By Tim Mulqueen
I’m having a hard time convincing my U-13 goalkeepers to wear long-sleeve keeper shirts and long training pants at each practice. How do I make the case?
A player’s chief asset is his or her body. If we don’t have the proper gear on, we put ourselves in harm’s way of injury.
During training, goalkeepers should be dressed for maximum protection: long pants, long sleeves, and shinguards.
Long pants are especially important at the lower levels of competition, where practice fields can be hard and rocky. There’s no reason to risk scratches and scrapes that can be prevented by covering up the skin.
Goalkeepers even at the highest level protect themselves, and they’re playing on manicured, beautiful fields, so our young goalkeepers need to do the same. As they get older and aspire to play at the highest level it won’t be something that’s not natural for them.
During games, keepers can wear shorts if that’s what they’re most comfortable in. On artificial turf: 100 percent long sleeves, long pants. That has to happen.
And for games, I’m adamant that our goalkeepers carry at least two jerseys of separate colors so if they have to change, they can. Playing in pinnies or bibs is not acceptable for me.
Should we use our goalkeeper in the pregame shooting warmup?
I’m definitely against having teammates shoot on the goalkeeper in the pregame warmup. Warmups for field players and goalkeepers are geared for different things.
The field players’ definition of success is scoring. The goalkeeper’s definition of success is saving. So if you use your goalkeeper in pregame shooting practice, somebody’s coming out of the warmup not feeling confident.
If you give up a truckload of goals in warmup, because your teammates are blowing it by you, it doesn’t give you a whole lot of confidence. And it doesn’t give your team a whole of confidence in you heading into the match.
A mistake I constantly see in youth soccer: The team has a very organized detailed warmup for the field players and the two goalkeepers are sent off on their own. They end up throwing the ball back and forth, and then they’re tossed in for shooting, and the coach says, “Go out and play.” And we wonder why they’re not prepared and they make errors. We haven’t prepared them properly.
Sometimes a goalkeeper at the highest level might want to hop in and see things live. But by and large, youth or professional, the goalkeeper needs to have a warmup that is designed to prepare him to play the game and have success.
I have the goalkeeper who’s starting get warmed up by the second goalkeeper and another coach, whose job is to get the goalkeeper the necessary repetitions and scenarios he’ll see in the game. Warm him up and give him confidence for the game.
The shots should be challenging, but as the warmup goes on, the shooter should make less and less effort to score. And never end on a goal. Always end with a confidence-boosting clean save.
Read the previous Keeper Questions column: “Holiday Activities; Eye on the Ball” HERE. Send your goalkeeper questions to Tim Mulqueen via firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Tim Mulqueen, author of the "The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper: Techniques & Tactics For Stopping Every Shot," is a U.S. Soccer Federation coach and instructor who 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. Mulqueen is the head coach of Chargers SC’s U-13/14 U.S. Soccer Development Academy team and Director of Sports of the Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch, Fla.)