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Steve's Blog

Saturday, 12 May 2012 15:43

Nearly The End Blog

Nearly The End Blog

I try to generally update my blog roughly once a month but its been a while since my last one so there are a few things to catch up on.


The title of this blog is not me predicting the end of the world don't panic, but merely that we are coming to the end of another long season. From my point of view in some ways it certainly has felt like a long season. At Cirencester Town in the Evo Stik Southern league Premier Division where I have been goalkeeping coach for the past two and a half seasons this season has certainly been the hardest I have experienced in all my time in football spanning back around 30 years! After a good first season back in the Prem last time round it was hoped to build on it this time round. Losing goalkeeper Matty Bulman in the summer though to Forest Green was good from a personal point of view but a massive blow from a team point of view. Obviously having had a season working with him I was pleased for him earning himself a two year deal back in the professional game. Bully deserved it after having a great season at Cirencester but from a team point of view it was a big loss. I tipped the gaffa off about Bristol based Danny Greaves and helped persuade him to make the move to Cirencester and he was in superb form in pre season and I felt he also could earn the right to go higher in the game again (he was at Bristol Rovers as a youngster). Unfortunately for Danny as a team our defending was woeful at times and although Danny would be the first to admit he could of done better on a couple of goals, generally I felt sorry for Danny as he was left exposed time and time again and couldn't prevent the goals and defeats that followed. During this time Danny was also struggling with an injury and trying to play through it so as to not let anyone down but that coupled with the goals conceded made it a tough time for him. Eventually, with his wife expecting twins he decided to take a break from football and left the club. I still maintain however that once Danny gets back playing regularly, someone will have a very good goalkeeper on their books!


At this time I stressed that it wasn't going to matter who we had in goal, Danny, Joe Hart or Casillas we needed to sort out what was going on in front of the goalkeeper or the goals would continue to fly in. Unfortunately I was proved right and over the course of the season we used 5 different goalkeepers, Danny, Mike Green and Kev Sawyer both excellent goalkeepers at this level and youngsters Charles Steward and Mike Hedges who were thrown in at the deep end a little. All credit to young Mike in the second half of the season, coming out of the Development team he really came of age and turned in some excellent performances which will stand him in good stead for the future, and a bright one I feel he has in the Non league game. After having worked all season with Bully the season before that was great as you built up your routines and a relationship and things worked well. This time round it was hard going because as soon as I felt like a routine and relationship was building that goalkeeper left and the next one came in. I enjoyed my time working with all of the goalkeepers and they all worked hard in training and performed well in games, I just wished they could of stayed longer! In February I decided to step down from my role, I won't go into the reasons why but I decided I had, had enough and sadly the team were eventually relegated.


Just recently at Swindon Town I have savoured some really good moments, not just because of the success the first team have had but because of the situations of two young goalkeepers. Firstly as already talked about on my website young Oli Whiteley who has been in my goalkeeping school this season earned a Centre of Excellence contract for next season. He's a real "Cheeky Chappy" character with alot of potential and sitting in the stands at the County Ground, watching him sign his contract on the pitch at half time during a first team game, with Paul Bodin (Youth Team Manager) it was fantastic to see his smiling face and his enthusiasm shine through. Thankfully I will continue to work with him at Swindon and hopefully help him to realise and develop his potential.


Secondly even better news was when second year scholar Leigh Bedwell was awarded his first professional contract with the club. Leigh started in the system at under 9's and I joined the club and started working with him at Under 14 level and have worked with him and seen him develop through to scholar and now pro. I cannot sing his praises highly enough as he has shown such a great work ethic, committment and desire hardly ever missing a session or game. He would be last off the training pitch and would often do extra and I still remember doing some sessions with him in the Summer months and off season such was his desire to learn and improve. During all this time his Dad has driven him all over the place and supported him.  Also he has stayed in the background and let Leigh get on with it without ever being a "pushy parent" and as a coach he made life easy for me and was always a pleasure to deal and communicate with. On the day Leigh was to be told his fate at Swindon I was probably as nervous, apprehensive and excited at the same time as Leigh's proud Dad! I kept texting him asking if he had been told yet. When we spoke and he told me he had been taken on I don't mind admitting I was like a kid at christmas as I was so pleased that he had got what he had worked so hard for. Obviously Leigh now has to build on all that hard work and next season won't be easy for him as he has to adjust to the training in the senior environment. Also with no official reserve team finding game time will be crucial. Of course you can learn from being coached and training each day, that goes without saying, but you learn so much by playing games and for Leigh to continue to improve he will need this. I personally would like to see him have a good pre season with the squad and then go out on loan at Southern League level. There he will be in an environment where 3 points are at stake, playing on a range of different standard pitches against men who have grafted throughout the day in their day jobs and just want to win a game of football. He will experience balls being delivered into his box and have to compete for crosses with big target men or brutes of centre halves up for set pieces and this will toughen him up and help him develop. I certainly look forward to seeing how he progresses over the next twelve months as he tries to earn that second pro contract which is often harder than getting the first. If anyone will work hard to do that it will be Leigh!


Over the course of the season in my goalkeeping school the numbers of goalkeepers in both my age groups have fluctuated for the first time in 5 seasons. There are a number of reasons for this including some teams having their training nights on a Monday now preventing some goalkeepers coming to my Monday sessions. There are also numerous other activities out there in this day and age for children to do and of course in the current economic climate money is understandably tight for parents. Normally there is a higher turnover of goalkeepers in my younger group than my older group as at such a young age their attention span is shorter and some aren't really sure if they want to be a goalkeeper or a striker! However after a concern mid season i'm pleased to say my numbers are back up and I feel we have just the right balance in each group. Also having Dan Callaghan come onboard to join me and Chippy has been a great help. I coached Dan at the Centre of Excellence previously and now he is starting to get involved in coaching and I am more than happy to help him along the way as like Leigh Bedwell, Dan has a great attitude and work ethic and is a nice lad also. The kids have taken to Dan and we will continue to help him and encourage him on his coaching pathway.


