Decision Making Blog
There was recently a debate on Twitter amongst some coaches about whether goalkeeping coaches should be at games standing behind the goal coaching the goalkeeper through the game.
My own personal opinion on this matter is that the goalkeeping coach should be there to watch and observe the goalkeeper and maybe offer feedback during the half time break or if the game is broken into periods at the end of each period “If” there is a need to.
However during the actual match itself I personally feel apart from the occasional comment as a coach you should just let the goalkeeper play the game.
A huge part of the goalkeeper’s game is about making decisions and they have lots to make, here are just a few:
Do I need to dive?
Can I move my feet quickly to get to the ball?
Should I catch or parry or tip over?
Where should I try and parry to?
Do I get up and attack the ball if I don’t hold it or do I stay and protect the goal?
Do I come off my line and if so how far?
Do I dive at feet or do I try and stay big and block?
Do I wait for the kick to be taken and react or do I guess which way it will go (Penalty kick)?
Which way do I dive (Penalty kick)?
How many players do I want in my wall (Free Kick)?
Do I stay on my line or come for the cross?
Do I catch or do I punch/deflect?
Where do I punch to?
How high do I hold the line of my defence (Particularly free kicks from wide deep positions)?
When do I come (Ball swinging in or ball swinging away, driven or lofted)?
Should I throw it or kick it?
Should I volley/side volley or drop-kick?
Should I over-arm/javelin throw or roll out?
Who/where should I throw or kick to?
Do I pass it with the inside of my foot or do I drive this pass with my instep?
Do I loft this pass?
How much weight (power) do I put on this pass?
Should I take a touch or should I clear first time?
Should I side foot clear it or strike through it?
Have I got time to take a touch and pass out to keep possession?
Should I just clear the danger?
Where should I try and clear the danger to? (Attacker coming straight towards the goalkeeper)
Should I pass it short or should I look to play longer?
Which side of the body does my team-mate want to receive the ball on?
Does my team-mate want the pass to feet or into space in front of him?
As I said those are just a few of the decisions a goalkeeper has to make in the game so you can see they have a lot of crucial decsions to make.
If a goalkeeper makes a lot of bad decisions, the chances are it can result in a goal, far more so than the decisions made by the outfield players. Therefore the pressure is on the goalkeeper to make not only split second decisions but very good decisions!
If you as a coach / goalkeeping coach / parent stand behind their goal constantly telling him / her what to do how will that goalkeeper learn to make their own decisions and develop their decision making skills?
You have to be prepared to let them try for themselves and you also have to be patient and accept they will make mistakes when making those decisions. However, making mistakes is actually a very good learning tool as ultimately it is the chance for them to learn what to do or what not to do next time in that or a similar situation. You have to show the goalkeeper lots of support and try and concentrate on the positives and not the negatives as much to allow them to feel comfortable and not under constant pressure.
Dealing with crosses is one of the hardest aspects of goalkeeping in my opinion because there are so many variables (lofted, driven, curled in, curled away, pace of the ball, weather aspects i.e.: sun in eyes, rain, wind, pitch conditions i.e.: muddy, hard ground, icy ground, how many players in and around goalkeeper etc etc) meaning the goalkeeper has to take these things into consideration in a split second and decide if he/she is going to come for the cross and how they are going to deal with it.
I had a recent situation in a game with a young Academy goalkeeper when it came to dealing with crosses. I encourage young goalkeepers to be positive when it comes to dealing with crosses, not just stay on their line all the time and shy away from them. On this day the opposition goalkeeper was a very tall lad for his age so many would assume he would be dominant on crosses but he was in fact the opposite and one of the goals we scored he was rooted to the line when the ball was in a simple area for him to come and catch.
At the other end of the pitch our goalkeeper who was smaller made a really positive decision to come for a cross well outside his six yard box. Not only did he come he tried to catch rather than punch, another positive in my eyes. He got there but the ball unfortunately slipped from his grasp and a striker followed up to score. Far from being disappointed or upset with him as he trudged off at half time looking slightly despondent I expressed how pleased I was with him that he made that positive decision to try and deal with the cross and he would learn and benefit from it. Within ten minutes of the second half starting a free kick was lofted into the box and again he came out just on the edge of his six yard box, called confidently and amongst bodies rose well to catch the free kick and take the pressure off his back four. The smile on his face as he then cleared told its own story........
Where is the best place to watch your goalkeeper?
From a number of different angles, behind the goal, from the opposite end of the pitch, from the halfway line, from the side of the pitch level with his 18 yard box, I would suggest you mix it up to get different views of what they do. Standing behind the goal all the time will probably make the young goalkeeper feel like your eyes are on the back of his/her head constantly and make them feel under even more pressure. They need to feel more relaxed and to be able to make their decisions; you cannot play the game for them. Let them learn and let them flourish then be there to support and help them when they need it.