Category Archives: Goalkeeper Development

For footballs sake, please can footballing academies give kids a chance?

Again, I find out that yet another young prospect has been released by a football academy, as they do not fit their ‘perfect’ criteria… I am not talking goalkeeping ability or skill, as this keeper has so much potential… Again it was because they were not tall enough! 

Now you may have views that a goalkeeper is better taller as they fill the goal more, especially with the dimensions of an adult goal. However let’s not forget that there have been some exceptional goalkeepers of varying heights.  Besides if you are not the tallest then you work on your agility to get to those higher balls… Similarly taller goalkeepers may tend to work on their agility to dive for lower balls.

My biggest gripe on this, though, is that this keeper is not an adult and is only a junior with another 8 or so years to develop! Are academies really that narrow minded to not see the potential of the keeper?

I have heard many stories where academies have their mould for the perfect footballer. With then finding that they ripped this mould apart when an exceptional talent comes on the scene that goes completely against there ‘perfect’ ethos. If they hadn’t of done, would we have seen the likes of Messi?

This is actually completely against what the FA are trying to promote. As there should be equal opportunities for all. This is something we follow at the Worcester Goalkeeper Academy. My biggest hope, is that these other academies follow this model. After all:

  • What if a player then fulfills this potential, do you think they would ever consider signing for this club in the future? 
  • Perhaps, being treated this way, could this football talent, be walking away from competitive football for good, with football losing a future star player? 

Fortunately the keeper I mentioned, is still working with us, so the latter question is being taken care of. However this is not always the case. So I send this heart felt message to all football academies: For footballs sake, please can you give kids a chance?

The difference in Keeper training – part 3

Further to part 1 and part 2 in this series, I now want to add to this, by discussing the importance in coaching correctly to the different age groups, two of the most basic categories, catching and set position. 

My great friend, the late Bernatd Day was an inspiration to me, in the needs of and how to coach these different age groups. The following is based on his wise teachings.

Bernie would always push for young keepers to catch the ball. Ok yes in goalkeeping, a goalkeeper will use any part of the body to make a save, after all a save’s a save… However and further to part 2 of this series, we can teach other techniques later in the young keepers development. For now though at the young age, his teaching was correct, in that these young keepers need to be drilled in the requirements to always try and catch the ball. Keeping the ball safe, first and foremost.

His second teaching, one which the FA and also our Head of the Academy, Julia West encourage is getting the set position right. That is with hands out in front of the body and not as I saw one coach, drilling all ages of keepers, with their hands down by the side of the body… Hands down is like you see in adult football. Young keepers do like to copy the likes of Joe Hart, David de Gea, Thibault Courtois, etc. However, even though they want to mimic their idols, this is not the best way to start coaching young keepers. Bernie’s philosophy was to start with your hands up, as it was easier to drop you hands than raise them. Furthermore, with the hands raised, they are closer to catching a fast ball heading for the upper body and more importantly the face… Ok with your hands down, the face may the  block the ball and be considered ‘a save’… Hmm, but blood from a nose bleed or concussion is certainly not the best outcome from a save. So hands up is the safest option.

When they develop as Bernie says, their hands will drop. Besides an older keeper is more agile, with better reaction and therefore the hands could be lower, they would get them up there far quicker than a younger keeper. Still, that said in a faster match sometimes it can be just as good for an older keeper to go back to basics…

The difference in Keeper training – part 2

Every week at the Academy, we always look to have a game of some sort at the end of the session. These games are very goalkeeper specific and often link well with the technical exercises they have been training in before.

Because games are fun, Keepers don’t always realise that these games are actually building on and helping improve their skills. Plus, further to Part 1 of this series, games are also a good way of ensuring the young keepers get that engagement with the ball, without getting bored. So games must be constantly moving, which is why we always ensure the game doesn’t go flat, with Julia and/or myself often encouraging quick service, fast flowing movement and for all to get involved… After all some football matches they will play in, will not always be slow!

So we try to come up with ideas of games to use. Again we need to think about what we are trying to achieve and if it is appropriate to that age group.

