Coaching goalkeepers involves more than designing advanced training drills for saving free kicks or coordinating your defense. Coaching goalkeepers, especially at the youth level, involves accepting big responsibilities as you’re basically in a position of trust as mom’s and dad’s put their kids in your hands. The youth soccer coach in general is one that wears many hats.
Being able to communicate with my goalkeepers, their parents, and the goalkeepers team coaches and club administrators is a critical part of the academies job. – “Communicate in a positive way that shows you have the best interest in the players welfare” – I’ve heard that 100 times at least here in the US. That’s what they teach you at the USSF as well, basically they want you to be a fake, all smiles and let the parents know how awesome their child is and he or she will be the next Hope Solo or Tim Howard.
Hell no! That is not me! I’m straight forward with the goalkeepers and their parents, I use my everyday attitude and language, I don’t put myself on “Best Behavior mode”. Goalkeepers and the parents need to know who I really am!
In two years I have had 3 students drop out of my program, that’s less than 4%, the remaining 96% actually like and trust the way I am, the way I communicate and how I will not hold back if I have to tell them something straight to their face! I scream I shout, both to get on to them but also to launch a “Good Job” or other compliments. It’s the stick and the carrot, the “Italian Way” It worked over there and it’s working here as well.
Communicating with the goalkeepers head club coaches here in the US is a lot more complicated that it was back in Italy. Here the majority of the coaches think that they know it all and that their goalkeepers don’t need that extra training, the ego among the majority of the coaches I have encountered with is pretty high, so that’s also why I have decided to stay away from them and simply work with the keepers and parents. The same applies with youth club administrators, I’m aware that all but a few disapprove of a non club related goalkeeper academy, while the few that do approve of it actually have their kids on my academy roster.
When teaching soccer and a specific role such as goalkeeping, you must also remember it’s just a game and you want to be sure your goalkeepers have fun, 90% of them will never play in college, so their soccer adventure will end at 18 years of age. Therefore, create a fun and productive training environment. Use real-game-set drills and bring out the skills and tactics young goalkeepers will need to learn when on the field on game day.
Introduce goalkeeper rules and kickback’s and incorporate them into your weekly curriculum. The kickbacks are things that only a coach that has played at a certain level can teach you and are not taught by the USSF. Keep in mind that the rules of soccer can be taught in the first training session, the rest during the course of game, that is why I try my best to attend as many of my students games as possible.
Goalkeepers and Parents need to have an understanding of fitness, parents play a massive role in keeping their kids fit. I talk to the parents if a child is under/over weight, I suggest and I talk from the heart Children don’t think much about fitness, but they should be introduced to its importance and Mom and/or Dad can be the lead on it.
Goalkeeping is a risky role to some extent, but as a person coaching goalkeepers you’re responsible for regularly inspecting the training fields and equipment. thus to ensure all your boys and girls practice in a safe environment. Let your keepers and their parents know that they’ll learn the safest techniques and that you’ll have an emergency action plan in the case of an injury. That’s something else I’d like parents to ask their club coaches: How many of them carry a first aid box with them to the field? How many of them have taken the FIFA course in Soccer Medicine? The first is mandatory but 90% of coaches don’t even know that, the second takes 6 months of studying to graduate, but it is well worth it, if something serious happens to one of your players!
Character, that’s why a few students left my academy, because they lacked of it, but it’s also development that includes learning, caring, being honest and respectful, and taking responsibility. If you s a coach show that, then the keepers will follow.. Have them understand that they should always try and win on every play even though they might not be recognized by their head coach for their efforts.
Goalkeepers are all different, every goalkeeper is an individual. Set every one of them in a “we’re all friends” environment so that each and every one of them has the chance to learn how to play in goal without fear and while having fun with their academy-mates and coach.