By Tim Mulqueen
Our club has a goalkeeper shortage for our mid-teen teams, especially on the girls side. How can we curb the dropout rate at that position and keep young keepers enthusiastic?
This is an excellent question and a problem that unfortunately frequently happens in youth soccer. As kids get older they begin to recognize the pressure and blame that keepers receive and thus do not want to play in goal.
How do we get players to embrace the goal at an early age and stay with it? It starts with selection.
We need to select keepers who have the physical and psychological components that make up a successful keeper. No player wants to be played at a position that he or she will fail at. There is no joy in playing a position that you are not equipped to play.
Everyone, no matter what they do in life, wants to be successful and if we find something we are good at we tend to stick with it. Goalkeeping is no different.
Coaches need to identify players that possess the size, strength, agility, quickness, power and eye-hand coordination to play the position. Once we have identified the physical attributes we need to move to the psychological component.
Psychologically they must first have some interest and desire to play the position. Forcing players into the goal will never keep them there. They must be able to shake of disappointment, handle pressure, lead their teammates, and enjoy the position and responsibility. And they must be courageous. Scared goalkeepers will get hurt and leave the position.
Also crucial is that coaches and players understand more fully the role of the keeper and have realistic expectations on what they can do to help the team -- that it takes an entire team to ensure the goalkeeper has success.
Too often the keeper is blamed for a goal that was really conceded by poor defending by the team. As coaches we need to educate players and parents as to why goals are scored and that it is the result of a team breakdown not the sole responsibility of the keeper. This is vital as peer pressure leads to many keepers quitting because they are tired of being blamed for goals.
A key way to keep players in goal is respect. Many times the keepers at the young ages don't receive the same committed training to enhance their development that field players do. How many times do we see the team training with the coach and the two keepers off to the side to work themselves out before joining the team?
There is no way we can develop a goalkeeper like this. Yet we all expect them to perform at a highly skilled level come game day. Clubs and teams need to a designated keeper trainer to work with all the keepers in the club on their skill development as well as their psychological development.
The keeper sessions need to be held weekly and address the different levels of the keepers in the club.
Goalkeeping involves skill development just like field players and thus we need coaching to teach it, refine it, and critique it. If a keeper is properly trained and feels like an integral part of the team then he or she will have confidence and belief that they can succeed. Once they find continued success and joy then they'll be hooked in goal and will love everything about it.
Further Reading: Keys to encouraging young goalkeepers
(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 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.)
Send your goalkeeper questions to Tim Mulqueen via email@example.com.
Previous Keeper Questions columns:
Getting a shy one to speak -- and in useful manner
Coaching Consistency; How to Spice Up Training
Dressing, and warming up, for success
Holiday Activities; Eye on the Ball