It’s been just over three weeks now since I took the decision to leave Swindon Town Football Club and join Forest Green Rovers Football Club. It was a very hard and sad decision to make having worked for the club for 9 years and being a fan on the terraces since childhood. It’s a strange time with Swindon having started back in training and me starting back in training this coming week, going into a new workplace after so long at the County Ground will be a strange feeling.
Obviously I wish Swindon Town well for the coming season and theirs will be the first result I look for. I’ll also be looking on as to how young Will Henry carries on his development. Will helped out at Steve Hale Goalkeeping School towards the end of last season and who knows I’m sure knowing the good person he is, will happily help me out again if required.
Also it goes without saying another reason I was sad to leave the club was not being able to carry on the development of Declan Lehmann who I worked with since U9. Having overcome his battle against cancer and having missed half a season through no fault of his own he now starts this season on an extended schoolboy contract which gives him a year to prove himself worthy of a full scholarship deal. What he and his family have gone through has been awful and they have my ultimate respect for facing those battles head on and coming through it the other side. I hope his pathway back to training and playing games is handled patiently and well for his benefit and I wish him all the best and will also keep my eye on how he’s getting along.
Moving on, as soon as I joined Forest Green Rovers I have been excited about the challenge that lays ahead of trying to help them get into the football league having only missed out via the play off final at Wembley in May. Anyone who knows me knows that there are no half measures with me, when I do something I throw everything into it. Therefore even though technically I was on holiday in June I straight away got stuck into the role by attending the clubs three youth trials sessions in a watching brief to see how they currently do things. I also started to plan pre-season for the professional goalkeepers.
That planning is not easy as you have to work out the days you particularly want hard physical outcomes from the goalkeepers and days where you are looking at more technical/tactical aspects and all of this around a hectic games programme of friendlies. Throw into the mix a mid July training camp in a hotter climate overseas where the sessions will have to be done early morning and/or late evening due to the heat, it can take a great deal of thought. This I don’t mind though as this planning is also part of one of my final theory assignments for the UEFA A GK Licence course, a journey I began at the start of last season. The early stages of this season will see me continue on the final leg of that journey with National FA assessors due to pay me a couple of visits to our training ground in Cirencester.
At Swindon, from U9 all the way through to the professionals I encouraged a very strong bond in the GK Union. I have deep beliefs in the goalkeepers working hard each day but also having some fun along the way and encouraging and supporting each other, through every age. Also having stood on the terraces myself I believe it’s important for the professional goalkeepers in particular to show their appreciation each game to the fans that pay their money to watch and travel all over the country doing so. These beliefs I will be looking to instil into a new group of goalkeepers I will be working with this season and I am looking forward to that challenge and trying to help get the club promoted.
We finished our 9th season of Steve Hale Goalkeeping School in May and our second at the great facilities of Kingsdown School and I’m delighted to say we have secured the same facility for a landmark season ahead. When we start back in September it will be the 10th season of Steve Hale Goalkeeping School, this is something I am extremely proud of!!
I have coached goalkeepers at professional level and academy level but I still also get a great deal of satisfaction in trying to help goalkeepers at the grassroots level of the game. Some have come out of my school and gone onto academy football and in Jared Thompson’s case onto international football. Some have shown such progress that they have won individual awards at their club sides and some get mentioned in the local newspaper for man of the match performances. Seeing the kids mix with people outside of the schools they go to and forming new friendships and developing their social and teamwork skills with a smile on their face also gives me huge satisfaction. Due to the limited time I have through my “day-job” generally I have only been able to put on one session a week on Wednesday evenings but over the 10 years we have helped over 350 goalkeepers which is fantastic and I’m looking forward to helping even more come September.
Over those 10 years I’d like to thank Luke Coxhead, James Whitlock (Chippy), Adam Miller, Paul Thompson, Mark Scott, Jamie Stephens, Callum Antell, Leigh Bedwell, Will Henry, Dave Lucas, Phil Smith, Tyrell Belford, Stuart Hutfield, Dan Wheeler and Connor Chivers who have all at some point helped out in terms of coaching or making a guest appearance (hope I haven’t forgotten anyone else!). Their support has and is much appreciated by me.
Finally just a reminder that my range of gloves (including a new one coming out shortly) and accessories (towels, water bottles, bags) are available for the new season ahead, so get ready for the start of the season!