I am very lucky that I work with both the goalkeepers at Swindon and my goalkeeping school as I enjoy seeing and helping goalkeepers at all levels of the game develop and improve and ultimately enjoy playing in goal. We are now into the last month before we close for the summer break which I do every year. This gives the children and their parents the chance to put their feet up and also me and Chippy!! Working hard is important but also knowing when to switch off and relax is as well and helps keep the body and mind fresh and enthusiastic. After 12 weeks off we will be opening up again and I am also still hopeful of running a two day course as I do each year in the Summer, though I am still searching for an appropriate venue. I am also looking into the possibility of opening up a session in the North Wiltshire area next season on another night and am currently looking at venues and logistics so watch this space.


After being let down on delivery times and some other customer service issues by my last supplier for my own branded goalkeeping glove, I have been in talks with a new supplier. We have between us designed a new glove, a sample has been made and I am currently testing this glove out personally.  I have to say I am very excited about it and feel this could be the best one yet, so again watch this space for further news......


Well thats all for now folks, its been good to catch up!



Friday, 09 March 2012 17:17

Coach Education Blog

Coach Education Blog

I am currently in the middle of the process to become an FA Tutor for the Level One Goalkeeping Award. When I did my Goalkeeping B Licence, Martin Thomas (Assistant National Goalkeeping Coach) and Tony Parks (Tottenham Goalkeeping Coach) were two of my tutors and they spoke to me towards the end about also going down the route of Coach Education and asked if I would be interested to which I was. Martin kindly organized to put me through my Generic Tutors course (classroom based course on how people learn) to start with. Now I have had to observe a level One GK Award course being done and I am currently part tutoring one down in Bristol and will probably have to do another then put one on myself and be assessed before I can be signed off.


Over the two Level One GK award courses I have been involved on so far it’s great to meet all the wide range of candidates who come on the courses. Goalkeepers have been neglected for far too long so its good that people are now showing an interest and want to have more knowledge on the subject to pass on to our young goalkeepers. Obviously the level one course is the starting point and gives knowledge on some of the basic techniques but importantly there is a focus on the safety issues which are involved such as how to dive in a safe manner. It’s important that our young goalkeepers aren’t put off goalkeeping at an early age by hurting themselves and therefore a coach needs to be able to give the correct advice.


I have seen in the past myself at various football facilities where grass roots clubs have been training and seen some worrying sights of so called “coaches” or parents taking the goalkeeper and not giving good advice or information to the young goalkeepers which could potentially cause injury. As I said, on these courses you get a real mix of candidate from a parent who just wants to help his son / daughter,  a person who wants to work through all his coaching badges and gain lots of knowledge and finally the ex-pro who is starting out on his now career pathway of coaching for a living.


Even if you have no intention of giving up your day job or wanting to be a specific goalkeeping coach I would recommend going on a course to gain that knowledge to help our young goalkeepers develop. If you have any involvement in a team, be it as a helper or parent it is worthwhile.


The course I must stress is different to the Level One outfield award which is just basically an organizers course whereby you learn different games to play, set them up and let them get on with it. This course actually involves learning coaching, in other words, identifying a fault and trying to correct it and improve the goalkeeper.



In May I am also attending a one day course with the FA to refresh my Goalkeeping B licence award which has to be done every three years to keep my licence valid so I’m looking forward to that. Then at the end of June I will be attending the week long FA Goalkeeping A Licence award course.


The way the system is in this country means you have to complete the relevant outfield course before you can do the goalkeeping course. You can do the Level one GK course and not do the outfield one but after that you have to go Level Two outfield – Level Two goalkeeping, Level Three outfield (B Licence) – Level Three goalkeeping (GK B Licence), Level Four outfield (A Licence) – Level Four goalkeeping (GK A Licence). It is not something I totally agree with to be honest but that is the route, so we have to abide by it. The reason behind it the FA say is because you have to have some outfield knowledge as this crosses over with what the goalkeeper does. I do agree with that but certainly when you get to outfield B Licence I think you have enough knowledge to then go straight to GK A Licence. What annoys me if that’s the case though is that why don’t outfield coaches have to do the goalkeeping courses?


I was unable to get on the outfield A Licence course last year as it was oversubscribed and I am unable to get on it this year for various reasons but I have been allowed to go on the goalkeeping A Licence course; however I cannot be assessed at the end of the course. Obviously I would like to be but I am going on it to at least get the knowledge from the course and therefore develop myself as a coach.



A year ago I put on a “Coach the Coaches” course in the summer for local grass roots coaches and managers. This is something I want to do again and I may well do one central one or I am willing to go out to grass roots clubs who have at least a few teams under their banner.

I can help the coaches/managers/parents of these teams with ideas on how they can help their goalkeepers develop, give them information on the safety aspects and also go through some of the techniques and pointers where young goalkeepers often struggle and how they can help. If you are reading this blog and are involved in a club feel free to contact me to discuss.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 15:29

Gloves Blog

Gloves Blog

I have noticed lately with young goalkeepers at both my goalkeeping school and at the Centre of Excellence at Swindon where I coach that a few have been wearing seriously worn goalkeeping gloves, some with virtually no grip left on them. I have also noticed a couple of young goalkeepers with gloves that are perhaps too big for them.


Certainly gloves have in the past been very expensive, I know I used to pay between £40-50 for a pair of Sells gloves but nowadays every man and his dog are producing their own branded glove and this has brought the price down. I have my own branded glove and let me state that the topic of this blog is in no way a plug to get people to buy my gloves. I am not into "hard sell" as some are out there in the market place. Mine are readily available to purchase but I do not force them upon people, everybody has a choice and if they want to purchase mine, thats great.


The main reason for this topic of blog is that I feel it is important that each goalkeeper gives themself the best chance to to develop and improve and having a good pair of gloves will certainly help. "We used to play without gloves!!" will come the cry from past goalkeepers from the Seventies i'm sure but time and science has moved on particularly with regard the make up of the modern football used these days. Many have a shiny plastic like coating to them which when dry is hard enough to grip but when wet is like trying to catch the proverbial "bar of soap". Learning the correct techniques to catch the ball is clearly very important but a good pair of gloves will also help as they are the "tools of the trade" for a goalkeeper.


What size gloves should a goalkeeper wear? The glove needs to fit comfortably, it won't help if they are too tight and it certainly won't help if they are too big and your hands are flopping about inside them. As you get older you get to know what size gloves you are generally although different brands and styles can fit slightly differently. With regard a young goalkeeper its a case of trying a few pairs on to see what fits best and obviously kids grow quite fast so hand size can obviously change fairly quickly as well.


