Goalkeeper Training: At what age should they start?

I was reading through a soccer related forum this past weekend and bumped into a mother asking the following question:

My kids U10 team rotates all the players through goal for games. None of the kids ever want to play goalie, and I don’t think I have ever seen our coach spend any time in practices with principles of goalkeeping.
I am sure we’ve lost most of the games because the kids have no basic goalie training. There are definitely teams in our league that have kids that work hard at being goalie, probably even several with dedicated goalies at this age.
I understand, all the kids want to, and should be, on field but how common is it that the coach provides basically no goalie training to the kids at all at this age? I am curious about other youth teams experience with goalkeeping to get ideas about how to improve our goalie situation under the given circumstances.”

Blake Zucchi
Blake age 9. Started goalkeeping at 18 months

The question that is always asked regarding the use of goalkeepers is:
At what age should goalkeepers be used on the field of play?

According to the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), 3 v 3 and 4 v 4 small-sided game versions should not include goalkeepers (and here we are totally in accord with them). Goalkeepers should be introduced starting a U9 competitive travel 7v7 formation.

A simple set of activities and games that involve catching the ball will teach children as young as 2 to lead with the hands; and emphasize the hands using it as a barrier in front of the body.

Kids of any age love to dive, roll on the ground, and slide. Teaching goalkeeping movements at a very young age will teach them how to die and extend without getting hurt, basically you’re getting them ready years ahead. Recreational and academy coaches, realizing this, will deploy a 5 year old player or two to stand on the goal line. They will rapidly collect confidence using their hands, mostly to protect their body from being hit by the ball. It’s a start and the coach needs no Goalkeeper Training Skills!

Kids’ should just be having fun at this stage of their soccer life!

I totally agree with this statement, kids should be having fun at this age and they should be enjoying the game they love. There should be no pressure on them to become the next Maradona or to get into any pre-ECNL clubs or DA academies.

Most 5 year old’s who like playing in goal do it because (like we just stated) they love throwing themselves in the air or into the soggy dirt and enjoy the attention parents give them when they get to make a great save and maybe save the day.

As long as it is focused on having fun, building up their speed functions, keeping healthy, building even social skills with his teammates and enjoying themselves whilst developing goalkeeping skills, I don’t see why this can’t be done from an early age.

I was talking to a USSF A license coach that is a supervisor for a “State” DA Academy and when he told me straight out and convinced: “Soccer players should not specialize in goalkeeping until they are 14 to 15 years old” I couldn’t hold it and laughed in his face. I could understand if this came from a small town soccer club coach, but this dude is supposed to be a “Coaches Coach”

Just make sure that the children want to be in goal rather than being placed there, with the hopes that they become the next Tim Howard. Always leave them the freedom to decide if they don’t want to play in goal anymore.

I personally think that one to one training at this age is too intense, that is why I think that weekly goalkeeper academy training should start onve they reach the U9’s and start to play travel soccer. Depending where you’re located it’s a large financial investment when the child may decide they want to get in goal and make saves.

Should each youth soccer club offer goalkeeping?

Yes, indeed they should and anyone that is interested in the role should be attending at least once a week. Even them that play field but would like to discover how to make saves in the case they’re called to defend the goal should be taking advantage of any sort of goalkeeper training they soccer club provides. Either it be a weekly session of an hour or a more developed goalkeeper academy with 2 hour+ sessions per week, I suggest you be a part of it.

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