I often get asked this question, mostly parents but also other coaches.
I myself, started to goalie train my son at the age of 5, lots of basics, lots of footwork and nothing that specific. Some USSF A license coaches say that I’m wrong, many however think that I’m not, they would be my Pro-Goalkeeper instructors at UEFA FIGC (Coverciano, Italy), or the United Soccer Coaches instructors I have worked with…
So, why shouldn’t we coach them to be better goalies at an early age if they enjoy it? They will be more advanced in the long run from more years’ experience and micro-coaching!
During my USSF D course last year in Bonita Springs, Florida. One of the instructors claimed that until the age of 11 “It’s too early, kids should be just having fun at this age” another said Some of the best goalkeepers in the world didn’t start off as goalkeepers” while some brown nose that was totally behind everything the instructors said, added that ‘There was no specialist goalkeeper training around when I was a U9″ (basically he answered and contradicted himself right there). Leaving that first week of licensing course, I said to my self “OMG!!”
5, 6, 7, 8, 9 year old’s should be having fun at this age and enjoying playing the game that they chose to play and love. There should be for no means any pressure on them to become the next big thing or to get into any clubs or academies, that will happen on its own and if it should happen. Only the kid can decide that, not us as coaches or you as parents!
Most 5-6 year old’s who like playing goalkeeper do it because they love throwing themselves on the ground and in the air, they enjoy all the attention and praise they get for making a game saving save, every save for kids is like scoring a goal!
The important part for me is that the goalies want to be there, inside the 6 yard box. If you push them, they’ll hate it eventually. Kids must have the freedom to decide they don’t want to play in goal anymore and a coach must not enforce them to stay in that role. For me it’s also important that they’re enjoying themselves, that they’re safe and socializing with the group.
Natural talent will eventually come out through quality training and development no matter what age you begin your goalie experience. A lot of the early years goalkeeper coaching in many youth soccer clubs around the US is based on enjoying playing in goal, developing just some of the principles. I won’t be that simple, I will get into detailed training as over the years I have seen this work when watching my younger boys and girls during their competitive games.
Many parents and coaches worry about the child’s height… “What if they’re not tall enough” There is no height restrictions or limits for being a goalie, anybody who is thinking this should take a step back. I have on my academy a GK that is 5’1″, she has a better pounce than most of the girls that are 7 to 8 inches taller than her.
A good goalkeeping coach will make sure that their goalkeepers are constantly working on their own distribution techniques throughout the sessions to build these motor skills and technical ability. I insist that their foot and hand distribution must be pin-point 100% accurate in direction and speed.
It’s vitally important to find a very good coach who is focusing on the correct elements of development for their age and it’s great sometimes to see that the parents also share this belief that the most important part of the session is enjoyment and overall micro-development, rather than the child being pushed to far at this tender age.
for the U7-U10’s group goalkeeper sessions definitely offer the above environment with a lot more ease than one-on-one sessions, they also help turn an isolated position into one with a social support network for the young goalkeeper and the parents.
Most kids 9 years of age and younger, or whatever age they start training, won’t make it to be professional goalkeeper, that’s just how soccer is here in the US. As long as everyone is enjoying it though, there are always benefits to specialized coaching from a young age and maybe they’ll pay you back with an athletics college scholarship 🙂