I had previously seen Football Tennis in use. Indeed, Andy Elleray suggests in his book, Scientific Approaches to Goalkeeping in Football, that Football Tennis is a great way of building strength in your legs and helps the keeper use their feet. This is correct and also great in teams as an aid for team work. Andy’s book is a great read and there is so much you can learn from it and what we realised is that even though this exercise would be great for the areas Andy suggests, we felt that the older keepers may benefit more. For, the younger keepers we do need to encourage to improve the basics first, before progressing them to these exercises. 

So for the younger keepers, Football Tennis was put on hold, which was bad news for me as I had bought a tennis net! However, the good news is that this could be used for Volleyball… Although again, as Andy identifies using volleyball can promote strength in the hands/wrists, which again would help the older keeper… So I had a net, what could we do to help the younger keepers? The answers came from again looking at Andy’s book and from an exercise we did on high balls… We changed volleyball to a new Goalkeeper style:

  • Volley the ball from the serving line;
  • Opposing team catch the high ball with Ws catch;
  • Team distribute the ball to other members; and 
  • Then over arm distribute the ball back.

This is still work in progress, but it just shows you that there is a lot of information out there to help you coach, it is just up to you to interpret it and make it relevant to your age of keeper. It will also help us develop as a coach and ultimately help our keepers develop further.

I am still developing as a coach and books like Andy’s and those by other recognised Keepers and Goalkeeping Coaches, will inspire me further. Helping me also develop my coaching skills across all ages of keeper. Giving them the coaching they require to be better keepers. Hopefully this blog will inspire you too. 😉

2015 Star Goalkeeper – Matthew Hatton

Further to the previous post on 2015 Most Improved Goalkeeper, we also give an award for Star Goalkeeper. This award recognises the keeper at the Academy for:

  • Attendance
  • Attitude to coaching
  • Commitment and Application of what they have learnt
  • All round ability – including in FA development areas: Technical, Physical, Psychological and Social

One keeper in particular has really impressed the coaches, with their whole attitude to Goalkeeping, someone who throws themselves into any training we give them, always with a smile. That keeper is Matthew.

Even on Friday when playing a load of fun and games (as it was end of the term/season), Matthew still put into practice all he had been taught over the time he has been here. Going for every save, even when the balls were whipped in and speed… Some keepers, even seen at the highest level, just seem to stand there and watch, almost seeming to say “I’ll never get that”… Not Matthew, he still went for them, often getting a finger tip to the ball and sometimes just enough to send it away from goal or on to the post. With such a great attitude and commitment, you can see why he was our unanimous choice for this seasons award, for Star Goalkeeper. 

Congratulations Matthew. Well deserved!


2015 Most Improved Goalkeeper – Luke Deakin

At the end of Friday night’s training we proudly presented all our keepers with a medal, as a thank you for attending the Academy and also as to them all in recognition of how much they have improved. One of these we felt deserved the year’s award for most improved…

Luke has been with us for a long time now and in that time we have seen him develop his Goalkeeping skills. He is a perfectionist and he has strived this season and previous seasons to improve his game.

Luke, like other keepers his age has had his knocks to his confidence, especially so when conceding in a match. However, I think he is starting to now understand, that it is a team game and keeping a clean sheet is not always down to him, it is also down to the team. Besides, with regards to the feedback from his matches, we understand that he is putting into practice what he has learnt, with some great plaudits for what he is doing… That is all we ask of our keepers; to put in the performance and not worry about the score. As for us, it is the performance that matters more at his age.  For that reason and the fact that all the coaches have seen how much he has developed and improved over the years, is why he was the unanimous choice for this award.

Congratulations Luke Deakin. Well deserved! 

Congratulation to Luke, our Most Improved Goalkeeper 2015 – photo copyright 2015 goalkeepingitreal

The difference in Keeper training – part 1

I chatted last night over a pint, with one of my fellow coaches about the different styles of coaching that a Goalkeeper needs and that I feel I have now found my niche in coaching.

I have been helping as a coach at the Academy now for nearly 4 years now. When I started there I was thrown immediately in at the deep end and given a group of the keepers to coach. 

