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Monday, 24 March 2014 19:51

Grass Roots Goalkeeping Blog

At Swindon Town Academy we get plenty of emails from parents, grass roots coaches, and players themselves asking for trials and this includes goalkeepers.

Often these emails tell us how good this particular player is and for this blog I’ll obviously focus on the goalkeepers.

The big phrase that comes in on a goalkeeper will be, “Opposition managers are always praising our goalkeeper, he’s a good shot-stopper” and this always makes me smile. If he wasn’t a good shot-stopper I would wonder what he was doing in goal in the first place!?

Being a good shot-stopper is the minimum requirement really and we have to look beyond just that when we look at goalkeepers.

On our goalkeeping specific scout form which our scouts have to fill out are a number of aspects to look at:

Goalkeeper:

  • Handling
  • Dealing with Crosses
  • Shot-Stopping
  • Dead Ball Kicks
  • Kicking out of hands
  • Distribution Throwing
  • Dealing with back-passes
  • Positioning
  • Command of area
  • Sweeping
  • Coming off line
Tactical Ability:
  • Vision
  • Awareness
  • Starting Position
Character/Personality:
  • Confidence
  • Bravery
  • Leadership
  • Energetic
  • Risk Taker
  • Communication
  • Competitive
  • Presence
Physical Ability:
  • Agility
  • Reactions
  • Body Strengths

So although a goalkeeper making some saves will catch the eye of some people and obviously making saves is important I will also look at other areas when I go along to watch them.

I’m looking to see if the goalkeeper has some character and personality, does he say nothing in his goal area or does he give instructions and try and organise his team-mates. Does the goalkeeper call loudly for the ball when he wants it or give clear and loud instructions of "away" if he wants it to be cleared? 

At my goalkeeping school and within the Academy at Swindon I am frequently encouraging discussions amongst the goalkeepers as I want them to develop confidence talking, communicating, organising and analysing. These are skills that will stand them in good stead off the pitch in general life as well as on it and therefore very important for their development.

Dealing with crosses is in my opinion the hardest part of the game and a very difficult area for a young goalkeeper and I only tend to look deeper into this in the 13-18 age brackets rather than the 9-12’s. I’m looking for positive decisions on when to come for a cross, do they want to dominate their area or are they afraid of these situations.

When the goalkeeper distributes the ball does he just rush and kick it anywhere or does he try and play out from the back or if he is kicking longer is he looking for a particular player or a good area of the pitch on a consistent basis or is he just kicking it aimlessly.

I understand in grass roots football there are a wide mix of ability and pitches maybe not the best but when I go to watch some games and I see the ball just smashed down the field constantly it does sadden me. Results aren’t the be all and end all, neither are league tables, developing young footballers is for me the main priority in youth football. Having players that can play out from the back with the ball and at times go a little longer gives them a better all-round education. This allows them to play in different styles and not be one-dimensional therefore able to cope with the different situations and tactical systems a game throws up. This starts with the goalkeeper, he may have gloves on and a different coloured jersey but he is still a player and needs to be able to use his feet well and confidently.

In fact over a 20 game period with the Swindon Town Youth Team (Under 18 Scholars) one of our scholar goalkeepers in those 20 games made 74 saves but over those 20 games he also distributed the ball 848 times proving how important good distribution skills really are.

Often when a goalkeeper comes in on trial from grass roots football, this is the area they find hardest to adjust to, going from just kicking it up the pitch to actually passing it out to a team-mate and receiving it back and maybe switching the play.

An extension of this is also the goalkeepers “Start” position and what I mean by this is his position on the pitch in relation to where the ball is. If the ball is deep in the opposition half he should be on the edge of his box as a minimum, maybe even slightly further depending on age/pitch size and physical capabilities of him and the other players on the pitch. Also he needs to be in line with the ball and his goal. Then as the ball works its way up the pitch he adjusts his position gradually back until the ball is in such an area that a shot or cross may come in and he has to be in a comfortable and appropriate position to deal with this. This will allow the goalkeeper to be able to deal with through balls behind his back line and also be closer to his back line to communicate to and organise. Too often I see a goalkeeper just stood still inside their 6 yard box in the middle, wherever the ball is on the pitch and not really active or switched on to the game.

The modern goalkeeper needs to be a “Sweeper-Keeper” and probably the best example of this is Hugo Lloris at Spurs who is very positive with his “Start” positions.

Shot-stopping is of course important and I look at how much determination the goalkeeper has to stop the opposition scoring but it’s important for coaches / parents / players to look at the other aspects of a goalkeepers game and try and develop this to help them become a better all-round goalkeeper.

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