I recently saw that Sir Trevor Brooking and the FA have started to look and make plans to re-develop youth football in this country and i'm glad. Its fantastic that so many young children play football but to start with at local level its just become far too competitive at too early an age. I've personally always wanted to win whatever game i'm playing be it football, cricket or a game of cards and i'm not saying its wrong to be competitive, far from it. However at such a young age up to I would say around 11 or 12 you look in the local paper and see all these league tables. Then you go down your local parks pitches and you see "Fabio Capello Wannabes" ranting and raving on the touchline screaming at these youngsters!! Now i'm not saying that all coaches and managers of Junior teams are like that as I know alot of people myself who run Junior teams that give their free time and do their best for the children. However I have seen situations myself at first hand, i've heard re-counts of situations from managers and coaches I know and my brother in law who is a referee has been on the end of abuse from some managers/coaches/parents and players all that desperate to win 3 points to see their team move up the table or win a league.
I repeat myself here "There are lots of good people running Junior sides giving up their free time to provide football for children"....However there are also alot of people who get an FA Level One coaching badge, which to be honest you can get with your next packet of Kellogs Coco-Pops. These people then proceed to use their team as a means to feed their own ego and are not so much interested in developing a young child as a footballer or as a person.
I have experienced on a few occasions now where I have sadly had a parent come to me and say that their child was giving up goalkeeping because of the stick they had taken for making a mistake or letting in some goals. Their confidence had been hit badly and one lad I know who I had alot of time for sadly gave up the game altogether which left me also feeling sad!
Being a goalkeeper is hard whether you are in your thirties and 50+ international caps behind you or whether you are just starting out at 6 or 7 years of age. Young players and particularly goalkeepers need our support to develop and flourish, they do not need to be put under so much pressure. GOALKEEPERS WILL MAKE MISTAKES that is a fact. Often those mistakes will then lead to a goal being conceded. What you gain in age and playing in many games is experience. That experience will come in the form of using your techniques of goalkeeping you have learn't but also then knowing what technique to use in different situations in a game and what the best option is.
I have two questions that any young goalkeeper or parent reading this needs to ask themselves when looking for a team to play for:
Do you or your son/daughter want to have a trophy cabinet at home brimming full of medals as your main priority?
If the answer to this question is "Yes" then go and find the best team in the league to play for. However...........
Do you or your son/daughter want to become the best goalkeeper you/they can possibly be?
If the answer to this question is "Yes" then find a team in the middle of the table or even at the bottom end of the table.
Why? You may ask.........because the way to learn is to be put in different situations frequently to help you apply the techniques that you learn and practise and understand when and why you use them. You will also learn to deal with the mental side to the game and become stronger for it. Playing for the top side you may hardly touch the ball and have very little to do so how can you develop and become better? Playing for the weaker side you will have more to do and will learn and improve by applying your techniqes time and time again and will learn to make more correct decisions than poor ones.
When I see a coach showing his/her anger and upset how his/her goalkeeper has cost their team a goal I always think to myself the following: Have you helped that goalkeeper in training in the week practising his/her skills? Before that shot has gone in, did his/her defenders work hard enough to stop the shot coming in? Were his/her team-mates marking the player properly who scored? Did his/her team-mates give the ball away easily allowing the opposition to get the shot in, in the first place? Its just so easy to just blame the poor young goalkeeper and then dent his/her confidence and make them more likely to make another mistake.
To be allowed to develop properly a young player needs to learn from mistakes they make. To do this they need to know that if they do make a mistake they are not going to get screamed at. That its ok to make a mistake, its not the end of the world and can they find another way of doing something or can they improve their technique through practise so that mistake doesn't happen again in the future.
One aspect of goalkeeping which I believe is the hardest is dealing with crosses. Its very easy for a goalkeeper to just stay on his/her line and hope that their defenders deal with them. However I encourage my goalkeepers to be positive and come and try and deal with as many as possible within reason. They are bound to make errors in judgement but I would rather they try and fail, then learn from that than hide away from it in the first place.
If you or your son/daughter is currently playing for a coach/manager who screams abuse or doesn't handle your situation in a caring and responsible manner. Who doesn't offer ways to help you improve, then I would suggest you are in the wrong club and you need to look elsewhere as there are plenty of good clubs/coaches and managers out there so much better to try that than just give up on goalkeeping or the game itself.