How to communicate with goalkeepers and their parents

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In my role as a goalkeeper coach, I need to communicate effectively with a lot of different people: your players, mom’s dad’s, grandparents, other coaches, technical directors and often even the ref’s, the officials.

All of them have different agendas and need communicating with in totally different ways.

The Goalkeepers

Communication with your Goalkeepers goes far beyond simply giving them training and technical instruction. If you took a communications class in college like myself you’d remember that more than 50% of communication is non-verbal. Facial expressions and tone of voice also convey a great deal of the communication.

Many coaches say “Leave the sarcasm at home!” Goalkeepers may place a great deal of importance on anything you may say, in some cases even more than what their parents may say or do. Also, although it can be tough with 20 yapping teenagers, try to listen to each one, allowing each one to talk in turn. Don’t leave the sarcasm at home, when talking to your students, when giving them the needed coaching points, make a funny remark here and there. Don’t make fun, but make “Funny”. Coaches that are all training and nothing but training in a short/mid term period lose their students a coach has to be also a friend. Talk to the keepers on their level, both physically and emotionally. Use simple, direct statements that will be less likely to be misinterpreted. Always be positive, honest and sincere with your GK’s, even if you’re correcting them and when trying to correct a particular skill problem, it can be advantageous to make the mistake yourself, show them how its done wrong, then show them the right way.. Players will respect a lot more a coach that is honest and down to ground. Old school coaches in these modern ages have no space, they’re a bread in extinction (thank goodness).

Give them all nicknames, give them a group name that gives them a smile. Be loud enough that all players can hear you. A clearly understood communication will get their attention and your respect. I suggest to avoid inconsistent or confusing body language. I for example never turn my back on a keeper talking to you.

Parents and family members

Mom and Dad initially are a little concerned about their child’s skill development, so just be positive and honest about their child’s development unless you too have a over the average concern that their may be a physical condition that needs attention.
If you need to talk to a parent, do it after a practice or during a long water break session where you can speak to them without the keepers being present. Sometimes a phone call or e-mail will work just as well.

Parents aren’t stupid, they pay and they expect results. Parents also expect the goalkeeper coach to be themselves. You don’t go about telling them that you’re the best and all the rest are crap. Don’t brag about playing at a pro level if you had to change team every season. Most of all don’t lie to them, one lie can destroy your reputation forever. I can give you the perfect example: My son was playing the first part of last season at a mediocre youth soccer club. His coach was MIA for 2 weeks, parents including myself ask a board member where he was we were first told he was sick, then that he was on vacation and after a month the truth came out that some parents found out that his visiting visa expired and was forced to leave the country! The DOC and board members constantly lied to us and all trust was gone forever!

Some youth soccer clubs will have a “No contact with the coach” policy that is the most pathetic crap I have ever heard of, basically you have to take your concerns to the team manager that then will attempt to talk to the coach. That is not going to work, the parents are going to be turned off in a heartbeat.

Reply to their text messages and emails!!!!

The Officials

Maybe it works for Antonio Conte, but for me and other youth soccer coaches it wont. Yelling at or disagreeing with the refs will solve little to your advantage during a game. Besides you don’t want your players to do the same now do you? I’ve had refs call me a Mother F***er (he was then suspended) or another ref more politely told me to “Zip It or you’re out of here buddy” When there was clearly bad decisions taken, bring it up and do it with respect, then after the game get his name and report the little douche.

Other Coaches

Make an effort to seek out to the head coaches of your keepers. Try once, either by email or text, if you get no reply, then don’t waste your time. A professional coach will work for the best of his players and will work (or at least try) with the academy coaches. By establishing an acquaintance, you may be able to accomplish more together for the benefit of your’s and his student.
In a small town like Port Orange, that has one youth soccer club and two high school soccer programs and most of the keepers are members of your goalkeeper academy, for some reason the head coaches seem not to like the fact that they’re using an additional academy to improve their goalkeeper skills, some coaches think that they don’t need it, even when their goalkeeper saves the game multiple times during the season thanks to that extra training he or she is getting on the side.

A lot of “small-town” coaches think that the’re the next Team USA head soccer coach, they like to blabber just for the sake of saying something better than you. I’ve heard some crazy talk that I knew for a fact was a lie, but I stood there and let them tell their “story” and smiled.

Is there a reason why my Goalkeeper Academy is always capped/full, that my camps and clinics always book up before the deadline? One of the reasons why is because I say what I think, I communicate with everyone and I’m honest. Communication is a prime factor when running an academy or any youth sports organization, if you don’t have that or you refuse use it on a daily basis, then you’ll always be the “coach on the side” and nothing more!