It’s a common question that faces many youth coaches at every level. The challenge is compounded when you couple it with simultaneously trying to warm up your field players as many youth coaches are forced to do. Our task here is two-fold, preparing the GK both physically and mentally for the game.
At the game’s highest levels, this preparation is a continuous extension of the training environment that molds into a game day routine. While a lot of what professional GKs do to prepare for matches is not translatable to the youth game for a number of reasons, there are some basic concepts you can use to create a warm up that works for you and your GKs.
As discussed in our previous post, the mindset of your GK is a major factor to how they will perform and respond to adversity. A warm up should always be a confidence builder for your GK. They should be getting a lot of touches with service that progresses in difficulty to raise their heart rate and expose them to situations they will see in the game. The types of service should be personalized for your GK. Focus on what they do well, hammer home the basics and give LOTS of encouragement. Warm ups are not the same as training, and while it is okay to make coaching points, heavy criticism or corrections can often lead to planting that seed of doubt in your GK’s mind at the time when you need them to display supreme confidence. Save most of it for the team talk or the training ground.
Coaches and trainers should create a warm up routine for their GK’s, especially at the younger ages when players are still in the trial stages of the position and may only see a half in goal every other game. At this level, a standard warm up for all of your GKs is not a bad idea as most will likely be at the same level and be just starting to understand the position. These players need to be given a structure to follow. We can write endless examples of exercises that work well for warm ups at this level (please feel free to message me if you need some ideas) but the key is to stick with a routine that you can provide consistent quality service and build that confidence. Too often I see GKs tossed in goal with a well-meaning parent/coach hap-hazardly blasting errant shots towards the net.
As your GKs get older, they should be able to help craft the warm up with exercises they feel help get them prepared and build their confidence. Some GKs like to keep it very simple with almost everything going directly into their hands. Others I have worked with prefer to be challenged with live shots towards the end of the warm up where the players/coaches are actually trying to score. Neither way is right or wrong, but is solely based off what gets your GK ready to play.
No matter what approach you take, always be sure to monitor your GK throughout the warm up. If you see that he/she is losing confidence or getting down, it is your job to pull them aside and build them back up. Prepare them mentally as well as physically and they will have the confidence to perform no matter the circumstances.