Commentary

Ready to save? Warming up the keeper

By Tim Mulqueen

The best way for a keeper to be warmed up is to work with someone who understands the keeper's mentality. Therefore, the goalkeeper coach or backup keeper (acting on the keeper coach’s instructions) should do the shooting.

I’m dead set against having teammates shoot on the keeper in the pregame warm-up. Some goalkeepers like it, so you sometimes have to allow it. But the mentality of a field player is not conducive to a good keeper warm-up, because the field player is shooting to score in order to warm up herself.

The shots should be challenging, but as the warm-up 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.

My college coach was not a goalkeeper. He was a forward. When he would warm me up, he would score 30 to 40 goals. When the game started, the last thing I had was confidence. I had just been lit up with 30 goals! I spent the first 20 minutes praying that the ball wouldn’t come near me.

Because the goalkeeper is already under enough pressure (she knows that most mistakes lead to a goal), the warm-up has to be clean and confidence building, whether the keeper is young or old. You want the keeper to walk into the game clear of any doubt or problems. Serve accurate and consistent balls to the keeper in the warm-up, and she’ll go into the game feeling good.

Goalkeepers are all different, but they tend to be alike in one respect: They like routine. The goalkeeper coach needs to know how long any particular keeper likes to warm up before a game and what makes her sharp and confident. This should be established in advance, so come game day, the keeper coach is in synch with what the goalkeeper wants, and there aren’t any hiccups.

Once the warm-up routine is finished, leave the goalkeeper alone with her thoughts. Don’t raise the anxiety level before a game by offering a wide range of advice -- “Remember this! Remember that! Be ready for this!”

If there is something crucial that the keeper should be reminded of, then a concise statement may be appropriate. But usually, you can just say, “Hey, great warm-up. Good luck. See you at halftime.” And that’s enough.

(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.)

2 comments about "Ready to save? Warming up the keeper".
  1. Stephen Fixx, July 12, 2011 at 7:44 p.m.

    Agreed, and I prefer prayer before NOT during the game! I would always rather leave the net for the field players to warm up at than have my keeper's spirit broken down before a game. I usually warm the keeper up away from the goal with many balls to hands at different heights running through the full gamut of catches (perhaps 100+ balls total). Hand eye coordination is synchronized and focus gets dialed in...especially for early morning or late afternoon games. Then all the various throws, rolls, punts and goal kicks. Finally dives from simple to difficult. Only when completely warmed up will your GK confidently succeed at facing breakaway saves and game-speed shots(in goal against you). I love it when we can warm up with the game ball, but at the very least have your GK walk out to center circle and get a quick feel on the ball to be used. When you leave your GK well prepared you can only hope they do well solo :)

    Stephen F. Fixx, Elyria, OH
    US Soccer National Youth License/ D-License
    NSCAA National GK Coaching Diploma/
    USSF Y-Referee License

  2. ROBERT MORSUT, July 14, 2011 at 9:36 a.m.

    I completely agree, I played keeper all through my younger years, and always considered myself a keeper. I have now been coaching for over 10 years at different levels. I could not get over how many times I would see teams in pre-game warm-ups and where the keeper, being barraged by his teammates. Unlike myself, I would have the captain take the team through their paces, and I would personally warm-up the Keeper. Slowly increasing difficulty in saves, building on the last one, and end with the Keeper slightly winded, thoroughly warmed up, and feeling confident, feeling that edge, hunger for the ball, wanting the chance to make saves. I also firmly believe that this wins games. I'm amazed how many coaches out there neglect their Keepers, even at team practices. Cheers

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