This first session went well, as it was based on the general coaching understanding I had gained from the FA. However after while I had run out of ideas, and started repeating these basic drills and when you have to plan for 1.5 hours, I realised I needed more in my toolkit and more variety to be able to coach these keepers. That said sometimes repetition can be good and drilling in techniques can really help. Just look at some of the best keepers in the world, they will practice, practice, practice… There is not always such a thing as a naturally gifted footballer, even they need to practice and hone their skills in a structured fashion.

The best keepers though need to start somewhere and as juniors, they may not have appreciated too much repetition, as of course the younger kids can get bored of this.

My skills have improved over time, but not to the extent of our Head Coach, Julia, but then they would never be at her level, as she has many years of experience and teachings, from her days playing at the highest levels and through her role as a university lecturer. Her understanding of coaching, means she is comfortable coaching the youngest to the oldest keeper, with appropriate drills for each age, that ensure the student keeper is fully engaged.

We are a good team at the Academy, with myself and Julia at the helm. For even though I realise, that I can feel a little out of my depth coaching the adult keepers, Julia is always there to help. Besides I now know my niche area… I love coaching the basics and working with (and with my daughter now also helping) the younger keepers. So that is what I do, with Julia looking after the older keepers. It works perfectly…

So after nearly four years, with more coaching tools in my bag and working regularly with these young keepers, I have realised that there is a need to coach them differently, more so that keeps them engaged and not bored. As my other coach pointed out with the coaching he does with his football team, they need to have the ball with them more… I.e less talking, more doing. 

All our coaches who have worked with the young keepers, all started the same way, feeling they needed to get their coaching points across by stopping the session and talking the keepers through them. However where this may be good for the older keepers, the coaches soon realise that a few short pointed statements or a quick demonstration, giving them more time to do what they love (goalkeeping) works far better.
This is not to say that you cannot use short pointed information for the older keepers, as this is also needed at times, however the older the keeper the more they would listen to the coaching information, as often they need to understand the specifics to help take their game even further… 

Oh yes and one final thing we make the coaching fun, with a few games mixed in. Games that are keeper focussed but fun and what’s more less talking, more doing!

From the recent feedback from parents and keepers of what we are doing and from what they see in improvements on the pitch, I do feel that we are getting things right here at the Academy. 

Taking Goalkeeper coaching to the next level: Using the Batak Pro at the Worcester Goalkeeper Academy to improve reactions

At the Academy we always had a Plan B if we we were caught out by the weather. A plan that included work indoors on balance and reactions. To date we have not been too unlucky with the weather and as such Julia’s Plan B wasn’t used. However, after Julia observed the improvements of one of our keepers by using the Batak wall in the lab at the University, part of Plan B was rolled out last night.

We try to Instil better technique in our keepers, but in a fun environment and the Batak is one of those tools that even though a fun exercise actually helps promote better reactions and vision.

If you are unaware of what the Batak is, check out this link to see Pepe Reina attempt it:

One of our keepers got a score of 77 in 60 seconds, putting Pepe Reina to shame. By the way, Pepe if you read this, you are welcome to come to the Academy and take on Will 😉

After this session we went back out on the Astro and did some shot stopping… Had they improved and did they react better? Most definitely!

It’s no surprise then that we are now planning to use the Batak more often!

Well done keepers 😉

Goalkeepers are you looking to improve your technique with Goalkeeper specific training? Come along and join us at the Worcester Goalkeeper Academy 7:00pm Friday nights on the Worcester University 3G AstroTurf.

Further information and contact details at:

Grassroots or Semi-Professional: Development vs Must-Win

It was previously commented to me, “I am the manager, it is my job to pick the best team to win matches” and “I am under pressure from the parents to pick their kids”. This was a manager in turmoil, as he had pressures on their shoulders from both sides. Even though in the early days every kid got a chance, which satisfied the latter statement, when the team improved and there was a good opportunity to win the league, it was winning that counted. This meant that the ‘best’ team was now being picked and those not seen as the ‘best’ ended up getting cold or bored on the sidelines.

