The Soccer Goalkeeper.

Law # 3
A match is played by two teams, each consisting of not more than eleven players, one of whom is the goalkeeper.

The soccer goalkeeper is only position on the team allowed to use his hands to play the ball during active play on the pitch.  This makes the position a highly specialized one and demands specialized training.  Unfortunately, the goalkeeper position is also the most ignored position by most coaches when it comes to training players.

I spend nearly every day during the high school soccer season watching matches. If it is a Saturday, I may take in multiple matches. I am continually amazed by the number of goalkeepers I see warming up without the assistance of a goalkeeping coach or any coach at all for that matter. And even when a coach is present to help the goalkeeper warm up many of the exercises I see goalkeepers performing are so fundamentally wrong I do think to myself it might be better if the goalkeeper were left to his own devices.

One of the basic truths to goalkeeping is the fact the feet get the hands to the ball yet so few goalkeepers have footwork exercises as part of their warm up.  It's mind boggling to me.

The goalkeeper may use his hands to stop shots and for distributions. These are different ways for playing the ball than any other player has, yet the goalkeepers always seem to warm up like their teammates do.  I rarely see goalkeeper specific stretching. Even rarer re warm ups designed to prepare the hands for playing the position.

It's important to think of these things in the context of the goalkeeper being the last line of defense. Shouldn't this player receive special attention in training and pre-match warm ups?  That would be the prudent, the intelligent course of action, would it not?

The goalkeeper is also the first attacker.  This makes goalkeeper distributions extremely important.  The goalkeeper may use his hands to distribute the ball.  There are proper technical ways to roll and throw the ball. Should these be part of a goalkeepers pre-match warm up routine?  They must certainly should be, but in watching high school matches this fall I have come to the sad realization that in many instances proper technique for goalkeeper distributions are not even a part of goalkeeper training for many.

So, if the goalkeeper is not getting specialized training in the two most important facets of their game - footwork and handling the ball - can we hold any expectation that they are receiving proper instruction on the more technical aspects of playing the position?  Does your goalkeeper know the proper technique for a collapse dive and does he practice it on a daily basis?  Is this a part of his pre-match warm up?

Does your goalkeeper know the proper techniques and tactics for challenging break-aways?  Let me phrase this one a bit differently for you. Did you know that goalkeepers have died on the pitch due to improperly contesting a break-away?   Did that get your attention?  Yes, it is true. I have video showing the instantaneous death of a goalkeeper in a match due to his having utilized improper technique in challenging a break-away.

If my child were a goalkeeper, I would want to know that (s)he was receiving the best and fullest training available.  Yet in most cases youth and high school goalkeepers receive little if any actual training and what they do receive is often not well thought out, planned or executed properly.  If that doesn't catch your attention as a parent, it should.

The goalkeeper should receive a minimum of 45 minutes of specialized training per session and at least 1/2 hour of specialized pre-match warm up.  If your goalkeeper is not receiving this time devoted solely to him, the coach assigned to goalkeepers is being negligent to his duty and responsibility as a goalkeeper coach. That is provided your team actually has a goalkeeper coach.

And a goalkeeper coach is very much like a goalkeeper.  Both must possess a passion for the position. Coaches, parents and goalkeepers, take a look at your daily training and pre-match preparations.  Keep in mind that failing to prepare properly is preparing to fail.  Is your teams goalkeeper, is your son or daughter receiving proper attention to the details of the goalkeeping process?  If not, things must change for both performance and safety's sake.

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