Coaching your goalkeeper

At the younger age groups I have always found it a difficult job filling the position of goalkeeper. I’ve done various things, put my own son in goal, had two goalkeepers so one half they play outfield the other in goal but were never subbed – it helped but didn’t totally solve the problem.

Motivation, confidence and parental opposition are all part of the problem for goalkeepers. Team mates and parents can be very quick to criticise a goalkeeping error, whereas a missed scoring opportunity at the other end might go unmentioned.

This is one of the reasons why goalkeeper is a position that can be hard to fill; so when it comes to coaching your goalkeeper, you should do all you can to encourage him or her by making training fun, easy to understand and full of variety.

I always start with some simple sessions to give the goalkeeper some confidence. I swear by my EasiCoach goalkeeping sessions, such as Stop the striker 1v1 (U11-U12 game), which gets the goalkeeper coming off the goal line to smother the ball. For saving skills, try Stopping the ball (U7-U8 activity) and for skills with the feet, which are very important for goalkeepers who come out to support the defence, try Footwork matters most (U11-U14 activity).

You can move on to coaching the goalkeeper in game situations. My favourite sessions are those that keep the goalie involved in the game. A really good fun example is Airball, which has every player using goalkeeping skills so the keeper doesn’t feel like the odd one out. (It can also help you identify any players who could stand in if the keeper is injured or on holiday.)

For older goalkeepers use the session Cover plus – it gets them thinking about positions on the pitch and covering behind the defence when the defenders go missing. I find it one of the best for getting keepers to anticipate when they need to clear the ball.

Finally, for very experienced goalkeepers, use the session Goalkeeper positions. It was designed by Keith Boanas, former head coach of the Estonia women’s team, for a club in Finland that was having trouble with the goalkeeper staying glued to her line.

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