Throughout the season we have been able to work on a consistent good quality surface whatever the weather, one that is more forgiving when diving than the previous surface we used. Also it has allowed us the opportunity for the older age group to work in a full size goal which is obviously beneficial to them. Even down to simple matters like having a toilet right by the pitch and a large car park for parents has been of great benefit so I’m really pleased with how things have gone from that point of view.
This season has also seen the highest number of goalkeepers overall across the two groups that we have coached in 8 seasons so this has also been very pleasing that so many young goalkeepers want to develop in the local Swindon area. At this point I have to thank my coaching staff, Chippy who has been with me for a number of years now (he even asked about a pension scheme the other day!). Stuey has been with me a couple of seasons now and young Dan Wheeler has come onboard part the way through this season and has been a valuable and reliable addition to the team. Also we have seen a young former member of the Goalkeeping School, Connor Chivers come onboard for a spell to start learning the ropes of coaching which I am happy to encourage. So I would like to thank all my coaches who have braved the weather (claiming I miss the wet weather ones!) for all their efforts across the season.
Of the goalkeepers we have coached across the season I have also been pleased with how a lot of them have developed not just technical and tactical skills but good social skills and respect with many taking the time to shake the coaches hands at the end of the session and thank us, good life skill values that I feel are important. I would also compliment the young goalkeepers on their behaviour levels across the course of the season. It’s not been often we as coaching staff have had to give any of them the “Stern Glare”!
I would also like to thank all the parents for bringing their children, standing in the bad weather and their support for the Goalkeeping School in general.
Glove sales of the Pro Grip, Endeavour 1 and Endeavour 2 have gone well over the season with the Pro Grip still proving very popular and I will shortly have in stock 3 more gloves to add to the range.
As per usual we close down at the end of May (20th last session as following week is school half term) and re-open again in September so the goalkeepers and coaching staff can have a summer break.
At the time of writing it’s looking sadly unlikely that I will be able to do a two day course over the summer as I have done in the past. With getting to the League One Play Off Final at Wembley with Swindon Town that takes out that Bank Holiday weekend then I have two holidays booked in June and then I’ll be back in for pre-season in early July so it limits my time and also I do need some downtime myself to re-charge my batteries! If that situation changes or I can squeeze something in I will of course advise everybody via the website and my Goalkeeping School Facebook Page and email to my existing members.
On the matter of the League One Play Off Final it’s been a fantastic achievement to finish 4th in League one and get through the play offs to reach the final at Wembley. As most know, my background isn’t as a professional player myself; mine was a 20+ year non league playing background. I started my coaching pathway 8 years ago and have worked extremely hard each and every year to develop my coaching skills through my coaching badges, courses and watching other goalkeeping coaches and working alongside them. I constantly learn and constantly study the game further and particularly the art of goalkeeping. The professional game is not easy to break into, even at academy level so to break through to first team level is even harder! I have worked my socks off and put in countless hours to get to where I currently am and I work hard every day but I still consider myself fortunate to be in the position I am and I never take it for granted, that’s what drives me on. I still have aspirations to challenge myself further and go as far as I can so I won't stop working to better myself and therefore the goalkeepers I work with. Speaking to a former manager in the non league game I worked under at Wantage Town he said I should write a book titled “From Wantage to Wembley” which made me smile as it certainly has been a journey!
Having grown up as a Swindon Town fan as a kid and stood on the terraces over many years and having worked for the club for the past 8 years, getting to Wembley means so much to me from my being a fan perspective and from my professional coaching perspective. There are thousands of players, coaches, managers and fans who haven't and will never experience being part of a team walking out at Wembley so it’s like a dream come true. Obviously anyone watching the game the other night against Sheffield Utd will have gone through a roller coaster of emotions, imagine what that was like for us sat in the dugout! I can honestly say that when we went 3-0 up my mind started to drift imagining walking down the tunnel and out onto the hallowed turf. When they got within a goal of us I spent my time thinking about changing my pants!!
As most teams do who reach Wembley, we will experience a Wembley visit at some point to have a look around and it was great to celebrate getting to the final and having that feeling sink in over the past couple of days. HOWEVER we now start to focus on not just enjoying getting there, we all as a group want to go there and actually win promotion so between now and the 24th May that is what we will be gearing ourselves up to do.
From a goalkeeping perspective this stage of the season is about keeping the goalkeepers (Wes, Tyrell, Cameron and Connor) ticking over, the bulk of our work has been done throughout the season. We now focus on fine-tuning all aspects of their game, keeping them sharp but not overworking them physically as it’s been a long season with their bodies hitting the floor regularly all season round. The final will actually be Wes’s 50th game of the season!
I hope to maybe do a Wembley Blog after the final so watch this space......