What style of glove should a goalkeeper wear? I get asked that question and often get asked whether a young goalkeeper should wear "fingersave gloves." These are gloves which have plastic inserts in the back of the gloves along the fingers which give support to the fingers. You can get "flat palm" style gloves, "negative cut" style gloves and "roll finger" style gloves. The honest answer is that it is purely down to what the goalkeeper feels comfortable in, there is no right or wrong. I would advise over a period of time trying a few different styles until you decide what you feel most happy with. My own personal opinion is that I don't like "fingersave gloves" as I feel it restricts my hand movement and doesn't feel comfortable and I have my doubts that it would really stop you injuring a finger. My own personal choice is a "roll finger style" as this is what feels comfortable for me and pretty much always has done and I feel that I have a good grip on the ball with these.


How much should I pay? Again this will come down to your choice or perhaps how much you can actually afford! Some gloves go up to as much as £100 a pair but I find that absolutely ludicrous and cannot see how anyone can justify selling gloves at that price or justify buying them for that matter. I feel that with the amount of people out there now producing and selling gloves you would reasonably expect to pay between £15 & £30 for a pair.


How long will the gloves last? This will depend on many factors:-


Firstly as I said there are many brands out there, though a big proportion of those brands will be buying from similar if not the same manufacturers with a big percentage of them coming from companies in Pakistan.


How often the gloves are worn will play a part as if you use them 3-4 times a week they will obviously deteriorate quicker than if used only once or twice a week. What type of pitches you use them on can play a part, be it muddy, hard, astro turf or the latest 3G surfaces as often when a goalkeeper has made a diving save and he gets up he may well push off the floor to get back up and this will produce wear & tear.


My advice would be to have a couple of pairs on the go at any one time so one pair as your best for matches and one pair for training. Then when the ones you use for training start to get bad, throw them away and start using your match gloves and buy a new pair for matches and keep repeating that cycle.


When you have used your gloves either for a match or for training its important that you then clean them as this will also have an affect on both performance of the gloves and how long they last. If you don't wash them the mud will dry on the glove and this will dry out the latex and reduce the quality of the grip and length of life of the gloves. My advice is against putting them in the washing machine as the chemicals used in washing powder will also harm the latex. I also advise against drying them in an airing cupboard, tumble dryer or on a radiator as this will also dry out the latex and affect quality of grip, performance and length of life of the gloves.


Over the years I have always done the following: Purchase some goalkeeping glove wash which you can get from between £7 - £9 per bottle from www.just-keepers.com. Fill a sink half full with warm water with a small amount of the glove wash and allow the gloves to soak in this for 5-10 minutes. Then I use an old tooth brush which has gone soft and I brush the dirt from the gloves with this. Next I rinse the gloves out thoroughly with cold water and squeeze firmly but not too hard to get the excess water out. I then lay them on an old towel in the corner of the room out of direct sunlight and allow them to dry naturally. This has always been the process I have used and its worked for me.


To repeat what I stated earlier its obviously important to learn the various goalkeeping techniques and how to catch the ball but having a pair of gloves that aren't worn through with no grip left and holes everywhere will certainly help.


Thursday, 29 December 2011 14:09

Coaching Schemes Blog

Coaching Schemes Blog

Hopefully everyone has had a good Christmas, I certainly have as my waistline keeps telling me! It's been nice to have a short break from virtually all of my various coaching commitments with just one private one-to-one session taken on and a couple of Cirencester Town games in the last week or so. As much as I enjoy coaching it's nice to have a little break now and then and the same goes for goalkeepers who play and train throughout the year. The break is good both physically and mentally and i'm sure we will all be buzzing to get back into it in the new year.


Through both the Internet and through social media such as Facebook I look at all the various goalkeeping coaching schemes that go on across the whole country and overseas. It's interesting to look at how people run their schemes, how they advertise, how they structure their sessions or courses, what their background is etc. Again through Facebook I have networked and built up a number of friendships across the country and abroad with fellow goalkeeping coaches and its clear to see how we all have a real passion for goalkeeping and how to help goalkeepers develop. Many of us have different ideas and its good to discuss those ideas and our own opinions.


It must be quite tough at times for parents when looking for goalkeeping coaching for their children as to who and where to take them as there are more and more companies or individual coaches setting up. There are coaches that have more coaching badges than an episode of Blue Peter, there are ex-professionals that don't have any coaching qualifications but who work from their own past experiences and there are coaches who maybe advertise qualifications without perhaps actually having completed those qualifications and been signed off as such by the FA. There are also coaches out there who are still fresh out of nappies themselves and have gained just an FA Level One outfield coaching badge which to be quite honest anyone can get as there is no actual coaching as such involved on that course. These types of coaches often don't have the experience or social / life skills required to be able to actually "coach" and help a goalkeeper develop and are merely "childminders" for want of a better word.


It's perhaps not really for me to say what is right and what's wrong and who is good and who is bad as we are all different. I wouldn't criticise ex-professionals who don't have any or perhaps just limited coaching qualifications as obviously they have good experience from their own playing career behind them. They will have worked with top coaches and will have knowledge about goalkeeping through their own experiences in the game so can help goalkeepers develop by passing that on. However the flip side to that is that it is one thing to know how to do something yourself but it is another to be able to get that knowledge across to someone else as everybody learns in different ways. Former England midfielder Chris Waddle was once asked on a coaching course "how he bent the ball so well" and he couldn't actually explain it to someone else he just replied "I don't know I just do it".....


The good thing about the various courses and qualifications you can do these days with the various Football Associations is that they can help you get the information across in different ways to be able to help players / goalkeepers understand and develop so there is also alot to be said for gaining qualifications. Would you employ an electrician to re-wire your house who didn't have the necessary qualifications??? Having said all of that at the same time perhaps there are people out there who are very good at learning and passing courses but don't really have an understanding of the art of goalkeeping so like I said previously perhaps there is not a right and a wrong way but a different way.


I don't see it as my place to try and belittle others out there in the marketplace, I prefer to concentrate on what I and Steve Hale Goalkeeping School offer with our background.


