Monthly Archives: February 2012

Continual Development of Goalkeepers: Social Development

Social Development is very important for the development of the keeper, not just for a match of football, but also in outside of football and the Academy as it can also be important for Psychological Development as it can build confidence.

Social Development incorporates:

  • Communication Skills – Communicating with the team, Shouting instructions and communicating to coaches (and parents);
  • Listening and Understanding – listening to and understanding of instructions (coach-ability);
  • Team work – Integrating and working with the team and those around them (this also helps in the development of friendships); and
  • Health and Wellbeing – including happiness and enjoyment of the game and goal keeping [can be combined with Physical Development]

A goalkeeper with great social skills is a better one as they are more involved and happier!

Punch or Catch?

In the Liverpool vs Brighton and Hove Albion FA Cup match, we saw Peter Brezovan decide to Punch out in front of Goal rather than catch the ball. The result of which was that the ball was punched out to a Liverpool player. Which then came back into the danger zone and a couple of defensive errors later the ball was in the back of the net.

The commentators suggested that he (Brezovan) should have caught the ball. And even though in a previous blog I suggested that commentators should think about doing a goalkeeper coaching course, this time I agreed with them. He was at the right height to catch the ball. What’s more if you are going to Punch the ball you should at least make sure you punch it out to a great distance or to the side of the goal. This was seen where Tom Heaton of Cardiff City against the same team, Liverpool in the Carling Cup Final, punched strongly away from goal. Or as also seen in this picture where Jamie Langfield of Aberdeen punched the ball clear after being under immense pressure from Dundee United in the CIS Cup.

image from

However sometimes making the right call of punching doesn’t work out, as David Forde of Millwall found out in the match against West Ham. It was the correct decision made to punch especially with the pressured situation he was in, however like Peter Brezovan, the execution was not great.

Let’s not hold it against these keepers, as mistakes are made and as goalkeepers we live by our decisions. Bette still that we learn from these experiences and develop. Besides, when it comes to deciding whether to punch or catch often it’s an instinctive reaction that when executed correctly has great impact.

image from

Coaching punching technique is the easy part. However this is another example of how imagery scripts can help in the decision-making process. By imagining different situations and how you would react to each and in training this in the mind so that when faced with such a situation you are as ready as you can be. But that then is the difficult part as however much we train our minds there can always be ‘that’ situation that we haven’t trained for that such a split second decision is made… With 1 of 2 outcomes… We can only pray it’s a good one! 😉

Worcester Goalkeeper Academy Coach Profile: Jon Barrington

Jon Barrington, Goalkeeper Coach at the Worcester Goalkeeper Academy, with the main responsibility for Psychology and Performance Analysis.


Qualified to Level 1 Football coach and in the final year of a degree in Sports Psychology.

Has run Goalkeeping sessions for the Kidderminster Harriers community scheme.

Provided cover for Julia West at the Kidderminster harriers Girls Centre of Excellence Goalkeeping sessions.

Fortunate enough to be coached by great coaches including Bernard Day and Peter Bonnetti and wants to pass on the experience to the next generation of Goalkeepers.


Being tall, agile and having good hands and feet may provide the basic foundations of a good Goalkeeper. But, hard work, enthusiasm and commitment makes a great goalkeeper.

Bird Spotting – The Final!

And what a Final!

The Carling Cup between the Bluebirds and the Liver Birds was intense and showed just why I was singing the praises of Cardiff City goalkeeper, Tom Heaton. Drawing the plaudits for his goalkeeping during the match and for a tremendous penalty save. Showing just why as a Goalkeeper you use every part of your body in a penalty save. Throwing out an arm to save not only a penalty, but that from a Steven Gerrard spot kick!

Let’s not overshadow Pepe Reina’s performance in the penalty shoot out. Equally as impressive. Alas though… only one of them could get the winners medal, but I think that Cardiff’s Goalkeeper was not necessarily a ‘loser’ here… As now others have seen him on one of the biggest stages. What do you reckon: International or Premiership call???