This was at grassroots level, not semi-professional level and is I’m afraid happening a lot, especially when there is such an opportunity to win a title. Maybe the attitude changed as they wanted all the team to win a medal to get the recognition they deserve… Should this mean though that we forget about the real reward of developing all kids? So should all kids and managers who develop get the rewards anyway without winning titles?

The following link, is to a blog post written by Scott Hoather that discussed this issue well. A thoroughly good, thought provoking read that deserves a wider audience:

Great start to the new term at the Goalkeeper Academy

The Worcester Goalkeeper Academy started back on the 4th October 2013, with returning keepers and coaches, along with some new faces… This included new keepers who had heard about our good reputation of developing Goalkeepers and keepers who had found us through the web as they were either frustrated by the lack of Goalkeeper coaching at their football clubs or that they were just eager to improve. We also had new coaches join us: Robbie, a student at the University of Worcester and experienced goalkeeper, who like our current and previous Uni students is interested to develop his coaching skills; and Hannah, who is a 16 year old Goalkeeper at the Academy, wanting to mix in some coaching as she not only wants to develop herself as a goalkeeper but also wants to develop the coaching side, as she now helps coach an under 10 football team.

So Week 1 was all about basics… handling skills, with also ensuring good movement, positioning and safety…. We had lots of fun, with Julia providing an intense fitness session to those that wanted… And the other coaches providing lots of 1 to 1 coaching through dynamic and basic technique exercises… All then followed by lots of game play technique skills training… and of course a few fun and games along the way, including a little bit of competition thrown in to make for and enjoyable learning environment.

Goalkeeper Coaching at the Worcester Goalkeeper Academy

Last night (week2) was in a similar vain, with Julia again as she will for the term taking those for an intense fitness session. The topic this time was to build on week 1, now focussing on low diving saves. Again, we were looking at basic technique development, game play technique skills training and some agility training to start developing footwork…. Oh and of course lots of fun!

The main thing is that we are seeing improvements every night, week to week, which is something we will be building on. However it is not just us that are seeing improvements…

…2 weeks in and we have already had some great feedback from the parents, those commenting on the quality of the training and those who tell us that after week 1, (from our help) one of the Goalkeepers played so well in goal that his performance was praised by the team and what’s more, whereas in the previous week the team had lost to local rivals, when they met them again in the cup they won 2-0, with the Goalkeeper to thank for the save after save he produced… Great feedback indeed, as it is always good to find out that our training has provided positive improvements, recognised by their parents and football teams…

A great start then… Definitely something to build on 😉

Former Worcester Goalkeeper Academy Coach publishes a new book – A must-read for Goalkeepers and Coaches!

Former Worcester Goalkeeper Coach, Andy Elleray has just had a new book published that is well worth a read by Goalkeepers and Coaches…

Scientific Approaches to Goalkeeping in Football by Andy Elleray


After gaining his MSc in Sports Coaching at the University of Worcester (where he coached at the Academy),  Andy has gone on to become a UEFA qualified coach, to become a highly accredited performance analyst through ISPAS. Andy brings an alternative and evidence based scientific approach to goalkeeping. Looking at the position from various different angles providing support systems, performance measures and new coaching theories. He has provided specific performance analysis and coach support at Academy level, previously at Liverpool and more recently at Chelsea.

His book offers a fresh and innovative approach to goalkeeping in football. With a particular emphasis on the development of young goalkeepers, it sheds light on training, player development, match performances, and player analysis.

Utilising his own experiences Andy shows the reader various approaches, systems and exercises that will enable goalkeepers to train effectively and appropriately to bring out the very best in them. Practice and theory are merged together to create a highly practical book with its roots in the latest research and thinking.

The book looks at the following:

  • Combat issues such as anxiety and nerves by boosting confidence and concentration
  • Delve into cutting edge video and performance analysis systems and implementations
  • Utilise alternative games-based training methods to bring out the best in goalkeepers
  • Develop the physical attributes needed to be a top goalkeeper
  • Learn about specific goalkeeping research, including physiology and biomechanics
  • Explore training methodologies from around the world

To find out more go to:

Andy is also a guest speaker at the Science and Football 2013 conference:

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