I personally am not an ex-professional with hundreds of league games under my belt but I have played in goal from 6 years of age through to about 20 + years in the non league game so understand what a goalkeeper does and what a goalkeeper goes through mentally. I have also studied hard over the years gaining various coaching qualifications both outfield and goalkeeping qualifications. On top of this I have also worked in a college environment and also for the past 5 years worked part-time in a primary school so I have built up my knowledge of what makes children "tick" and how they learn. Therefore overall I have dealt with and coached 6 year old children right the way through in both grass roots and professional football (Centre of Excellence), to adults in both non league football and through my position at Swindon Town been fortunate enough to have some experience with full time professionals so regard myself as a "well rounded coach" (and i'm not referring back to my waist-line again!). My assistant, James Whitlock (Chippy) has also played in goal for many years and is still playing now in local football. James has also started working his way through coaching qualifications and is also running a boys team. Along with this he has children of his own so again he also has alot of experience and knowledge to give.


Steve Hale Goalkeeping School has been established for five years now so we have coached hundreds of children along the way, all of whom have been different in terms of their technical ability, physical ability and mental ability. I pride myself in that we try and cater for all and our main priority is trying to help goalkeepers develop both in terms of their goalkeeping ability but also we want them to improve and work on their social skills at our sessions which is also very important in life.


I would like to finish by thanking all of the young goalkeepers and parents that have been involved at my goalkeeping school and who are currently involved, for their efforts in 2011 and like to wish everybody a Happy New Year and an enjoyable 2012 ahead!






Thursday, 24 November 2011 00:00

General Blog

General Blog

The cold weather is now upon us and I don't mind admitting I don't like it! Out has come my beanie hat and my under armour top and leggings. Obviously i'm not the one diving, jumping and generally moving around the training pitch in short sharp intensive bursts so I get colder quicker than the goalkeepers themselves. However it is important for any young goalkeeper in particular to dress according to the conditions. Unlike outfield players who generally will be running and on the go alot of the time during a session, goalkeeping work is slightly different. Goalkeeping is more about short sharp intensive bursts of work and as much as you can do as a coach to keep the goalkeepers active there will be times where rest is needed between drills and a bit of standing still. Therefore it is important that goalkeepers wear clothing that allows them to move freely but also keeps them warm and dry if possible.


With my position as Centre of Excellence Goalkeeping Coach at Swindon Town not only do I coach and look after the goalkeepers there but I can also keep my eye on grass roots goalkeepers with my goalkeeping school. If I feel that goalkeepers at my goalkeeping school are showing good potential and we are maybe light at Swindon at that particular age group I am more than happy to then bring them into Swindon for a further look. At times in the past it has actually cost me as I lose a monthly fee from a regular goalkeeper who we may actually take on and can no longer attend my school. However I don't mind that as my role is to help goalkeepers develop and if I can improve a goalkeeper and push him / her onto the next level then great, job done.


When I first setup my goalkeeping school some five years ago one of my first students was Conor Thompson. Conor is now a first year scholar at Swindon and has played for Northern Ireland Under 15's and is now in the Northern Ireland Under 17 squad. His younger brother Jared was also at my goalkeeping school in the early days and he too is also at Swindon in our Under 13 team there and progressing well. Although not at Swindon now, Calli Smith also progressed into the Centre of Excellence and was with us as a contracted goalkeeper for a year. Our present under 15 goalkeeper was actually on the first two day course I put on when setting up my goalkeeping school so its been great to see how he has developed over the years. There have also been others who have been in for us to have a closer look at in a more intense environment. They have been given game time to see how they get on against better opposition than they would face in grass roots football. Young Oli Whiteley is currently a member of my goalkeeping school and is also training and playing games with our under 7/8's at Swindon and is showing good potential and we are keeping a close eye on how he progresses at the moment. Oli has bags of enthusiasm, always has a smile on his face and his goalkeeping techniques for someone his age are showing up well. We tend to have two goalkeepers per age group, though in a couple of our age groups at the moment we only have one. We are always looking but we won't just take someone on for the sake of it, they have to be better, as good as or certainly look like they could develop quickly for us to take them on a contract. Along with our regular Centre of Excellence programme against the likes of Bristol Rovers, Cheltenham Town, Swansea City, Plymouth Argyle, Exeter City, Torquay Utd etc Jeremy Newton the Centre Director does a brilliant job getting us fixtures against all the top premiership sides. We have played Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Everton to name a few so its fantastic for the players and obviously goalkeepers in particular to test themselves against the best young talent in the country. We also undertake overseas tours and have played professional sides in Holland and South Korea along with our regular trip to the Milk Cup in Ireland which is a fantastic experience.


I devised a specific goalkeeper pack for the young goalkeepers at Swindon over a year ago. The pack contains a host of pages with information and tips on goalkeeping, quotes from goalkeepers who have been in the system and from the first team goalkeepers at Swindon. Also they have sheets they have to regularly complete stating the sessions they have done, goalkeepers they have watched and most importantly their self analysis sheets from matches. On these particular forms after a game they have to write down aspects of their game they have done well in and specific incidents and also aspects they found hard that day and again specific incidents if there were any. It's not only a way that gets them thinking about their game but it also helps me build up a picture of areas they are doing well in and areas they need work on as I cannot see them play every game. An awful lot of young goalkeepers at any level will say that they find kicking and dealing with crosses the hardest part of their game and goalkeepers at a professional club are no different. I had their packs in this week and have been through them and looking at their match forms, most have made comments about finding kicking and crosses hard so it's something we try to do a fair bit of work on.


In 2012 I am being booked on the Goalkeeping A Licence course and I am looking forward to this immensely. I am unable to get actually assessed at the end of it unfortunately as I need to complete the outfield A licence course first (which is ridiculous in my opinion). That course takes at least two years and costs about three and a half thousand pound and is not easy to get in on but I still want to gain the knowledge from doing the Goalkeeping A Licence course which is the highest qualification a goalkeeping coach can achieve.


Next week I start on the second phase of the pathway to become a Coach Educator for the FA as I would like to be able to do some work for the FA delivering the FA Level One Goalkeeping Award certificate. So for three full Sundays in December I will be alongside the Tutor for the Level One course being running by the Wilts FA at Stanley Park, Chippenham. Mike Byrne who I have alot of respect for is the Tutor and I will observe the course over the three Sundays and then the next stage will be to assist on a course in the future. After this I will have to put the course on while the Tutor observes me to see that I am delievring the course to the correct standards. I have already completed my Generic Tutors Course which was the first stage so it is quite a long process. I have a big passion for goalkeeping and we need more goalkeeping coaches or coaches with goalkeeping knowledge to help all of our young goalkeepers throughout the country develop and improve as currently not enough support is given to players in what is a specialised position.