Bird Spotting – The Final!

And what a Final!

The Carling Cup between the Bluebirds and the Liver Birds was intense and showed just why I was singing the praises of Cardiff City goalkeeper, Tom Heaton. Drawing the plaudits for his goalkeeping during the match and for a tremendous penalty save. Showing just why as a Goalkeeper you use every part of your body in a penalty save. Throwing out an arm to save not only a penalty, but that from a Steven Gerrard spot kick!

Let’s not overshadow Pepe Reina’s performance in the penalty shoot out. Equally as impressive. Alas though… only one of them could get the winners medal, but I think that Cardiff’s Goalkeeper was not necessarily a ‘loser’ here… As now others have seen him on one of the biggest stages. What do you reckon: International or Premiership call???

Why Goalkeeper Coaching is great medicine and why playing for a team could have been benefiial to my youth…

I have not always been a Goalkeeper (well definitely not when I was in nappies), partly because I was not very good at catching or throwing balls and even though I watched football never really either had the encouragement to take it up or the confidence to want to!

Confidence issues as a child

As a child I was very shy, not really having the confidence to make friends that easily. I see now by looking back that perhaps being involved in a team sport such as football could have actually helped my social skills and maybe even helped me make friends. I say that because I have seen this with my daughter. She was someone who found it hard to integrate, however now she has developed as a person through being part of a team. And through further specific coaching we have seen her confidence improve too.

So how did I get into Goalkeeping?

Pretty much the same as my daughter, she wanted to play out field at first, because like most children interested in football it’s all about scoring goals. Most first team professional goalkeepers started in much the same way too!

We both went in goal as nobody else wanted to and we just were willing to help out the team. But once in goal, coupled with a leaky defence meant that we actually got more action than outfield and actually enjoyed making the saves. We both got the bug. And believe me… it is infectious!

So how did I get into coaching?

My daughter went further than me and actually wanted to improve further through coaching. So she went to various coaching sessions. One, with Bernard Day (now a coach at the Worcester Goalkeeper Academy), with a style of coaching that meant she enjoyed Goalkeeping even more. And the other sessions with the Worcestershire FA, who later invited me to attend a coaching event.

The Worcestershire FA coaching event was to give an understanding of goalkeeper coaching to enable parents and outfield coaches to provide support to their goalkeepers. It certainly opened my eyes further. I was already helping out in a limited capacity, but this allowed me to get closer to my daughter and provide the support and encouragement she needed from me to improve.

So now I not only had the bug for Goalkeeping but coaching it too. Subsequently being invited to attend and achieving the FA Goalkeeping Level 1 coaching award.

Why is Goalkeeper Coaching good medicine for me?

It was good before I was a coach, when I would take my daughter to the various coaching sessions as I would get out more away from the television. A chance to unwind watching my daughter having fun and getting involved. But its even better now.

Through providing her with the support she needs has brought my daughter and I much closer together. And even though a stroppy teenager at home, at a match or coaching session we get that quality time needed.

And through coaching now at the Worcester Goalkeeper Academy, I have something keeping my mind busy, something that is fulfilling, when seeing a child develop through a session plan I developed and above all it has got me fitter and healthier.

Perhaps I did not need to write this as you can already see how committed and passionate I am about Goalkeeping and Goalkeeper Coaching through this blog!

Goalkeeping and Goalkeeper Coaching I can recommend it to you all!

Goalkeeper spotlight: Tom Heaton

After his heroics in the Penalty shoot out against Crystal Palace (, after saving two penalties, Tom Heaton is winning his battle to be fit to play in the Carling Cup Final against Liverpool.

In the match against Palace, Tom Heaton received the praise he deserved ( It’s not the first time Heaton has drawn the plaudits, after winning Cardiff’s young player of the season the year before.

