Coaching Style Blog
Many years ago there was no such thing as a goalkeeper coach. Goalkeepers were made to train with the outfield players or do a bit on their own but over the years gradually at first this started to change. At some levels there is still nowhere near enough attention paid to our goalkeepers but there has been improvements and nowadays there are specialised goalkeeper coaches around all with their own styles.
There are plenty of aspects to consider when coaching goalkeepers. General handling, footwork, shot-stopping, diving techniques, positioning, 1v1's, dealing with crosses, dealing with back-passes, distribution (throwing & kicking), recovery saves, communication to name some of the areas that goalkeepers need to be aware of and work at. When you break each area down you then look at ways to coach and practise those techniques to give the information and technique to the goalkeepers and to re-inforce it by visiting each topic regularly.
In this modern era as coaches we all strive to try and keep our sessions interesting and fun at the same time which is important to keep the focus of the goalkeeper. However I do think there is a fine line between being innovative and making things unrealistic. You may find an old school goalkeeping coach who is happy with just a ball and a goal and a modern goalkeeping coach who has to have every little tool and gimmick going such as rebounder nets, response balls, poles, ladders, hurdles, and every toy going. Personally I feel that I am somewhere in the middle. One very experienced goalkeeping coach who I have worked with and have a lot of respect for said to me one day when talking about a goalkeeper working on a speed ladder "I can't remember seeing many ladders laying round the 18 yard box when that whistle blows!" I did laugh when he said that and I understood what he mean't but at the same time I also understand that the speed ladder is to work the goalkeeper to improve his quick feet movements. Going to the other end of the spectrum I think sometimes some coaches use so many tools and gimmicks and lose sight of the basics. I've tried a few bits of equipment such as a response ball (which is a ball with small soft triangle like shapes sticking out of it at various points) which is designed to travel and bounce off in awkward angles to replicate deflections. Some of the young kids find that fun to have a play with but personally I just don't find it very realistic and at times if it catches them in the face it can be uncomfortable for them, not dangerous I should add before I get sued by the makers but certainly uncomfortable so it hardly builds their confidence.
I try to work on themes of goalkeeping and use different drills as much as I can to get that particular theme across but you cannot re-invent the wheel! Often I like to go back to the basics and have a bag of balls and either serve them at a goalkeeper in goal or let the goalkeepers do the serving and stand back and observe and step in and try and help correct errors. Depending on the age and / or level of the goalkeepers you are working with serving can be a problem. In an ideal world someone else should be doing the serving so that you as a coach can fully observe the goalkeeper all through the process making sure they are getting into line, how far off the line they are, what their set position is like then what method of technique they use to make the save. However more often than not you have to do the serving yourself to get the quality of serve that is needed for the goalkeepers to make the saves. Its pointless observing if your goalkeeper faces 20 shots and only 1 is on target!
I read one article by a well known goalkeeping coach on the circuit about how more often than not the ball should be moving when serving such as a ball coming across the server, moving away or serving on the move as apart from free kicks and penalties most shots aren't struck from a stationary position and I thought that was a great point. I agree with that point but also its not always easy to replicate it especially if you are working on a muddy bobbly surface and you want to ensure good accuracy. However I have tried to bring that more into my sessions over the last 6 months when I can.
I feel its important to break down different technique work and work on it regularly as in house building terms its the "foundations" of goalkeeping you are building. At the same time certainly over the past 6 months I have also tried to concentrate time to quite simply having shots come in from different distances, different angles and with different degrees of pace on the ball for the goalkeepers to ultimately work on what they are there to do "keep the ball out of the goal"!
In closing, I do not think there is a definitive right or wrong way to coach goalkeepers, I just think there are different ways and we all have a different style and people learn in different ways. The key to it is finding what works for you and most importantly what works for the goalkeepers you are working with to help them improve.