Saturday, April 2, 2011

How to Encourage Young Goalkeepers

I'm currently an AYSO coach administrator for Region 64 and Area 2J and an Advanced Coach Instructor.

One of my coaches recently asked me: "Shortly after we assigned one kid to be the goalie in second quarter, the other party scored. the goalie collapsed, threw gloves and jersey on the ground and cried. We would like to avoid the situations that disrupt the game and cause a kid to break down, on the other hand, we also want to educate kids to handle adversity and defeats well, help them overcome their own weakness and build confidence."

Great question! This situation is one of the reasons that AYSO does not use goalkeepers until U10, and even then it can be hard for kids.

Here are some things a coach can to do:
  1. Tell the whole team that everyone should be a goalkeeper at least once during the season. To be a great soccer player you need experience in all positions.
  2. Publicly reward and acknowledge goalkeepers -- they are very special players.
  3. Let your players know that great goalkeepers are the best all around athletes on the field as they have to use every part of their body and be fast and agile.
  4. For a goal to be scored, it must have gotten by all the rest of the team before it got to the goalkeeper -- the whole team is responsible, not just the keeper.
  5. The entire team should thank the goalkeepers at the game.
  6. "Keepers first!" in the end of game handshake line.
  7. Have a real cool looking goalkeeper shirt and/or gloves.
  8. Remind your players that this is a game in which we are all learning how to win and lose gracefully -- this is good sportsmanship.
  9. Use positive coaching sandwiches: recognize what they did right, show them what will work better next time, then re-emphasize what they are doing right.
  10. If everyone has otherwise gotten equal playing time, favor keepers first if any have an opportunity to play longer than the others (first picks in playing 3 quarters after everyone has played 2, or 4 quarters after everyone has played 3)

Here is some additional advice from AYSO's John Ouellette. John is AYSO's top coach, wrote AYSO's soccer coaching curriculum, and got it accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education.

February 9, 2010

Question: "Now that we're playing with goalkeepers, I'm having a hard time convincing my players to take their turn in goal. What can I do?"

Answer:Young players might not want to take their turn in goal because they're intimidated about getting shot at, because they get bored during the lulls, or for the fear of public failure when the ball hits the net - or they are just plain afraid to play in goal.

Rotating goalkeepers frequently - a different keeper each quarter is optimal - is good for the players and makes it easier to convince them to take a turn, because they'll still be getting a good share of field play.

Stress to the keepers that it doesn't matter if they get scored on. Look them in the eyes with a smile and tell them, "Do your best, but no worries about getting scored on!"

During your practices, you can spend a little time letting players throw and catch. You can even play some team handball in spurts, which also works on teamwork and positioning for passes. These are fun activities and build their confidence to catch.

You might let them practice punting the ball in training. Kids seem to like punting and will look forward to doing it in a game. Punting also helps develop striking skills.

It's also good to let your goalkeepers take all the goal kicks. That's another thing kids like to do and could help encourage them to take their turn between the posts.

However, if a child is just plain afraid to play in the goal, don't force them to do it.

Finally, always greet your keepers quickly with a smile and high-five when they've finished their stint in goal.


Some comments about John's recommendations:
  • While John likes to rotate keepers every quarter, I find this logistically difficult and prefer to have each play a half unless a keeper is having a major issue.
  • At young ages, it is best to have 1 or 2 players cover the goal whenever a goal kick is taken because the ball can come back at the goal very quickly. The keeper should choose who takes the kick and direct the defense accordingly.

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