Tom Heaton has battled a few times with injury in the past and this has often been the reason for him not necessarily being a first choice keeper. But battles back he does, eventually earning himself a first team start and then doing more than enough to stay in between the sticks.

It’s not just injury he battles then, he battles to be number one, and what a fight against the also impressive David Marshall. I hope that he gets his chance against Liverpool as he’s most certainly earned it. Even David Marshall agrees:

I think Tom Heaton is definitely a Keeper to watch – a talented player who will have a big future!

Continual Development of Goalkeepers: Physical Development

Physical Development is not just about Fitness as it also incorporates the other Physical needs of a Goalkeeper to prepare them physically for a game including:

  • Reactions;
  • Speed, Agility and Quickness (SAQ or ‘Fast-Feet’);
  • Movement;
  • Balance; and
  • Stamina.

Physical Development can be Assessed in stand alone exercises or whilst performing Technical practical sessions and assessments (as previously discussed in this blog).

However Physical Development must also include those important areas sometimes overlooked or neglected:

  • Warm up and Cool Down; and
  • Health and Well-Being (including prevention and treatment of injuries).

Guest Blog Article by Mark Oxer: Optimal Learning Environment

This Guest Blog is from Mark Oxer, Men’s and Women’s Soccer/Futsal Head Coach at Olds College Broncos. It adds depth to recent postings about ‘keeping it real’ and the psychological aspect of training. This article from Mark (no pun intended) really makes you think… about planning training sessions for the maximum benefit for the student Goalkeeper by Making them realistic and fun…

Practice is generally considered to be the single most important factor responsible for the permanent improvement in the ability to perform a motor skill (i.e., motor learning; Adams, 1964; Annett, 1969; Fitts, 1964; Magill, 2001; Marteniuk, 1976; K. M. Newell, 1981; Schmidt & Lee, 1999). If all other factors are held constant, then skill improvement is generally considered to be positively related to the amount of practice. The generalizability of the relationship between practice and skill is so profound that it is sometimes modeled mathematically and referred to as a law (Crossman, 1959; A. Newell & Rosenbloom, 1981). Indeed, the attainment of expertise, the highest level of proficiency in a motor skill, generally requires years of practice (Ericsson, 1996). In truth, the attainment of expertise is not a goal or a reality for most learners of motor skills. Because of our incomplete knowledge of practice variables, we are often inefficient in our practice sessions. Thus, the limited opportunity for practice, coupled with the potentially small gains in expertise resulting from each session, increases the importance of maximizing the benefits gained whenever practice is undertaken. For over a century, researchers have studied means by which practice conditions can be structured so that they maximize the potential for learning (Adams, 1987); understandably, that issue remains of considerable interest to theorists and practitioners alike. Clearly, the concept of practice as a single, unitary construct that leads to improvements in performance is not a simple one.

Creating an optimal learning environment is not something that happens by chance. There are some fundamental founding principles to follow and a formula that can be applied. (Laver, 2010)

The neural networks in our brain and our nervous system are created from the moment we start moving (even before we are born). As we move we start to build up networks by linking neurons so that we can produce movement patterns. The freedom to experiment and find your own way is delivered through the most powerful learning vehicle known to man – play! (Laver, 2010)

Play is the medium though which we learn fastest and most effectively. The learning we receive during play is not ‘bolted on’ it is deeply learned and becomes part of us. This type of learning has been termed ‘genuine learning’ by psychologists. Play has been defined as “A physical or mental leisure activity that is undertaken purely for enjoyment or amusement and has no other objective”. Play in its most genuine sense is not there as a means of learning. It just so happens that learning is an almost inevitable consequence. In fact, play creates the conditions necessary for whole brain learning. Three of major ingredients for whole brain learning are ‘immersion in the activity’, ‘a state of relaxed alertness’ and ‘stimulation’ (active processing of information). These occur naturally when we play and perhaps go some way to explaining why we learn so effectively during play. Players that have mastered their bodies will tend to produce a more elegant skill, which is likely to be more effective. Remember – More networks, connections and links in our brain equals more intelligence. This is as true with ‘movement intelligence’ as it is for intellect. With more neural connections and more intelligence, we and our brains are able to adapt to novel situations more effectively (Laver, 2010).