Finally as you will see from my latest news item, my own branded glove which has sold well will be coming into stock again shortly. I have made some slight changes to it but didn't want to change it too drastically as I was very happy with how they have performed. Ideal for christmas presents too, so keep your eye on my website and Steve Hale Goalkeeping School Facebook page for more news on them.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011 14:06

Crossing & Kicking Blog

Crossing & Kicking Blog

There are many aspects to goalkeeping but in my opinion the hardest aspect of goalkeeping is dealing with crosses.


I often hear people talk about goalkeepers and say "He's a great shot-stopper" and of course keeping the ball out of the goal is the main objective of the goalkeeper and therefore constant work on their shot-stopping techniques is important. However and this is in no way being derogatory to goalkeepers they should be able to save shots or they shouldn't play in goal in the first place! I have seen many an outfield player go in goal in training and even occasionally have to don the gloves in a match if their goalkeeper has got injured or sent off and seen them make saves. It goes without saying these techniques need regular work but its how a goalkeeper deals with crosses, distribution and organisation that defines a bad goalkeeper, an average goalkeeper, a good goalkeeper and an outstanding goalkeeper.


Today I look primarily at dealing with crosses and a little bit on kicking:


The reason why I feel that  dealing with crosses is the hardest aspect of goalkeeping is because there are so many factors which have an effect on the goalkeeper dealing with a cross into his/her box.




Wind - The ball holds up / The ball comes onto you quicker / The ball swirls around and moves in the air

Rain - The ball is slippery

Sun - You lose sight of the ball with a low sun in your eyes


Pitch/Stadium Conditions


Muddy pitch - Hard to keep footing and move quickly through the mud

Icy Pitch - Slippery under foot

Slope - The ball may come onto you quicker or hold up similar to windy conditions

Floodlights - Poor floodlights may make seeing and judging flight difficult


Own Physical Attributes


Short - Do you find it hard to compete with bigger players, do you have good timing of your jump

Tall - Are you slow to move your feet and not jump as high as you possibly should




Physical size - May have to deal with physical pressure from tall aggressive forwards

Delivery - Quality of the cross itself from the opposition players


Actual Cross


Ball swinging in

Ball swinging away

Flat delivery

Pacy delivery

Hung up in the air

Near post delivery

Far post delivery

Position the ball is actually crossed from on the pitch


Every cross can be different and needs to be dealt with on its merits


So straight away there are so many factors involved in actually dealing with a cross and a goalkeeper has a split second as the ball leaves the players feet to make his/her decision on whether to actually come for it and then how he/she is going to deal with it (catch/punch/tip/parry).


Drills can be put on to help with this area but its hard to really re-create the intensity and realism that you get in a game. Practise should be undertaken, firstly without any pressure, just dealing with some crosses coming in un-opposed to start getting used to judging the flight. Then a player can be introduced who doesn't challenge for the ball but does make runs and movements in and around the goalkeeper to try and put them off. Taking it further they may then make a challenge for the ball and then defenders and other attackers maybe introduced before taking it into a full scale practise match or phase of play. The real test and best experience comes from an actual match however I feel.


Otfen young goalkeepers in particular though even senior goalkeepers are guilty of this will shy away from coming for a cross and stay on their line and let defenders deal with crosses. I like goalkeepers to be more positive than that and try and take command of their area. I would much rather see a goalkeeper come for crosses and make the odd mistake and learn from that mistake and situation than just stay rooted to their line. If a goalkeeper can come and take crosses it takes so much pressure off your team and your defence in particular.


A positive starting position off your line, edging slightly forward and looking like you want to come, allied when you do come with a huge bellowing aggressive voice to call for the ball will help give you an aura or presence in your area and will actually lead to the opposition start to deliver crosses further away from your goal. If you are timid and look afraid, opposition players and coaches will pick up on this and likely put more crosses close to you to put you and your team under pressure to induce errors so that they may score.


Being short does not mean that you cannot deal with crosses, what it means is that you just have to work harder on the timing of your jump and the height at which you can jump (spring). Fabien Bartez the former Manchester United and France goalkeeper was a prime example of a goalkeeper not blessed with height but who came for a lot of crosses successfully. At the same time I have seen many a tall goalkeeper who has relied on their height but then not moved their feet quickly enough or timed their jump well and has struggled on crosses so don't let height be an excuse.


Because its a difficult aspect of the game much practise is needed on it and also patience. If you make a mistake try not to worry and don't let it put you off coming for the next cross and at the same time don't think you must come for the next cross to make up for your error as the next cross may not be the right one to come for, remember "every cross can be different and treat each one accordingly".




I get asked all the time by parents and goalkeepers about kicking and how the goalkeeper can get better at it. The simple fact is certainly when it comes to young goalkeepers most struggle to get a good amount of distance simply because they don't have the physical power in their legs to get that distance. Yes technique is important and that can be worked upon but often physical strength plays a big part in it.


There is also no rocket science to it or that many fancy drills to practise it, the best thing to do is get a bag of balls (or only one if thats all you have) find a field and with a friend / parent / brother / sister / coach simply practise your kicking. I always say warm up your muscles first, start striking the ball over a short distance and then gradually make that distance further with the person you are working with. Accuracy is just as important as distance as there is no point being able to kick it the length of the field if it goes in different directions all the time and out of play as your team will have no idea where to setup when you go to strike the ball.


Again having patience and not getting frustrated or upset is vitally important, especially at a young age and this goes for parents and team managers / coaches as well! I have spoken before about how annoyed I get when I see young goalkeepers not being allowed to take goal kicks and the big centre back coming back to take them because he can kick it further as how is the goalkeeper going to get better technically and develop his/her kicking muscles if they are not allowed to take them.


Everybody develops at a different rate of time and I have seen many goalkeepers who have struggled then all of a sudden it clicks for them and they can get great distance so patience and hard work really are key virtues for goalkeepers / parents and managers / coaches!

