A goalkeeper has probably the psychologically challenging of all positions in the squad. Any errors made by the goalkeeper are usually crucial and are seen by all members of both teams plus the spectators. This is recognized by a competent coach and as part of his duties, he will act almost as a psychologist to the goalkeeper, certainly more so than he would with the other team members.
There are seven key points that should be remembered when coaching a goalkeeper.
- As a football coach, you should never force a player to take the role of goalkeeper if he doesn’t want to play in that position. It takes a specific type of character and personality to take on such a specialized role and this is true no matter what the age of the player. Players who perform brilliantly in outfield positions have been known to crumble when forced by a well-meaning coach to take on the goalkeeping position.
- Spend time with your goalkeeper. Give him assistance with developing good habits and traits. An experienced coach knows a keeper requires individual attention during training sessions and will use this time to practice techniques and discourage lazy or careless work.
- Always remain positive even if your team has taken a thrashing! Most goalkeepers will be aware of any mistakes they’ve made resulting in the opposition scoring. Don’t linger on it whilst the match is still being played; instead show lots of encouragement and a few quick training points if needed before the game kicks off again. Use the next coaching session to practice any areas that need improving.
- Help your keeper remain calm. A talented goalkeeper will have the ability to take control of the game and set the pace. Encourage the keeper to hold possession of the ball for a maximum of five seconds after performing a save as this demonstrates confidence and control as well as allowing him to regain his composure. All too often, a coach yells at his goalie to pass the ball swiftly. Sometimes it will be necessary to quickly release the ball but confidence will be achieved with stature and composure.
- Praise your goalkeeper frequently, not just when he makes a save. A goalie will get lots of admiration from his team-mates and fans for stopping the opposition scoring; however, it’s the job of a coach to give credit and appreciation for additional expertise shown during a match. Abilities such as good communication with defence, forcing an attacker to miss a shot through skillful positioning or a well-aimed pass that results in attack should all be given commendation.
- Think carefully before substituting a goalkeeper. During my career, we suffered several heavy losses; however, on none of these occasions was I replaced. I remember in one match, I was having a bad game and we were 5-0 down at half time. An early error had shaken my confidence and it was obvious to the opposition, who were exploiting it. My coach offered me encouragement during a half time talk away from the other members of the team, emphasising my abilities and strengths and how well he knew I could play – just generally building up my confidence. It worked. After the break, the match turned around completely. I conceded no further goals and although our side lost 5-3, I was awarded man of the match. If you feel it’s absolutely necessary to substitute your goalkeeper, focus on his positive qualities and make it clear you’re not doing it because he is a bad player but because it’s just not his day.
- Give your goalkeeper help with additional training. It’s difficult to spend as much time with your goalie as perhaps you’d like to, particularly if training sessions only last for a couple of hours each week. Show your keeper drills and exercises he can work on at home either with the help of a parent or on his own. Lend him coaching DVDs, which he can watch or point him in the direction of websites he can visit for help and information on improving his game.
Always remember, a good goalkeeper will never stop learning.