5 Most Common Goalkeeper Coaching Mistakes
Andy Veilleux has coached soccer competitively for over a decade. He was an assistant coach with Cambrian College’s men's and women's soccer programs for two seasons and the head coach of Greater Sudbury Soccer Club’s U-21 men’s program.
He has written for the Canadian Press, the Telegram, The New York Times family of newspapers, and Sudbury Sports Magazine. He has made broadcasting appearances on Rogers TV, Leafs TV and CBC.
A goalkeeper’s ability to use their hands – to catch the ball, throw the ball, parry or punch a shot away – is one of the cornerstones of their position.
Thankfully, it is also one of the easiest skills to teach and to work on.
This article will center on some five common mistakes that coaches make with training goalkeepers. The five mistakes I see most often are:
1. Poor/wrong instruction
Goalkeepers are a different breed of player, and while it is great to encourage them and to work with them, it should generally be left to those who understand what it means to actually play in net.
That being said, it is important for coaches to try and stay out of their goalkeepers’ head space. You do not ask a carpenter to tell a plumber how to install run pipes for a bathroom, and the same applies to coaching players.
2. A lack of goalkeeper-specific training
Of course, not everybody has access to a goalkeeper coach. In these cases, try to work with the goalkeeper as best as you can, and don’t just park them in net and bombard them with endless shots.
It is important that goalkeepers have some of the same training that other players do.
For example, it has become incredibly important that a goalkeeper can receive a ball with their feet and make a solid, often long-range, pass to a teammate on the fly. Goalkeepers have increasingly become more like ‘sweepers,’ in that they drop behind the defensive line and receive and move the ball quickly, especially in possession-heavy teams.
Keepers should be intentionally brought in for some possession and passing drills with the team to work on those skills as well.
3. Over emphasis on technical ability alone
I am not going to spend much time explaining the different ways to catch a ball, because the explanation has become very streamlined. It is not enough to throw a goalkeeper into the net and instruct them to catch when they do not know how to catch properly.
A typical goalkeeper will catch the ball with the ‘W’ style of catching if the ball is above their waist – basically, the thumbs are touching and the fingers are stretched out in a way that makes the hands look like one big ‘W’- and by scooping the ball with their hands together if it is a low ball.
There are an infinite number of nuances in catching, and every shot comes from a different angle and with different power. It is also down to the goalkeeper’s discretion on when to parry a ball away or when to try and catch it. Some shots flutter – or swerve – in the air, and these shots are incredibly different to catch and must usually be parried. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard a head coach scream at some poor goalkeeper about not catching a ball, when it quite clearly took a massive dip or ‘shook’ in the air, making it difficult to catch, let alone save.
This also happens with crosses, where a coach freaks out on their goalkeeper for not coming out to catch a ball they had no chance of getting to.
There is a good basic rule for goalkeepers to follow when it comes to crosses, corner kicks and free kicks. If the ball is going to land within your six-yard box, or just outside of that, then it is the goalkeeper’s ball in most cases.
Occasionally, a goalkeeper might come much further out of the six-yard box if there is a cross they believe they can grab in the air.
Again, this is all situational, and is hard to make hard an fast rules for. Some goalkeepers are much more aggressive than others and will feel confident coming further out and taking bigger risks.
4. An absence of positional awareness training
The biggest pet peeve of training for goalkeepers is a lack thereof. Some coaches never put their goalkeepers into specific drills. Parking a goalkeeper in the net and hammering balls at them is not enough.
Goalkeepers need to be taken aside of regular training and work on specific situations and drills. It is best if the team has two or three keepers who can all work together to drill each other, even in absence of an actual coach working with them.
I have found most goalkeepers to be hungry for drills, and they can work very well on their own with limited instruction.
5. A lack of role models
Role models are important for any serious athlete, and not just younger ones.
Ask a soccer player to name their favourite player and you will hear the same names often – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for example – but very few goalkeepers every make the list.
It is important to give goalkeepers role models, just like it is for other players. I suggest having them look up goalkeepers and get back to you on goalkeepers they like. It is a fortunate time to look for goalkeepers with so many amazing players currently playing. Neuer, Lloris, Howard, De Gea, Ter Stegen, Courtouis and Buffon are all goalkeepers that can be easily found on YouTube, including some of their training regimens!
To recap, make sure you work with your goalkeepers. Give them confidence. Inspire them to look at other goalkeepers and continue to learn and practice to reach higher levels!