uhlsport USA
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—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.

Glove Cuts

The best guide to goalkeeping glove cuts, over at The Glove Bag.


Great coaches are great communicators

Business guru Seth Godin writes:

"It's really easy to insist that people read the friggin manual. It's really easy to blame the user/student/prospect/customer/[player] for not trying hard, for being too stupid to get it or for not caring enough to pay attention. Sometimes (often) that might even be a valid complaint. But it's not helpful." (more....)

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Evaluating goalkeeping talent

How well do most coaches evaluate goalkeeping talent? IMHO, not very. Of course, it happens across the board, to field players, and athletes in all sports. The bust #1 draft pick, or the walk-on who ends up being the All-Star. It certainly is true of soccer players, as a poster in a thread over on BigSoccer notes:
Too many coaches cannot analyze the talent before them and as a consequence pick the wrong players, pick the wrong things to work on with the players they chose and pick the wrong tactics to use with theplayers they have.
Until we develop better coaches, coaches with the analytical tools needed and with the philosophical underpinnings necessary to understand the game we will not develop the players with these skills.
Two personal anecdotes lend credence to this for goalkeepers particularly. There are two girls I have trained for several years, both outstanding goalkeepers, solid fundamentally, smart, vocal, and strong. Both seemed mired in mediocrity in their clubs, being stuck on the 3rd teams, in spite of my opinion that they were the best keepers in their age group.

The first moved to another club when a coach who could recognize a good keeper convinced her to jump... and she promptly made the top team at this much larger club. Tonight I saw her play her first match with her new teammates; she was nervous and ecstatic at the jump in play, and I'm sure she will be up to the challenge.

The second keeper attended Star Goalkeeper Academy this summer where I was coaching. After the first day, the camp director invited her to join the Premier campers even though she wasn't signed up for the top group. Not only did she join them, she excelled, and the director told me he felt she was one of the strongest keepers there.

[Update, 18 months later, 2/9/08: The first keeper ended up winning State Cup with her new team... ironically against her old club's first team. Not only that, the victory was in a penalty shoot-out, and she was selected the game MVP! She is now playing Division I college soccer on a scholarship. The second keeper has moved up to the second team, and the first team coach has said he made a mistake in not choosing her. She will be the starting keeper for her high school team this spring as a sophomore.]

In both cases, these goalkeepers were overlooked by those who had no clue what they were looking at. Those with goalkeeping knowledge, however, got it right. What is it that you need to know? The BigSoccer poster (a coach and goalkeeper in his own right) summarizes it well:
I think most club coaches do not understand keepers. They do not understand the mental make up that is necessary; they do not understand that positioning is often as important as technique in catching and controlling the ball; and, they do not understand that distribution is as critical as being able to position players on defense.

In short, they can tell the difference between a shot blocker and a goal keeper.
Orignal post date: 8/10/06



Brazilian. Almost every soccer player who isn't would like to be. Even if you aren't, you can at least give yourself a Brazilian-sounding name, with the help of BrazilName.

The Guardian used it to show how how soccer can explain the US elections, with the Democrats fielding Hillisco and Barildo, while the Republicans lined up with Giulianson, Huckerbea, Mccaincha, and Mildo.

I personally was christened Benjamão or Jeffrincha, but I prefer the Spanish transliteration of "Jefe", or barring that, just the one name "Jeff".


Last night's USA-Mexico game

Last night's USA-Mexico game was the usual scrappy, no-love-lost affair. US goalkeeper Tim Howard had a fine game, but one play in particular stood out for me, both for the good and the bad.

In the first half, Mexico sent a cross in from the flank. US goalkeeper Tim Howard came out to claim what should have been an easy ball, but US defender Carlos Bocanegra ran right into Howard and sent him to the turf, where the ball popped free.

That's the bad. Either Howard did not call "Keeper!" early or loud enough, or Bocanegra couldn't hear him due to 70,000 screaming fans, or a combination of both. Lack of communication between Howard and his defense was difficult all night, particularly on setting walls for free kicks. While the players don't get much chance to train together before mid-week friendlies like this one, the lack of communication was inexcusable at the international level. If you can't hear, you must make eye contact.

The good was Howard's focus after he lost the ball. Watch the highlight here, starting about 10 seconds in. Look at Howard's eyes in the replay. As he does a complete 360 roll, his eyes never leave the ball until he gathers it in again. Now that is focus.


A great point about communication

Lawrence fine makes a great point about communication in his Goalkeeping Newsletter from FineSoccer:
It's not uncommon for me to receive emails where the keepers says “I'm communicating my teammates aren't listening”. While the keeper might think they are communicating, if their teammates aren't hearing or aren't listening, it's not communicating but rather, just talking. There certainly are situations where no matter what the keeper does or says, someone doesn't accept the communication but more often, it's not just the defenders fault. Communication is a two way process and if one side isn't responding, it's the job of the other side to figure out a different way to get through to them.
How do you communicate better? Four keys: 1) Be loud. 2) Use names. 3) Be specific. 4) Get feedback.


Facing your audience

Always be aware of what's happening on the field, even during apparent stoppages. Actors and presenters have a rule: Never turn your back on the audience. When you're on the pitch, you're on stage, so try to make it a habit to do the same thing: never turn your back to the field. Cruzeiro goalkeeper Fabio found out the hard way.


Goalkeepers vs Shot-Stoppers

Goalkeepers vs shot-stoppers. Which are you? More importantly, which one are you training to be?

All goalkeepers are shot-stoppers. It's the core of our job on the soccer field: keeping the ball out of the net. But not all shot-stoppers are good goalkeepers in the broadest sense of the word. A true goalkeeper is a communicator, an organizer, a leader, a general, an attacker as well as a defender.

Take time in training to develop other aspects of your game beyond just shot stopping. Work on communicating with your teammates clearly and concisely so you can organize and lead. Study the game tactically so you can be a "general" on the pitch. Work on your distribution skills so you can help your team attack as well as defend. Train to be a real goalkeeper, not just a shot-stopper.


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