Tuesday, 06 September 2011 13:26

Frustrated Blog

Frustrated Blog

The heading of my latest blog sums up how I feel at the moment with peoples views on goalkeeping in general, goalkeepers and goalkeeping coaches.


From all my experiences over the years both from playing myself and through my coaching career so far I have to say, managers and outfield coaches in "general", not all but in general couldn't care less about goalkeepers but are very quick to moan when the ball hits the back of the net. STOP..................THINK............................REWIND..........now start at the top end of the pitch:


Has the striker given the ball away needlessly with a bad touch, a bad pass or a bad shot?

Has the Striker bothered to shut down the full back or centre back to try and stop them playing out easily?

Has the wide midfielder worked hard enough to stop the full back or opposition wide midfielder breaking?

Has the central midfielder got a tackle in?

Has the midfield in general given the ball away cheaply?

Has the midfield tracked their men back and stopped them getting into the box un-marked?

Has the midfield been caught out of position allowing the opposition through too easily?

Has the full back stopped the cross coming into the box?

Has the centre back won his header or tackle?

Has the centre back marked his man tightly?

Has the defence or midfield given away a needless free kick in a dangerous area?


Hopefully you are starting to see where I am going with this. If you analyse each goal you can take it back to where the move first started and see who hasn't done their job and how the ball has eventually got anywhere near your goal before you even start looking at why the goalkeeper hasn't been able to keep the ball out. No it's easier to just blame the goalkeeper it seems.


When teams do concede goals, yes the goalkeeper can at times be at fault and have done better to prevent that goal I am not denying this and a goalkeeper and a goalkeeping coach should first look to see what could of been done better from a purely goalkeeping aspect. The trouble is when a team is conceding goals regularly whether the goalkeeper is directly responsible for a goal or not, confidence will naturally be affected. It's at times like these the goalkeeper has to have a strong character and personality about them and shrug off what has happened, reflect briefly yes but then forget about it and move on to the next game or next moment in the match.


"You cannot affect or change the past, but you can make a difference to the future"


Therefore when a goalkeeper has made a mistake or let a goal in the thing I look for is what they do next, do they go into their shell, sulk or make further mistakes or are they positive and play their normal game and not allow it to affect them. It's those that have the ability to shrug it off and be positive that are the successful goalkeepers.


I have seen and heard through my own eyes and ears when a coach or manager has moaned about a goalkeeper over a goal or game they have played yet when that goalkeeper has made a great save or had a great game you hear the phrase "Thats what they are there to do"........I also remember having a debate with a striker once when our team's goalkeeper got a "man of the match award" and he moaned the same thing "Thats what he is paid to do, make saves" and my response was that working on that principle every time that striker failed to score in a game that surely mean't he WASN'T doing his job and should be dropped!!


On a number of occasions I have been sat in the dugout in both youth and senior football and the coach or manager of that respective team has turned and moaned at me that the goalkeeper hasn't come for a cross, or should of done this or that. The thing is that works both ways as perhaps I should pass comment everytime an outfield player miss-times a pass, misses an open goal, fails to make a good tackle, doesn't mark his man etc....the list goes on......


Yet after all of this has that coach or manager given due care and attention to the goalkeeper in the training during the week or in the pre-match warm up or has he just concentrated on the outfield players and left the goalkeeper to his own devices without any specialised help, support or encouragement. Probably not as most outfield coaches and managers are obvlivious to the needs of a goalkeeper so don't even think about it.


This leads me on as a prime example to the strange attitudes at the FA itself and a coaching process I just cannot make sense of. Through the coaching pathway at the FA, as I have worked through my badges to be a goalkeeping coach I have had to do it in this order: Level One outfield, Level One Goalkeeping, Level Two outfield, Level Two Goalkeeping, UEFA B Licence outfield, UEFA B Licence Goalkeeping. I now want to do my UEFA A Licence Goalkeeping but have to do my UEFA A Licence outfield first......which is a 2-3 year course and costs around £3,500 pounds!!!! The last course I tried to enquire about was over-subscribed so my pathway is being blocked financially (as I now can't afford it, wheras at the time Swindon Town were prepared to fund it) and in terms of time it will take for me to get to UEFA A Licence goalkeeping.


I repeat that you have to pass the outfield qualification BEFORE you can pass the goalkeeping qualification. I am told that you need to have the outfield knowledge as this affects the goalkeeping element in the game. So working on that theory you would naturally assume that to become an outfield coach you would also have to do the goalkepeing qualifications as well................WRONG!!!! You never have to take a goalkeeping qualification if you don't want to and can work all the way through up to Pro Licence. Nobody has ever explained to me the reason behind this or how that can be fair and right but basically it means to become a goalkeeping coach you need to be more qualified and knowledgable than an outfield coach!


No wonder goalkeepers stick together and you hear often about the "Goalkeepers Union" its because it can be a thankless position to play or coach, you need thick skin and a strong character and you get little support.


Having said all of that and got it off my chest, it won't stop my enthusiasm to try and help, encourage and improve all that I work with both in youth and senior level football.

Sunday, 31 July 2011 11:58

Opening Blog of the Season

Opening Blog Of The Season

Well its been 8 weeks since my last blog and alot has been going on since then. For some people a well earned rest but for me I only managed two full weeks where my gloves were washed and put away and did not see the light of day. It's good to have a rest and re-charge the batteries and in many ways I would of liked a longer break. However gone are the days when I used to pack my football kit away and get out my "whites" and cricket bat and spend my summer at the crease.


At the end of May I held a two day course at Cirencester Town and had 28 goalkeepers attend and generally the weather wasn't too bad. It was a good weekend and the attitude and efforts of all that attended was excellent and their parents should be proud of their children. They worked hard but there was a good mix with the "Banter" that went on amongst the children themselves and the coaches so everyone enjoyed the two days. Phil Smith from Swindon Town came out as a favour to me and talked openly about the season just past and touched briefly on the season ahead. Phil also handed out the awards for me and posed for pictures and signed autographs which I and everybody appreciated. All the pictures from those two days can be found on the gallery page of my website.


