Category Archives: The difference in Keeper training

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…

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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. 😉

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. 

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