As goalkeepers go in the youth level you will see at any given Sunday across the fields all over America that most keepers do not say more than two words to their field players all game. Even at the collegiate level a lot of keepers are not very vocal. It would seem that they are not part of the game until they are called to make that difficult save and if they do not come up with the ball they get chastised.

Well, how about looking at things from this perspective; if a goalkeeper can properly talk, guide and help the players in front of him he actually helps his own cause by decreasing the chances of a field player making a mistake therefore decreasing the chances of a goal against. Furthermore if the player does not listen to the gk and a mistake happens leading to a goal, now the player knows that his lack of listening to the gk and making that mistake contributed to the goal against and also takes the blame partially away from the gk.

I think it’s crucial for young goalkeepers to pick up quickly what should and should not be said on the field to help benefit and organize their team. Good habits start from a young age, although a lot of coaches will argue that by nature youth keepers do not talk and I do agree with this. That is why at just4keepers we train our keepers to call each other’s names or encourage the other keepers as they are doing an exercise. This way there is no pressure in shouting the wrong information or knowing what to shout at their teammates other than the other keepers’ names or cheer for them. As the goalkeepers get older and within the training environment we continuously encourage them to talk and slowly begin to introduce basic common sense commands, like “man on” or “turn”. Then they take these commands into the game situation and we challenge them to apply them starting with let’s say a minimum of 3 times. Initially it may feel out of their comfort zone but because they are being challenged they will attempt to complete the task. As they get more comfortable we add to the commands and challenge them to use them appropriately and then talk about it at the training sessions. We analyze the situations make adjustments as it slowly becomes second nature to them and it showcases them as a leader on the field.

At the end of the day the only way to learn what to say is to play as much as possible and to start thinking about what benefits the team and what doesn’t. If it is beneficial to the team, you should be saying it (in as few words as possible). If it’s not, don’t waste your breath! If you communicate unnecessary information to your teammates, they are going to tune you out. If you only communicate when there’s something to be said and you speak loud enough, they will listen to you. A good rule of thumb is if the ball is in your defensive third (for outdoor) or your defensive half (for indoor), you are pretty much going to be communicating non-stop. When the ball is anywhere else on the field, you will not be doing a whole lot of talking.

Some of the things that I communicate about during games are:

1) Telling someone when they have a man on and where that player is…for example: “Man on right!” or “Watch on your right!”

2) Letting someone know that they can play you back if they are under pressure…”Touch back!” Normally if they are under severe pressure, I will demand the ball from them with something like, “Play me or you got help!” If you are just giving them an option to play it to you, you can be less demanding but make sure they can hear you.

3) Telling them to step to an opposing player…if you can see that an opposing player is lining up to shoot, you might have to yell “Step or shot!” to get your defender to step. Sometimes, they wait too long and it leads to a goal.

4) Helping them find their marks or adjust to forwards changing positions…making tight has always been a priority in the defensive game for me. You might say “find a mark, or mark #7 to your left, or man coming through, overlap” or such

4) Setting up a wall…the first thing you need to communicate is how many players you want in the wall. “3 on the wall!” or “4 on the wall!” is what I say. Once you get your numbers, remind them to stay together…sometimes they will leave gaps in the wall because they’re not thinking…a simple “Together or close the wall!” normally does the trick. Finally, line up the wall using your near post as a guideline. You want to have one player on the outside of the wall outside of your near post if that makes sense…show them with your thumb which direction you want them to go along with yelling “Left!” or “Right!”

Being vocal and communicating to the field players is a skill that takes years to develop, so at the end of the day learn to be patient with your keepers. At jus4keepers we use a year round training curriculum to develop this skill set. Training for a few sessions and then stopping and restarting again six months later does not really help development.