So what does all this mean for training as a goalkeeper?

This author suggests that we make our training sessions as realistic as possible, that we move away from agility ladders, hurdles, cones, and move towards an environment that allows the keeper to form their own movement patterns. Not only does this provide a realistic environment and a fun environment, but it creates an environment that it unpredictable and it has been proved that skill retention is higher when the skill is learned randomly rather than through continuous repetition (Guadagnoli & Lee, 2004). Furthermore this author suggests that we seek to remove ‘formal’ punishments from training sessions, and allow the ‘punishment’ to be that of a goal being scored and the ‘reward’ of a goal being saved. Understanding the environment of football and that a keeper my face only a small number of shots in a 90 min game, as coaches rather than giving the keeper drills, we can manipulate the environment which the play is occurring, to facilitate more opportunities for the keeper to develop their movement.

As a Collegiate Head Coach, I use this method of training with my team and with my keepers, and have had very successful results. My role is to facilitate the environment, and provide helpful feedback to the team and athletes regarding their performance, with the aim of helping them develop their optimal movement intelligence.

Thank you very much Mark for this excellent article!

Keeping it Real: Planning for a distribution of knowledge

After 2 weeks of being involved in a different capacity (parents presentations and assessment marking) at the Academy, this week was time to get my hands dirty (…well as dirty as they can on 3G astro!). My turn to develop a session plan for a group of young Goalkeepers with a mixture of skills and abilities.

So I put my thinking cap on. I wanted to ensure that I covered the basics but in line with my ethos, to keep it real, in that it would allow the keeper to understand the techniques but in way that they could relate to in a game. Whilst also being a fun exercise, as this would aid the learning process.

I therefore sat down one evening last week and drafted out my plan. The theme was distribution, but as weeks 5 and 6 were kicking from hands and from the ground (dead ball), I chose to focus on throwing and roll outs. As this would give the keepers a variety of options when distributing a ball.

The plan needed to be for a 25 minute coaching session, however I always plan a lot more in my plans. I always start at the basics and then plan many different progressions to something that is more technically challenging. This is because on the day of training as a coach you need to have a lot more in your locker. You may need to adapt or change the session to keep it moving, fun or indeed specific to the levels of ability within the group. This would ensure that it presents enough of a challenge to all involved.

As pointed out I drafted out a plan, because as I was working with other coaches in this exercise, I wanted to involve them in this session plan process. This included sitting down with them before putting the final plan into action and more importantly even before this, to gain feedback from the more senior coach before finalising the plan.

“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan” – Margaret Thatcher.

So after feedback and adding even further progressions from the senior coach, it was now D-day and time to put the plan into action. We started at the basics and where needed changed the training for each member of the group taking them up a level at a time. We ‘kept it real’, having servers (acting as outfield players) or by encouraging the Goalkeeper to look round before rolling or throwing the ball out, as if they were picking out their pass (as they would in a real game) and where needed we gave 1 on 1 training to each Goalkeeper to hone in their technique. We spent a lot of time honing these skills and OK we never got to the later progressions (we can use these another day!), but actually from working like this, this group did show noticeable improvements.

I am an advocate for quality planning. This shows that if you plan extensively, thinking of many plans and situations (keeping it fun and realistic), as well as not being afraid to gain input from others, when you actually come to putting your plans into action, there is every chance they shall succeed. However, in the unlikely event (after such planning) that things don’t go to plan that you understand what went wrong, taking in as much feedback as possible so that you learn from it to make your plans even better next time.

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win” – Zig Ziglar

As a coach, I am still learning every week and understand that I may make a mistake, but I try not to by quality planning. So my quote should be therefore: “I shall always plan to do better” 😉

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