Youth Goalkeeping Series: Part 3 of 3
January 23, 2008
The first word most young goalkeepers learn to communicate from the goal is, “Keeper!” When translated into our everyday language, “Keeper” means “I want the ball!”
A goalkeeper’s ability to communicate is a skill that must be developed and encouraged early in a goalkeeper’s formal training. Learning to communicate is as important as developing the correct footwork and handling skills. Young keeper’s take their first step to connecting with their team by learning how to communicate effectively and therefore establishing a presence on the soccer field.
Observing youth soccer games at the U10 and U12 ages we can recognize those young goalkeepers who are developing a confidence or “presence” on the soccer field through their ability to verbally and distinctly let everyone know they want the ball by simply stating, “Keeper!” Once the goalkeeper is comfortable saying “Keeper”, the priority is now to teach him or her when to use the term and what must occur when they use the term.
I recently observed a match between two U12 boy’s teams. One of the keepers called for the ball confidently, yet I noticed that when he called for the ball, the ball was already at his fingertips. Calling “Keeper!” at the moment the ball moves into the keeper’s hands places him or her in a very dangerous position, should teammates and/or the opposing players run after the ball and into his or her space while he or she anxiously waits for the ball to arrive.
There are two areas of focus where young keepers can improve their communication and become more effective.
· The first focus area is calling “Keeper!” as soon as the ball is released and making its way into the penalty area unchallenged. Calling “Keeper!” early can ensure a safe collection with little or no pressure from the opponent. At the same time teammates, can move away from the goalkeeper and into a positive position to receive the ball from the keeper.
· The second focus area is the young keeper moving forward to collect the ball after calling for it. Rather than waiting for the ball to come to the keeper at the goal line, the keeper should take steps forward to meet the ball as far away from the goal as safely as possible.
This verbal and kinesthetic action almost certainly prevents any miscommunication between the keeper and the players on the field.
To find out how effective the word “Keeper!” is when used by young goalkeepers. I conducted a study during the summer of 2007 to learn what the reactions of field players would be when a young goalkeeper called out “Keeper!” and moved forward to the ball.
During the 2007 summer season, I observed several U10 and U12 youth games in which I recorded the physical responses of teammates and opponents when the goalkeeper called, “Keeper!”
Note: These observations were recorded at the moment the goalkeeper called out “Keeper!” and moved forward to collect the ball during the normal flow of the game. I recorded the movement of the opponents and teammates as either into the area after the ball or stopped their movement to the ball when “keeper” was called out.
· At the U12 age group: 88% of opposing players and 86% of teammates stopped their movement toward the goal or in the penalty area when they heard the goalkeeper call out “Keeper!” during a game.
· At the U10 age group 87% of opposing players and 88% of teammates stopped their movement toward the goal or in the penalty area when they heard the goalkeeper call out “Keeper!” during a game.
Likewise, I observed games where the keeper was not able to communicate the simple command of “Keeper!” and the results were as follows.
· At the U12 age group: 89% of opposing players and 90 % of teammates followed the play into the penalty area and toward the goal not knowing what the keeper’s intentions were but knowing they needed to get the ball.
· At the U10 age group 92% of opposing players and 94% of teammates followed the play into the penalty area and toward the goal not knowing what the keeper’s intentions were but knowing they needed to get the ball.
The evidence supports the premise that offensive and defensive players associate the statement “Keeper!” with the goalkeeper coming to collect the ball. Therefore in over 85% of the balls played into the penalty area, players on both sides stopped their movement to the goal and allowed the keeper to collect the ball when they heard “Keeper!” Goalkeeper’s who communicated effectively, even at the youngest ages, encountered very minimal challenge.
These findings strongly support developing the keeper’s communication skills at the earliest ages possible.
Developing communication skills may follow this age group progression.
· U9-U10 keepers learn and are strongly encouraged to use “Keeper!” consistently in training and in game play.
· U11-U12 keepers continue to use “Keeper!” and begin to use “Away!” when they have chosen not to go and collect the ball in the penalty area. Keepers in this age may also begin to communicate to their teammates “Back!” which follows with the teammate making a back would pass to their keeper.
Incorporating communication consistently into the young goalkeeper’s formal training supports their first steps in understanding the leadership role needed to be an effective goalkeeper while also helping them to establish themselves as a strong presence on the soccer field.
This is the third part in a series of three writings focusing on Youth Goalkeeping. Part 1: Dec. 30, 2007 and Part 2: Jan. 5, 2008.