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How goalkeeper coaches can help keepers read the game
by Tim Mulqueen, October 10th, 2011 12:29PM
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By Tim Mulqueen

The goalkeeper coach, or the person filling that role, oversees every aspect of the goalkeepers training. This means running the keeper drills and suggesting strategies as well as overseeing the keepers’ interaction with the rest of the team. The more involved the goalkeeper coach is, the better he can guide the goalkeepers’ development and nurture their ability to read the game.

Early in the keepers’ development, the coach may move the keepers around to the appropriate angles as the play changes directions. For example, some keepers may be hesitant to leave the goal line; the coach will move these keepers a little farther out so that they can intercept a through ball or catch a ball that’s hit over their backs’ heads. As the keepers progress, the coach can focus the keepers’ attention on the finer points of reading the game.

One way a coach can help a keeper anticipate the play is to explain that the keeper is responsible for two-thirds of the field behind the backs. The first third of the area behind the defensive line is too far away for the keeper to cover, but behind that section, the keeper who has the ability to read the play can anticipate through balls and intercept them.

In addition to training the keepers individually, the goalkeeper coach must be a part of functional team training. (If the team doesn’t have a keeper coach, then the assistant coach who is responsible for the keepers should be there.) During team training, the keeper coach should help the goalkeepers direct the team, solve problems, and answer questions. The keeper coach should be constantly analyzing plays and evaluating the keepers’ positioning and decision making.

The keeper coach will assess, for example, whether the keeper is in the right starting spots when the ball is in certain areas. If the keeper sticks to the line when the action is farther out, he may not be close enough to comprehend the immediate danger. The keeper may be lulled into a false sense of security, and if he doesn’t read things quickly, he’ll be punished.

Alternatively, if the keeper strays too far from the goal, he’s vulnerable to a shot chipped over his head and into the goal.

The keeper coach should have the ability to stop training and make corrections when necessary. The coach might offer comments such as the following:

* “Here’s where you’re in trouble. You need Jackie farther to the right and Sally closer to the penalty spot.”

* “Jose should be playing farther out to close off the passing lane down the side.”

* “You need to be farther off your line so that you don’t give them so much space behind our backs to pass into.”

* “You need to be farther out when we’ve got the ball in their end -- this makes it easier to communicate with your teammates. You’re a quick keeper; you can move out because you’ll be able to recover in time if they launch a long one.”

Coaches must be careful not to overdo it or become a distraction by spouting nonstop instructions. Keepers need to learn how to make their own decisions.

But when a coach judiciously offers advice and points out positioning flaws, this helps the keepers learn to read the game better. Also, when the field players hear the coach demonstrating the kind of directions to give, those field players will better understand why they’re receiving such direction from the keeper.

To test and expand the keepers’ ability to assess a situation, the keeper coach should also use questions such as the following:

* “Why do you think that’s happening?”

* “Where’s a better position for that defender?"

This kind of problem-solving exercise will help build the keepers’ confidence.

(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.)



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