First and foremost, any child that expresses interest in playing in goal deserves a lot of respect from the parent. Many young soccer players will either be hesitant or averse to the goalkeeper position, because they don’t want to bear all the responsibility of conceding a goal. Many young goalkeepers leave the role (almost right away) due to the heavy responsibilities that come with it.
The Goalkeeper is the most respected and most challenging positions on the the soccer field. It takes great decision-making skills, prompt reflexes, body-mind coordination, and athleticism to be a quality goalkeeper. Although it is a lot more dangerous compared to outfield positions, many wonder if it is the right position for their young children.
Look out for: Coordination, vertical dynamic ability, agility, knowing when to punch and when to collect skills and fast reflexes. If your child has movement ability combined with good decision making then you have the basis for a quality goalkeeper.
The largest overlooked aspect of the goalkeeper position is player personality. Attitude and temperament play a massive role in successful goalkeeping and is a MUST even at a young age.
Goalkeeping carries some high risks that field players may not encounter.
As the goalkeeper grows and adopts their own goalkeeping style, they may be a lot more susceptible to certain injuries. Let’s start taking for example the sweeper keeper: The so-called “aggressive keeper” who will leave the 18 yard box, could have a much higher risk of sustaining an injury due to frequent contact with forwards charging the goal.
Goalkeepers make less contact with field players, but when they do…
Concussions and head injuries:
They can sustain serious concussions when they “high-Contour” for the ball mostly head-to-head collisions with players of the other team. They may also get kicked in the head by a forward when diving for the ball. In some rare cases, colliding with goalposts cause head injuries.
It is good to know that the higher quality the league you play in the less reckless players you will find. Let’s say that you child plays in the high school team, the chances of them getting hurt is a LOT higher if their playing for example in the ECNL. Why? High school soccer in general is the same quality as recreational soccer and you’ll find that half the team does not play club competitive. This is why the MLS Next will not allow its players to participate in high school soccer.
It is less likely that outfield players, but goalkeepers can get ACL tears due to rapid cutting and landing excessively on one leg.
Side-dives and low breakaways can lead to abrasions which can become infected, even worse if you train or/and play on turf.
Constantly landing on the shoulders can injure in the long run some joints and there have been some cases in youth goalkeepers that frequent stops of direct shots can also fracture the radius bone.
However, a young goalie who makes the correct decisions will know when or if to breakaway for the ball and execute the correct maneuver to block a shot. This only if they are trained well to do so and will help a keeper avoid overcommitting to a play, which may not only result in a goal, but potentially, in an injury. You will notice right away if your child is fit to be a goalkeeper if they look cool and calm during the game, whether a striker is entering the 18 yard box 1-on-1 or they’re facing a penalty shootout that could bring or cost them a title.
If scored on do they switch off? Do they blame others for their mistakes? These are two huge red flags that need to be corrected in the youngest of goalkeepers, after a certain age it will be a lot harder to fix.
Don’t get too anxious if your young keeper lacks in some of these skillsets. Your child was born with none of the above – good training training and playing experience overtime will help a young goalkeeper develop into a more complete athlete. As long as your child knows all baselines of the role and the right attitude time will help them acquire all of these traits.