By Tim Mulqueen
Coaches must adjust their approach to the individual. Some keepers might need the soft touch to get in the right frame of mind. Others might require a rousing pep talk.
Some keepers might fall apart if they are given a direct, honest critique without plenty of compliments to go with it. Others are fine with a harsh, straightforward assessment. So how does the coach know what’s best for each individual?
It starts with close observation. The coach pays attention to the players at every practice and game, as well as off the field.
After a keeper has a poor outing, recall what the warm-up was like and what your pregame conversations entailed. If the keeper had a standout game, ask yourself the following: What did we do before that match? If the keeper had a real nervous outing, try to recall what the pregame was like that time.
You might even keep a notebook that details your training sessions and reminds you of what you’ve been telling a keeper.
Don’t be afraid to seek advice from others, such as the players’ previous coaches. They might provide valuable insight.
And above all, speak with your keepers. Get to know them. Ask them about their off-the-field life. Find out if they have any worries about family, school, and so on. Let them know you care about them.
If something is bothering your keeper -- maybe his girlfriend just broke up with him -- talking about it might help him clear his head and get ready to focus on the play.
Find out if your keepers have any issues with other coaches or teammates. The more information you gather, the easier it will be to get your keepers on the right track -- and you’ll be forging a solid relationship with your keepers.
Honesty solves a lot of problems. So get feedback constantly. A week into the season, ask the keepers to voice their opinions on practices and your coaching. This doesn’t mean you always have to make changes, but you’ll gain the keepers’ respect, and perhaps you’ll identify something that might be done differently.
(Excerpted from “The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper” by Tim Mulqueen with Mike Woitalla courtesy of Human Kinetics.)
(U.S. Soccer Federation coach and instructor Tim Mulqueen has been goalkeeper coach for U.S. national teams at the U-17 World Cup, U-20 World Cup and at the 2008 Olympic Games. He’s been a goalkeeper coach in MLS, for the MetroStars, and the Kansas City Wizards when they lifted the 2000 league title.)