Also during the summer so far I was staggered to receive an email from as far away as a parent in Norway! This parent was due over in England on a family holiday and he enquired about booking some private one-to-one coaching sessions while over here for his 6 year old son who plays in goal for his local team in Norway. We managed to finalise some dates and times around my hectic schedule and I got to work with 6 Year old Oliver. At such a young age one-to-one sessions can be hard going depending on both their ability level and attention level and also because one-to-one sessions can be quite demanding physically. However Oliver did really well and impressed me greatly in the short time I had with him and he showed signs of improvement very quickly so I hope he is now back in Norway putting into practise the aspects of goalkeeping we worked upon. A few pictures taken by his Dad can be seen on my "Steve Hale Goalkeeping Facebook Page" and I also hope to have them on the gallery page of this website shortly.


In terms of my work with Swindon Town Centre of Excellence again I didn't get much of a break as the Squad for the Milk Cup Tournament in Ireland we compete in each year reported in at the start of June for its preperations. Therefore I worked with three of our goalkeepers aged under 15 who were competing for the two goalkeeping spots in the squad. Initially we worked on the physical side and in the sun they certainly sweated as I put them through their paces. Then as it got closer to the departure date we got more into the technical and game specific work and all three goalkeepers worked hard. Halfway through the 6 week training period the two goalkeepers that would be travelling were finalised but credit to the third who was unfortunately left out as he showed a fantastic attitude and continued to come in training and was ready if he were called upon. As it turned out he was unlucky not to make the trip with us to Ireland as one of the goalkeepers picked up a hand injury on the eve of the tournament but still travelled. While at the tournament the younger of the two goalkeepers we took got his opportunity to start due to the hand injury picked up by the first choice and older goalkeeper who needed an extra day or two to recover. As it was the young goalkeeper took his opportunity really well picking up Man of the Match in the first game against a Professional Danish side, then keeping his place and keeping a clean sheet against a North Dublin team before doing well again against Premiership side Everton in the third game. In the fourth game the first choice was recalled allowing him some game time and in a penalty shoot out he made a match winning penalty save. In the final both played a half each though we unfortunately slipped to defeat but over the week I was generally pleased with how they performed.


Remaining on the Swindon Town theme, over the summer First Team Goalkeeping coach George Wood was sadly let go by Paolo Di Canio to bring in his own man which often happens in football. I was particularly sad about this as over the past two years George had been extremely supportive of me personally and I often assisted him, watched him and talked to him and I learn't alot from him. I have spoken to him since his departure and will remain in touch with him and I sincerely hope he picks up another job soon as he has masses of experience which goalkeepers can benefit from and is a thoroughly top bloke. To date I haven't yet met any of the new management team including new goalkeeping coach Domenico Doardo but hope to meet them soon. I have spoken with the two Youth team goalkeepers at the County Ground and they have both said Domenico has a totally different style of goalkeeping coaching to what they have been used to in the past so i'm looking forward to the opportunity to go in and meet Domenico and watch how he works.


At Cirencester Town we started back in pre season at the end of June and having lost goalkeeper Matt Bulman to Blue Square Premier side Forest Green Rovers on a two year full time contract I managed to make contact with Danny Greaves, a goalkeeper who came through the system at Bristol Rovers but who then drifted into the Non league game. Between me and the gaffa we persuaded him to sign and I have to say he has been a pleasure to work with so far. He is 27/28 years of age, has a good physique and stature for a goalkeeper and is athletic and very agile. Having seen Matt get back into the full time game (Matt came through the system at Swindon before he to drifted into the non league game) I feel that if Danny works hard this season and performs well he to could potentially be snapped up again from a team higher up and hopefully I can help him along the way.


Back to my goalkeeping school and my regular Monday evening sessions will be re-starting on Monday 5th September at Ruskin Junior School so I will be looking forward to my existing goalkeepers returning and any new goalkeepers who want to work at their game and improve.


Please continue to follow my website and blogs and also I do have a "Steve Hale Goalkeeping School Facebook Page" where you can also pick up news, see pictures and even the occasional video clip.

Monday, 30 May 2011 08:37

Final Blog of the Season

Final Blog of the Season

May Bank Holiday Monday and I write my final blog of the season and the chance for a well earned break, though a relatively short one it will be. For the next four weeks my boots and gloves and can cleaned and put away and a chance to relax with no coaching of any kind and a chance to reflect and re-charge the batteries.


The last few weeks of the season at Swindon Town Centre of Excellence have been hectic to say the least. Firstly the tough task of the retains and releases where we decide on who gains another contract and who unfortunately at this stage isn't up to the required standard. Obviously it's great to see the young goalkeepers faces when you tell them that they will be getting a further contract but having to release a young goalkeeper is awful. When you have spent a few seasons with a goalkeeper week in week out you form a bond and you enjoy the weekly banter with them and for them they dream of becoming a professional so when you break the news to them most obviously get upset and I don't mind admitting I get a massive lump in my throat! I always hope they go away, keep working hard at their game and prove me wrong, I would love nothing more. The games schedule towards the end is also heavy and we have had some great games that Centre of Excellence Director Jeremy (Nutty) Newton has arranged for the lads. Over the course of the season we have played the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool, Birmingham, Aston Villa along with our normal programme against the likes of Bristol Rovers, Cheltenham Town, Oxford Utd etc. In the last few weeks we made the trip to Man Utd's Carrington Training ground for a series of games which was fantastic and this last week the lads got to actually play on Readings Madjeski Stadium which was again a great experience for them.


We also had a trip to Holland where we played a series of games and also visited Feyenoords ground and looked round the stadium and got to watch the First team train which was again great to see, especially watching the goalkeepers go through their routine. Seeing them so close up and seeing their amazing agility routines it shows what standards need to be attained to play at the top level.


