training Manual

If you have a question, comment or rebuttal you'd like to see addressed here, send me email. I will post your mail to the blog at my discretion unless you specify otherwise.

Better communication

On the tactics page I talk about basic goalkeeper communication: how to communicate with teammates and keep the defense organized. However, there can be too much communication as too little, and the way it is delivered (especially since it must be loud and repetetive) is important. I'll be frank -- this is an area I have problems with and have had to work on, so here are some ways to keep smooth communications between goalkeeper and defense, so field players don't get annoyed or start to tune the keeper out altogether!

  1. Arrange to get feedback. This is already on the tactics page, but I want to repeat it. Many times a defender may have heard the keeper's request, but keeps getting yelled at because they didn't acknowledge it. A glance, a nod, a wave, a quick verbal "Okay!" allows the keeper to shut up and move on.
  2. Limit talk to immediate, necessary stuff related to setting up the defense. If you the goalkeeper talks constantly, having a running play-by-play going, it eventually becomes background noise and their teammates will tune them out. They shouldn't waste their breath on exhorting teammates on when the ball is away from goal or point out misplays at midfield. Do, however, make sure they acknowledge good plays on the part of their defense.
  3. Keep the tone of voice from being too harsh. I tend to end up screaming, even though a scream isn't usually necessary and it gets on my teammate's nerves. A keeper may have to work at this -- set a small tape recorder by the goal sometime and have them listen to themselves; they might be surprised at how they really sound to others.
  4. Trust the defenders to do their jobs. A goalkeeper expects their defenders to trust their instructions, judgement and ability. The keeper should do the same for them. Often defenders have things under control and don't need any instruction. I've heard keepers (like myself) constantly yelling "Away!" any time there is a hint of trouble, not trusting the defenders to handle things. Often, it's unnecessary. A goalkeeper needs to be a leader, not a micromanager.


Academics come first for college

Immediately after tryouts and my team's final tournament, I left for a two-week vacation, so no posts. It was an eventful season on several fronts, with my men's team taking our league championship, and my U14 girls team making it to two tournament semi-finals after a disappointing regular season.

I am moving on to coach a new team, but many of my U14 girls are going on to play high school soccer, and perhaps eventually play in college or beyond. These girls all had lots of support from their parents, unlike the main character in the movie Bend It Like Beckham. But there is a scene in the movie that is very important to any player who wants to continue their soccer career after high school (WARNING: movie spoiler ahead).

There is a brief scene where Jes, the protagonist of the movie, and her parents fervently pray before opening a small envelope that has arrived in the mail. The envelope contains the results of Jes' A-level tests -- without good scores, Jes won't be able to attend University. Jes gets her good results. It is a short scene and easily overlooked. But what goes unstated is that without passing her A-levels, Jes probably would not have gotten an offer to play for Santa Clara University, no matter how good a player she was.

Bottom line: academics come first when applying for college, even if you want to play sports. Don't skimp on the classwork!


How to evaluate goalkeepers in limited time and space

It is tryout season here. And speaking of tryouts, I have some ideas about how to evaluate goalkeepers with limited time and space.

In the past, I have simply lined up prospective keepers and kicked balls at them, made them dive, and run them through a simulated breakaway. This really didn't work very well, and it was also very demanding of the evaluators or staff to serve all the balls. And most importantly, it didn't let you see the players in a game-like setting. Field player tryouts are often scrimmages, from small sided 3v3 up to 11v11. So how can you do this for keepers, given the limited number of touches they might see?

The answer is a "pressure cooker" field, about 30-40 yards long and 25-30 yards wide (like I use in my training sessions) with two full-size frames. Play 3v3 or 4v4 in the middle, with instructions to shoot early and often, from anywhere on the grid. Players in the middle can be other goalkeepers waiting to rotate into net or true field players, and if you like another evaluator can be looking at the field players while you're watching the goalkeepers.

Now we've got our keepers in a game-like situation, but one where they will see lots of action with varied shots, mini-breakaways, and defenders to work with. I find that 8-10 minutes per "game" allows me to get a good general idea of the capabilities of the two goalkeepers. With large numbers of kids at lower age levels, I can get useful goalkeeper information to coaches on about 20 kids in a 2-hour session.

Obviously you can have the goalkeepers in net longer than that, and you can adjust the game to see other aspects of a keeper's ability. For example, put a field player out side each touchline, who is available to either team for a free cross. This will let you evaluate the strength of a keeper in the air.

Tryouts are always a difficult process, but having the right framework in place will make it easier and better for everyone involved.


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