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Backup Goalkeepers Are Important

All team members are important, not just the starters.  How players approach and participate in practice will usually define their team.

Games are won or lost in practice.  I have heard too many players say they will turn it on for the game.  Although possible with some players, this is rarely the case.

Teams and their players need to go with what they got on game day.  Pre-game warm-ups are not a practice sessions.

It is understandable that every team member wants to play. Most sports substitute freely, including soccer at all levels below the professional leagues.

However, only one goalkeeper plays at a time. Although some coaches either alternate goalkeepers or split games with each goalkeeper playing a half, this is not the norm.

I was the starting goalkeeper in eight of the ten years that I played soccer.  Although being the back-up as a sophomore and junior in high school, it was always a rewarding experience.  My passion was in the playing and being part of a team.

Teaneck High School in Bergen County, NJ had a very strong soccer program and all our games were very competitive.   Our season opened against the West Point plebes (we always won) and included New Jersey powerhouses such as Kearney , who were perennial state champs in their Newark area.

Coach Smallheer had developed a team oriented culture.  Everyone one felt important and our practice sessions were always at game intensity.  The second team played to win and often beat the starters. 

This raised everyone’s level of play and their commitment to each other.

My responsibility as backup was to support the starting goalkeeper and push the second team to always challenge the starters.

I was prepared for the three games that I played when the starting goalkeeper was injured.  Equally important was that the team had confidence in me.

Although winning was always rewarding, my joy was in the playing.  This feeling was summarized in Simon Robinson’s October 13, 2016 article “Channel the Passion”.

http://just4keepers.com/channel-the-passion/

My athletic career was honed in the P.S 187 school yard in Upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights. Starting at age 10, regardless of the season or sport, we played from 7 AM until dark,  always with passion and enjoying every minute. Winning was always nice, but it was the playing that mattered.

I emphasize with my young goalkeepers the joy of playing, the satisfaction of doing one’s best and having the confidence to learn from their mistakes and grow. 

I impress upon them that goalkeepers, whether selected as captain or not, are the team leader.  This applies to the backup goalkeeper as well.

 He/she shows this when they support the starter and emphasize the importance of “team”.

I never thought about my effect upon my Lehigh University team when I was playing other that I was always doing my best.  Years latter at my graduating class’s 50th reunion I received an answer.  One of my teammates commented to my wife, “we never worried with Alan back there.”

If every young goalkeeper plays with passion and always gives their best, no team will worry about them.

 

 

 


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