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How to develop and keep goalkeepers interested?

I recently read a great article by Tim Mulqueen, author and former UNMNT Goalkeeper coach at U17 an U20 levels at the World Cup as well as the GK coach for several MLS clubs. Currently he is the head coach of the Chargers SC U13/U14 Development Academy and Director of Sports at the Premier Sports Campus in Florida.

The article, completely captured and reinforces what J4K has been doing for over almost 15 years in Europe and for over 3 years here in the US! The whole reason J4K exists and coaches more than 5000 youth keepers weekly across the world! There is a massive need for kids interested in playing GK to get regular, consistent training and feedback. The GK position is no different than those of field players in that they need skill development and coaches to teach, review, and provide valuable feedback to keepers. How often do you see a team working out with the GK (s) on the side with a parent or assistant just kicking balls to them??

“There is no way we can develop a keeper like this. Yet we expect them to perform at a highly skilled level come game day.” says Tim. He goes on to say “…need a designated keeper trainer to work with keepers…on their skill development as well as their psychological development.” Finally, Tim states “The keeper sessions need to be held weekly and address the different levels if the keepers.” AMEN TIM! This is why J4K is in your communities…to fill that void and help players be successful.

If we as coaches can provide the opportunities to grow as a player, we must first know who might fit well with the job of GK. We need to identify players that would be potentially good keepers. First, they must have the physical attributes to play the position: strength, quickness, and good hand-eye coordination to name a few. Coupled with these physical attributes are psychological ones such as an interest in playing GK (forcing a player won’t end well for all those involved). The player must enjoy the responsibility, be able to take charge and lead/communicate with the team, be able to handle disappointment and pressure. Last but not least, they must be courageous as having a player that is afraid is dangerous for them.

Coaches and teammates have a responsibility to have realistic expectations of their goalkeeper. Not every shot can be saved and many goals arise from a breakdown in the system of the team – defending, passing, transitions, organization….all 11 players must bear the “burden” of a goal, not just the goalkeeper. How many times have you seen a team turn on their own goalkeeper when a goal is scored? Peer pressure is a major reason for keepers leaving the net – so we as GK coaches need to help the youth keeper understand there are 11 on a side and not to dwell on goals. They will have plenty scored on them in their career….

At J4K our training sessions are about the successes of training youth goalkeepers. Helping build their confidence is paramount in skill development. When players see what they can do and experience successes on a consistent basis they’ll be hooked on the experience and in the greatest position on the field – the GOALKEEPER!

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