What It Takes To Be A Quality Goalkeeper

First of all, I believe it’s important to get the goalkeepers to understand how you like to play and it is their development that comes first not the result of the games they play on the weekend. Goalkeepers 18 years of age and younger will naturally want to win all the time but they also must understand if they do win the game it’s by implementing their game style and what they’ve picked up at our Goalkeeper Academy sessions.

To develop creative goalkeepers and teaching them to make the right decisions can be very difficult for some goalkeeper coaches especially if they are using ‘drills’ that have no relation to the actual game. I see it all the time, if the training session is not 100% “Game Set” then they’re not learning fast enough. For keepers to learn how to make the right decisions more frequently, they need to face game related situations constantly, so yes, in every drill! This will give the coach opportunities to help guide the keeper to the right solution and help them solve problems that will happen in the game.

Goalkeepers  typically possess a key attribute  around which they build their defense, 18 yard box… their space! Which got me thinking: What if you could mix and match the individual skills of today’s best pro-gk’s to create the ultimate goalkeeper, the perfect wall and the commander of the defense? We think it would look something like this: De Gea, Solo, Buffon and Neuer.

Pep Guardiola once called Manuel Neuer “The most intelligent player I have ever trained in my career,” and he’s coached a few of the best keepers at Bayern, Barcelona and Manchester City. Neuer has everything a modern keeper could want, however, his prized asset is his mind. He’s proved he can play in goal, but also on the backline, understanding the tactical discipline needed when using his feet. That’s not an easy task. Some goalies don’t get tactics.

It should go without saying that a goalkeeper’s very best assets are his hands (DUHH!). For example Chelsea’s #1 Mr. Courtois has a safe pair when it comes to catching in “W Mode”, passing with both hands and feet or gesturing his defenders, inspiring confidence in those that are his 4 wall defense line.

Soccer is often referred to as a universal language that is spoken globally, it’s more popular than the English language. Technique is the vocabulary of goalkeepers and it’s the base from which all of them are created. Keeper technique can be split into 3 main areas which must be mastered to be a top keeper.

Mindset is a very broad area with many contributing factors so again this is broken down into smaller segments. It is a key ingredient in a goalkeepers make up and often determines which level you play at because the higher up the soccer ladder you progress, the more important the mindset becomes. Keepers need: Passion & Drive, Mental toughness, Coachability, Self-Motivate and Responsibility! Often it is said that you either have it or you don’t. It’s that fire burning inside that comes to life on the soccer field. There are many highs and lows in a soccer adventure and this trait often distinguishes those that can handle the pressure in goal and make it to the top, I can see that after just a few weeks if a goalkeeper has the above!
As a goalkeeper you need to be able to accept the feedback from coaches who are there to help you improve your game. How do keepers react or respond to instructions, criticism and suggestions? Are they open to learning new things? Some are, many are not. We lose the most along the way, but them that can take the “Biatching” will end up being incredible Goalkeepers, kids, teens, adults and parents!

I’ve heard stories about elite goalkeepers staying back or coming early to get that extra training. This self-motivation to always want to better themselves by continuously learning and mastering can be a measure to the success of the goalkeeper, at this time at our Goalkeeper Academy I have 5 keepers that fit this last description, one is 8 and makes saves like a 13 year-old, one is state champion…

When I heard a field coach once say: “Restricting a player to the position of goalkeeper at too early of an age may have a negative effect and eliminate them from future participation in soccer” I heard another state: “Children grow at different rates and times. It is impossible to predict who will develop into the best goalkeeper when they are ten” Lets debate that right away with all means that the youth goalkeeper must be competent in field skills and we all agree on that. That is why at our Goalkeeper Academy we bring in field coaches to work with our students. However stating that you can’t identify a goalkeeper at the age of 10 or you shouldn’t give specific goalkeeper training to a 9 year-old is usually said by coaches that don’t know how to coach goalkeepers in the first place. Mostly because they have an ego, they think that they don’t need to.

Goalkeeping should become an active part of every practice. Unfortunately, many coaches incorrectly set up practices where goalkeepers work mostly on front shots and nothing technical. I can give you the perfect example. This month of April my son’s team played here in Port Orange, Florida against the local team. The goalkeeper is someone that I have worked with in the past. The child is more devoted to video games than he is to goalkeeping. I stopped coaching him 24 months ago and there he remained. Let’s put to the side that I found him very lazy, but his coach is not a goalkeeper coach, so even if he wanted to try hard and improve his goalkeeper skills the child has no way to improve.

The role of the keeper like I stated: “Needs to move beyond that of a shot blocker during shooting practice”. Head Coaches should allow goalkeepers to distribute the ball, which increases their decision-making and communication abilities. The goalkeepers offensive decision making should develop in concert with their defensive role.

Being a goalkeeper is a very tough job. Lots is expected of keepers, but they receive very little praise from the coaches. In many ways, goalies are subject to the so-called “Unforgiving exposure”. Mistakes are clearly showcased and psychologically deflating. Mistakes will be made. Strong coaching advice will go a long way in creating a stimulating playing environment.

In summary, as a technical goalkeeper coach that is not scared to experiment, working at my academy with both advanced and Grassroots goalies I can’t stress the importance of developing our Youth Players technique. If I get the keepers early enough I can have a profound effect on that goalkeepers DNA. By this I mean creating intelligent two footed keepers who are masters of the ball and dominate with their hands. This should be the aim of any Academy Goalkeeper Coach across the US, but in 99% of the cases it’s not.