How to coach goalkeepers in the grassroots phase?

Football has different roles to tackle different responsibilities in the game. The role of a forward differs significantly from that of a defender. However, every role has its core value that contributes to the collective result of the team. Each role requires a defined set of qualities and characteristics. Coaching must be tailored to the player's unique needs in order to tap into the required skills in young athletes. This must be determined by individual characteristics, responsibilities, and qualities for the role. Goalkeeping is one of those roles that necessitates coaching from the very beginning.

In a recent webinar conducted by Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS), we invited coaches from Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) to discuss the methodology behind coaching goalkeepers in the grassroots phase. The session was led by Jignesh Antala, Goalkeeping Coach & Team Manager, and Gumpe Rime, Goalkeeping Coach.

The session briefly identified numerous factors that influence a goalkeeper's development from a young age. The session began with a discussion of how, in most cases, coaches portray goalkeeping in a demeaning light, discouraging aspiring goalkeepers from pursuing the position. Furthermore, the following factors dissuade athletes from pursuing goalkeeping:

  • Not being connected with the ball throughout the game
  • Coach’s lack of expertise
  • Lack of specific training
  • Difficult position

So, how can one change the approach around the role of goalkeeping? The first step is to identify the appropriate skills. Early detection of talent will serve as a foundation for predicting who will excel in their chosen field and can be further developed. It is essential for a coach to identify the right talent for the goalkeeping position.

The following are the qualities required from a young goalkeeper:

  • Technical skills
  • Physical ability
  • Ability to communicate
  • Mental and psychological traits

The coaches went on to talk about the basic qualities to look for at the grassroots level, which included:

  • Bold and courageous
  • Agile and quick
  • Game reading
  • Ability to calculate ball trajectory
  • Game awareness
  • Communication skills
  • Natural instinct to throw in and save the goal
  • Strong mental character
  • Eagerness to train

When scouting, Coaches must keep in mind that technique may be taught and tactical capabilities will develop as players grow.

In addition to looking at a player's traits to tap their goalkeeping capabilities, Coaches must possess certain traits. Following are some of the traits that were discussed:

  • Passion and patience to work with children
  • Technical ability
  • Knowledge of age-specific training
  • Observant of the pupils
  • Have an encouraging approach

When the coach is skilled with a good calibre in goalkeeping, they can prepare and train the players in the correct manner. There are various levels of preparation; the following were the categories discussed:

  • General preparation
  • Technical preparation
  • Tactical preparation
  • Physical preparation

Each of these preparation stages target different goalkeeping areas.

  1. General preparation:
  • Development of specific motor skills.
  • Ball feeling exercise as warm-up drills.
  • Developing basic ball handling techniques.
  • Exercises for hand and legs coordination.
  • Suppleness and acrobatic activity.
  1. Technical preparation:
  • Ball feeling exercise.
  • Basic goalkeeping techniques.
  • Initiation to handle with the feet.
  1. Tactical preparation:
  • Knowing the rules of the game.
  • Understanding different positions and the role of your teammates.
  1. Physical preparation:
  • Playing a variety of games.
  • Practising motor skills and reflexes.

The most influential factor for evaluating your preparations is whether or not they make the students enjoy the game.

 The webinar was concluded by summarising with examples and physical considerations that a coach has to keep a check on are:

  • Age-appropriate pitch
  • Age-appropriate ball size
  • Age-appropriate equipment
  • Heat exposure
  • Stage by stage progression

Coach Jignesh and Coach Gumpe concluded the session with a few examples of coaching goalkeeping at the grassroots level.  

How to coach goalkeepers in the grassroots phase?

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