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Keeper Questions: Dressing, and warming up, for success
by Tim Mulqueen, March 15th, 2013 1:30AM
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TAGS:  youth boys, youth girls


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

(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.)

  1. I.b Inyang
    commented on: March 16, 2013 at 8:28 p.m.
    Goalkeepers are naturally "Stubborn By Nature" so it is up to the Coach to take decisive action by benching his or her Goalkeeper in order to instill needed discipline. Wearing necessary protective uniform i.e adequately padded long sleeve top over strategically padded long pants is a must for young/developing goalkeepers during practice since they repeatedly pound the ground with various parts of their body. A confident Coach Must NOT compromise their Goalkeeper's future by allowing then to dress inappropriately in order to avoid confrontation. Unfortunately, professional Goalkeepers have recently introduced short sleeves to make fashion statements on the field of play and young, developing Goalkeepers always tend to emulate them. All conscientious Youth Coaches MUST establish ground rules for the whole team else the players especially Goalkeepers will run their Coaches crazy and still get away with their natural cockiness. I've been there and done that as a Pro Keeper and it sure do feel good when the stance equates to dominating high level performance crowned with more wins and dramatic saves. Coaches should Never Compromise young players especially Goalkeepers safety at all times. Thanks for sharing this serious concern and Stay Blessed!!!
  1. I.b Inyang
    commented on: March 16, 2013 at 8:49 p.m.
    Goalkeepers at any level MUST NOT perform their Pre-game warm up in the goal post. They should carry out stretching to loosen up muscles and relax joints for the first five or so minutes or as needed based on how the Goalkeeper feels. Then choose a field player whom they feel comfortable with their ball delivery to knock the ball around. Preferably, Goalkeepers should warm up with their assistant keeper at all times since their role is to handle the ball with their hands. The should start with light throws back and forth, chest level throws, ground level throws, over head throws and side ways throws (at a stretched out arm level that will not necessitate diving). They should also loosen up their legs by passing the ball accurately to each other interchanging legs. There is more that could be discussed on accuracy in ball delivery by Keepers to up field players. So engaging all the body systems to synchronize with the mind before a game is a MUST. Thanks for sharing this vital pre-game readiness. NOTHING COMPARES TO THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GAME SOCCER, THE REAL FOOTBALL 4LIFE! Stay Blessed!!!
  1. Teresa Buffington
    commented on: March 16, 2013 at 9:48 p.m.
    To all the parents: (who probably deleted this one anyway) if there are 2 keepers on the team at a young age (U13 and under) they both should play equal time...even if one is better than the other. The parents are investing just as much time and money as well as both kids are coming to practice and training hard. A team is made up of individuals without exception. The health and well being of the whole is absolutely dependant on the mental and physical state of each individual. To be excluded is to imply that despite your effort and dedication, you have little or nothing to offer the team. In both form and substance, it operates as punishment...To single out and exclude and in the eyes of a young athlete it is devastating. Soo parents QUIET DOWN about the keepers
  1. Teresa Buffington
    commented on: March 16, 2013 at 9:56 p.m.
    To the coaches: Be very careful with the young kids. They may seem ALL BOY and Tough because keepers are a different breed but make no mistake they have feelings too. It doesn't take much time to make a keeper happy: Take ONE practice and have them memorize a drill sequence with the other keeper. Go over and over it. Change it in a week. Change it again then put one of them in charge of making up a drill session. You can't just send them in a corner during practice and say "ok go work on keeper stuff" Aak any mother what happens when you say to a young boy, "go clean your room" it is never clean but if you tell them vaccuum, dust, make sure nothing is on the floor, put away your gets done.

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