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Keys to encouraging young goalkeepers
by Tim Mulqueen, January 13th, 2012 2:51AM
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By Tim Mulqueen

For the young age groups, keepers should be rotated frequently. If your league uses quarters, it’s easy to use four different keepers in a game. At the U10 and U12 levels, coaches shouldn’t make a player stay at goalkeeper for more than a half.

At the U14 level, goalkeepers are ready to go the distance if that’s their desire. However, many talented keepers are also good field players, and giving them some time in the field will keep them happy, help them learn to read the game, and give the other keepers valuable experience.

Keeping a player in goal for long periods prevents her from being around the ball and getting the touches that a youngster needs in order to develop as a player. The keeper on a dominating team can get bored, and the keeper on a team that is conceding plenty of goals can get discouraged.

On some teams, it may be difficult to get kids to volunteer for the position of goalkeeper. What can you do to change this? Assure them that they should go out there and have fun -- and not worry about giving up goals.

To raise the confidence of players and to help encourage them to take stints in the goal, you should incorporate some throwing and catching games into the practice. This can be done by including a few minutes of throwing, catching, and moving to the ball in the warm-up.

When players are paired up for passing and trapping, have them switch over to some catching and throwing for a few minutes.

Team handball is a great game for encouraging would-be keepers. For a few minutes off and on during small-sided games and scrimmages, switch from soccer to team handball -- which is like basketball with soccer goals. The rules can vary. Players may be allowed three seconds and three steps whenever they get the ball. For older kids, the rule can be that if a player in possession is tagged, she must turn the ball over to the opponent.

Team handball is fun, and it helps youngsters gain confidence in catching and throwing. This game helps develop field players as well as goalkeepers. Team handball is great for introducing a passing game because it encourages players to become aware of their teammates’ positioning and spacing as well as how to get open to receive passes.

(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.)



5 comments
  1. Tyler Isaacson
    commented on: January 13, 2012 at 12:01 p.m.
    Tim and Mike this is great stuff! I am forwarding this to a few coaches I know who play their young goalkeepers in goal for the entire game.
  1. Tyler Dennis
    commented on: January 13, 2012 at 12:21 p.m.
    Here is what I do for my younger teams, U9 and below. At the beginning of the season, before the first team meeting, I set the roster for each game of who will be in goal. All kids play in goal at least once and some 2x. Then, the practice before the game I have 15 minutes after practice of special goalie practice to teach them some basics - receiving and throwing, diving (they love this from their knees). Before the game, I walk them through goal kicks and distribution. Since I've been doing this for the last 3 years, I've never had a kid say no or put up a fuss. Everyone "gets" to play in goal. It also stops the "playing to win" and the playing policy is understood by the parents and they see your actions and words are aligned towards development.
  1. Mark Grody
    commented on: January 13, 2012 at 1:44 p.m.
    The younger the keepers in a training session, the larger group I like to work with. More players allows for many more game options, which helps make it more fun & helps to demystify the position. Also, although I use team handball for hand eye coordination etc, I focus on positioning & attitude much more at the younger ages. Proactively making plays behind the backs, is much better than teaching them to be risk adverse by hanging back on the goal line hoping to stop a shot with their hands.
  1. lorenzo murillo
    commented on: January 13, 2012 at 5:10 p.m.
    The exception to this, is if you have a young player that really likes being a GK.
  1. Mark Grody
    commented on: January 13, 2012 at 5:29 p.m.
    yes, very motivated younger kids can handle more tech work & isolation from teammates etc, but outfield skills are just as important to them as to the other players at this age

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