A New Season Ahead Blog
It doesn't take long does it, one season finishes and a new one is nearly upon us already!
June has been a manic month for me personally, but ultimately a very rewarding one which I have enjoyed immensely. Obviously at the end of May I was given a contract to increase my part time role at Swindon Town to full time as academy goalkeeping coach under the new academy category 3 status scheme brought in through the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan). This of course was fantastic news and this allowed me to relax and enjoy another big occasion on the 2nd June..........getting married to a fantastic lady! We had a truly brilliant day with friends and family and it was great to see a few goalkeepers I have coached attend, especially Jamie Stephens and his girlfriend Sophia who made the effort to come down from Liverpool where he is now plying his trade. The next day we jetted off to the Maldives and spent a week relaxing in the hot sun on a remote island in the Indian Ocean which was like paradise! Now you would of thought in a place like this it would be a complete break from the football world..............not for me though! There happened to be a 3G full size pitch in the middle of the island which the staff trained and played games on! Before you are worried that this may have caused an early divorce, it couldn't be further from the truth as my lovely wife had no problem at all allowing me to watch some of the sessions. In fact on the last day there was a "Staff v Guests" game which she encouraged me to play in but I declined as it was so hot and I didn't want to end a glorious honeymoon in the air ambulance knowing my luck! I did while there actually have my picture taken with a couple of the goalkeepers that were training there much to their bafflement and my amusement (mad englishman they must of thought!)
On returning to England I last week had an operation I had been thinking about for about the last 10 years, no not a Wayne Rooney hair transplant before the wisecracks start! I have worn contact lenses and glasses (occasionally) for a number of years now but certainly over the last few years I have picked up a few eye infections which has mean't not being able to wear my lenses, with eye drops curing the problem in about a week. This became more frequent and was hugely annoying and frustrating as trying to coach in glasses is difficult to say the least, especially in the poor english weather! It also just doesn't seem right coaching goalkeepers in glasses and a few jokes certainly came my way at times! Therefore with the increasing improved science when it comes to eye laser surgery I felt more confident in the modern treatments based on my own research and from speaking to two friends of my wife who had received the treatment. I had the short operation last Friday and although I have to be careful and take things steady with my recovery which i'm doing generally, my eyesight is now as i'm told by the surgeon 20/20 so i'm very pleased with how things are progressing on this front.
As if all of the above hasn't been pleasing enough, only this weekend some further great news has broken and which I have revealed on the front page of my website. Just after a year of setting up my goalkeeping school an 8 year old boy called Jared and his older brother Conor joined. Jared was very small as you can imagine at that age but straight away you could see he loved being in goal and demanding that people took shots at him. You could tell he particularly saw it as a challenge to stop the bigger goalkeepers scoring against him and the raw potential was there to see. In the space of a year he had joined me at Swindon Town and for the past 4 years I have coached him in the Centre of Excellence. As stated on the front page he has developed and grown as a goalkeeper and as a person. In fact if you look at the two pictures you will see him in 2010 and the next picture stood next to me was earlier this year and you can see how much he has grown physically, he is nearly as tall as me and he is only 13! This past 12-18 months Jared has really come on well and particularly his distribution has got better and better and his performances have become more consistent. As soon as you get a good tall goalkeeper (every club is after them!) scouts come sniffing and this proved the case with Jared and Chelsea, Southampton and Manchester Utd expressed their interest. A deal has been reached with Swindon and Jared this weekend just gone signed his contract with the European champions. This is a fantastic opportunity for Jared to develop even further and an exciting time for him and his family. It makes me very proud that he started out in Steve Hale Goalkeeping School, made progression to Swindon and now onto Chelsea. For any young goalkeeper or parent reading my website and this blog, it doesn't mean everyone will have this type of progression but it does show what is possible with hard work allied to ability. Having ability alone is not enough and there are many players who have never made it to a good standard because they thought ability alone would get them there. I cannot stress enough that "HARD WORK" is a huge ingredient if you want to be successful in any walk of life, not just goalkeeping or football. Jared is a role model and an example to all young goalkeepers why they should work hard, practice and listen to their coaches and see where this can take them. I wish Jared all the very best for the future and look forward to keeping an eye on how he progresses at Chelsea.
Somebody else stepping up with a Steve Hale Goalkeeping School connection is my trusted assistant Chippy (James Whitlock). Chippy, although approaching veteran status at 36 (37 in September) still plays local football as well as helping me with coaching in my goalkeeping school. Last season he also did some sessions for Hellenic Premier side Fairford Town (the fact they got relegated was nothing to do with his coaching I want to add! hahaha) This season ahead he is still likely to play, but he will also be doing some of the goalkeeping coaching at Evo Stik South & West side Swindon Supermarine. I am pleased for Chippy and I think it will help enchance his coaching experience dealing with senior goalkeepers in a Southern League club so good luck to him.
Only one week to go now till we start back in for Pre Season with the scholars at Swindon and I can't wait (especially as its not me doing the hard physical work!) Whether its Swindon or in the non league game where I have coached, I don't actually mind the goalkeepers doing the first week with the outfield players as its good to see their character and how they handle the workload in terms of their physical and mental strength. However after that first week I do like to get the goalkeepers to myself as much as possible and start working on their "goalkeeping fitness" which differs to that of an outfield player and therefore needs different work to an outfield player.
Outfield players do alot of aeorobic work such as distance running to build up stamina wheras goalkeepers need a bigger proportion of anaerobic work which is harder work in short bursts as goalkeeping is generally a mixture of explosive movements. Often outfield players may look over and give the goalkeepers some stick about how they have it easy when they see them resting but I can assure you the short bursts of work they do have to do are physically demanding and hard on the body!
Tonight (Monday 25th) we have our first session at Swindon with our squad which will be competing in the Milk Cup tournament in Northern Ireland in the middle of July. Its a brilliant tournament and a fantastic learning experience both on and off the pitch for the players. Its a very well supported tournament and this brings pressure for the players so its interesting to see how they handle this as our regular games programme at Swindon is more about development rather than results wheras tournament football is more about results. It is a good standard of opposition and this year in our third game we face Premiership giants Liverpool which will be a great test for the lads.
Despite my increased role at Swindon Town I have no intention of closing my goalkeeping school despite my increased work load. Not only do I thoroughly enjoy trying to develop and improve grass roots goalkeepers it also acts as a development centre whereby I can keep an eye on potential recruits for our academy at Swindon. I have since setting up held regular Monday evening sessions and I still intend to hold one evening session per week. What I don't know 100% at this stage today is whether that will continue to be on a Monday or whether I may need to move it to another evening, maybe a Wednesday. Once I am back in at Swindon and I have discussed and organised my schedule with the Academy manager I will then be in a position to make that decision. Once I know I will straight away get this advertised on this website and let existing goalkeepers in my school know.
Each year I always put on a two day course in the summer months which has always proved a great success and I have been asked by a few parents already about this. Unfortunately at this moment in time I cannot say yet whether this will happen and if im honest this is looking unlikely at this stage for a few reasons. Obviously with my wedding and honeymoon this took out some of my time but also I have been struggling to find a suitable venue. Most places have been unavailable due to ground maintenance work being carried out to get their pitches ready for the next season. On top of all this as already stated I am not 100% sure of my exact timetable with Swindon just yet so again I will take this decision shortly and update my wesbite with details.
Thats all for now folks!