Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Make your goalkeeper part of your sessions

Guest blog:

Erik Halvorson
USSF D Cert Youth Coach

I currently coach at the U10 level for a girls club team. I have had most of this group for five seasons now. Up to this age, I have found it extremely difficult to effectively incorporate keeper training into my regular training sessions.

So this year I decided to stop trying to fold it into regular field type trainings. There will be a few exceptions where the keeper position can train during a field session effectively, depending on the lesson plan but most of the time they are doing a lot of standing and that isn’t good. Instead, I hold an additional training session each week for keepers. I do invite all of the players to attend. If they want to play keeper in a game, they have to attend a keeper training that week and participate as a keeper.

Me with my team. My keepers are: the girl in the front row with the red long sleeves and the two girls on the RH side of the back row

The non-keeper players that want to participate in the training session can and I have some fun drills for those non-keeper attendees. I use the non-keeper players to help play the attacking player, the servers, etc., so that I can spend more time helping the keeper work on technique, instead of acting as the server myself. The plus is that they are size and skill comparable to what the keeper will see in a game. I also use the non-keeper player to be the ball retriever during keeper throw, punt and kick drills.

When retrieving balls we use it to help the non-keeper player to work on their power and accuracy of their driven kicks by giving them a target to drive the ball into, which is near our supply of balls. It has worked very well so far.

I used this method last spring with a U18 Girls club team that I coached at the USSF select level. The success I saw there is what made me try it with the younger team too. I did find that I could incorporate keeper training into the older group’s sessions easier but I think it was due to having a very capable assistant that could take charge of the field player coaching points while I concentrated on the keepers, during the same combined drills.


New recruits and new problems…

David ClarkeI always feel sorry for professional players when their teams announce they are on the lookout for someone new in their position. It must be almost heartbreaking when that happens.

As a coach, I have to realise that this crushing blow to a player’s confidence and ego doesn’t just happen in the professional ranks; it happens at all levels of the game.

At youth level players are not going to read in the papers that we’re looking for someone new, instead this threat will just appear at training.

At our club, we’ve recently run some trials for new players – some teams are going from 7-a-side to 11-a-side so we need to recruit.

On one of the trial days one of our coaches came to me and said there was a boy I must see because he was rather special in his position. He was a goalkeeper, and we all know how difficult it is to get good shot-stoppers.

There were a number of small-sided games going on and he was certainly impressing – diving at the feet of the attackers, calling defenders into position and commanding his box. However out of the corner of my eye I could see the dad of our current keeper, and he was taking note of my obvious enthusiasm for this potential intruder.

The parents of the new player came to talk to me about their son and the possibility of him playing for the team. ’He would want to play for the A team’, they told me, ‘and expects to play every week’. After the trial, myself and a few other coaches discussed the problem…

Was he a better goalkeeper? At this stage, probably, but in future, who knows? Would he fit into the team? Yes, he was a nice lad. Were his parents okay? Well, there was possible trouble if he was dropped for some games.

Our present keeper was popular, he never missed a game and was keen to learn and progress. His parents were very supportive and had been members of the club for a long time. There was no way we would make him move over for another keeper at this stage in his young life.

We told the parents of the trialist that we would love their son to join the club but we couldn’t guarantee he’d be club ‘number one’ – he would have to earn it. So he would start in one of the other teams but would still be guaranteed to play every week. This wasn’t enough for them so he didn’t join. In my view, we definitely made the right choice.

There is a lot to be said for loyalty and support, both from the side of the coach, and the player.