Due to school half-term, various Bank Holidays and the Holland trip, members of my goalkeeping school had about 4 weeks off not long ago but were then back in for the first few weeks of May for the final sessions of the season. It's been a long hard season for us all so for the first session back after the mini break there was a certain lethargy about it but after a little pep talk the last two sessions were of a better tempo and we had some fun. The final leg of the season for Steve Hale Goalkeeping School was my May Two Day Course which we ran once again at Cirencester Town over Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th. Last year I had 20 on the course, this time round 28 so I was really pleased with the numbers. Also what was nice was that although it was nice to have some of my regulars on the course I had a big proportion of goalkeepers I had not seen or worked with before and from areas outside of Swindon so that was also really pleasing and refreshing. Credit to all of them, they worked really hard over the two days and we had a few characters on the course who kept all the coaching staff and other goalkeepers entertained! My two assistants, Chippy (James Whitlock) and Grubber (Jason Grubb) did a great job and Swindon Town goalkeeper Phil Smith helped me out by coming in to answer a few questions and give out the prizes which I appreciated. It's great for the young goalkeepers to get a chance to meet someone like Phil, and pick his brains as to what it's like to be a professional. A friend of mine, Andy Crook was in attendance at various times over the two days to take photographs and has done a fantastic job and last night I spent a few hours sifting through hundreds of great pictures and it's a hard task trying to narrow down which ones to use as there are so many good ones! These I hope to have on the gallery page shortly (they are already on my "Steve Hale Goalkeeping School Facebook Page")


I am really pleased with how my goalkeeping school and my two day course has gone this year and a massive amount of credit for that should go to the parents. Throughout the course of the season we have experienced all kinds of weather conditions and yet many a parent has stood outside in those conditions at Ruskin School while their child has been working on their goalkeeping techniques. Also in this tough financial climate they have paid their monthly fees without fail, some have incurred petrol costs while bringing their child in with some from outside Swindon making the trip. So I certainly say a big thank you to all parents and hopefully their child appreciates what their parents do for them in supporting them to improve. These days with so many distractions and home comforts such as X-Box and all sorts of computer games, laptops, I-pods etc many a youngster sits at home getting nowhere near enough the amount of excercise that they should so its great to see all the kids on a Monday evening getting out in the fresh air and being active.


As I said at the start I have four weeks off now before it all starts again for me with pre-season training at Cirencester Town starting on the 28th June!! (it just seems to get earlier and earlier each year!) and then in early July our Swindon Town Centre of Excellence preparations start for the Milk Cup tournament in Ireland at the end of July so i'll be back in working to prepare the goalkeepers for that tournament. I also have a couple of one-to-one sessions booked in early July with a young goalkeeper who lives in Norway but who is over here for a few days so its great that my website has been seen that far afield!


My final thanks go to Pete Matthews who not only setup this website but helps maintain it for me, I am extremely grateful to Pete.


As always I have waffled on but I would like to thank everybody who has visited my website and taken the time to read my ramblings over the course of the season, I hope you are as passionate about goalkeeping as I am.


Have a good Summer!

Thursday, 21 April 2011 17:26

Development Blog Part Two

Development Blog Part Two

Since my last blog I have taken in a grass roots junior game and also experienced junior football in Holland.


Its not often that I get the opportunity to watch my nephew play for his local team as i'm normally involved with watching my goalkeepers at Swindon in the Centre of Excellence games programme on a Sunday morning. However a few weeks ago all the age groups were away so I went to watch him play. He isn't a goalkeeper, he plays in midfield or an attacking role so it was great to see him play and good that one of my goalkeepers from my goalkeeping school was also playing as he plays in the same side as my nephew. I don't often get chance to see my goalkeepers in game action and see if they are putting into practise the techniques we work on each week so it was good to watch the match on two fronts. The goalkeeper in question had a good starting position for through balls and swept up well behind his defence and made a couple of good saves so I was pleased with how he did. There was one thing that disappointed me though, and this was no fault of his. We are talking under 11 football here and nearly all young goalkeepers at this age will struggle to get big distances on their kicking from goal kicks / free kicks etc. The ball went out for a goal kick and a biggish lad playing at the back picked the ball up placed it down on the floor and took the goal-kick and kicked it as hard and as far as he could. I turned to my brother-in-law and said "Why is he taking the goal-kick and not the goalkeeper?" to which he replied "Apparently he gets it further up the pitch" I have two points to make here; firstly how is he going to improve and develop his kicking if he doesn't get the opportunity to take goal-kicks? Secondly from a coaching and team point of view if this is the case why can't the coach actually coach the team how to play out from the back working on the defenders positions to receive the ball and also the midfielders making runs? This would benefit both the goalkeeper and the outfield players, then the goalkeeper could mix up playing out from the back and kicking longer and help him develop his game. Often we all learn by making mistakes and then finding a different way of doing something to be successful, this would be achieved by trying to play out from the back, yes it may cost the odd goal but in the longer term the players overall will benefit.


I have just returned from a week away in Holland with Swindon Town Centre of Excellence where we took the Under 11's, 12's & 13's. Over the course of the week we managed to have two 2 hour long training sessions and we played games against top professional teams such as Feyenoord and Sparta Rotterdam and games against non league sides such as FC Emma and Gravezande. In the games against the professional teams we played the relevant age groups against the relevant age groups but against the non league sides we played our lads against the age group above so they were tested over the course of the games technically, tactically and physically. What I like about the Centre of Excellence games both here and when we go abroad is that the results are irrelevant, we won some games, drew some and lost some but there is no pressure that we must win and gain 3 points. This allows far more learning and experimenting to take place which can only benefit the lads. Over the course of the week I got to have plenty of time working with the goalkeepers we took away with us on the training ground, seeing them in games and seeing how they were in a social environment being responsible for keeping their rooms tidy and reporting for meals and departure times for games and training etc. While we were away we also managed to watch Feyenoord first team train from close up which was great. The goalkeepers were put through their paces and some of the agility work with hurdles was superb and demonstrated the levels of agility and mobility that a goalkeeper needs at the highest levels of the game. What I will also say about the trip, I was surprised at just how good the facilities were in Holland and it really puts us to shame in England. Even non league grass roots teams seemed to have at least two 3g flloodlit pitches and a few grass pitches with railings and in some cases small stands combined with a really nice big clubhouse which seemed to be a focal point in the community of that particular town, it certainly made us jealous as coaches!


This week I was also pleased that I got to see another of the goalkeepers in my goalkeeping school perform when he turned out for the North Wilts Rep team against one of our age groups at the Centre of Excellence. It was the first time I had properly seen him play in a game and he did really well making a number of great saves so I was very pleased for him.


Well the season is coming to an end shortly and its the time of year most goalkeepers don't like as its no fun playing on rock hard pitches with very little grass in the goal-mouths, balls bouncing high and awkwardly and the sun in your eyes! Still we all need a break to re-charge the batteries. Having said that, I am close to finalising a two day course which will be towards the end of May or early June.

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