Leaving Money on the Table

In the endless competition to create winning youth soccer teams, coaches leave nothing to chance. Except they do. Many only develop ten positions, leaving one to chance: the goalkeeper.

I know because this was my position throughout my serious playing days.  I remember that most teams I was on did nothing for the ‘keepers. It started when they handed out the uniforms: no gloves, no pants, sometimes not even a jersey. It was all BYO . . . and if the team practiced,  there was no specialized training. I’d try to warm up, but barely ten minutes would go by before someone would say “Hey get in goal and stop some shots.” — mainly because it’s fun to take shots on goal.

Even my beloved high school coach Ernie Feibusch was the same way. His approach at practice was to address the field players, and tell us “Goalkeepers go behind the goal and warm up”. Basically he wanted to get us out of the way. And he never even showed us how to warm up  — just go do something. This from a coach who’s been inducted to the US Soccer Hall of Fame and possesses its “A” National License, the highest level the federation awards.

Damn right there was a goalkeeper shirt; I designed the kit.

This persists today. Last year I received a great invitation from one of the Spitfire O35 women I help coach. Jen’s son Cam was playing U12 and splitting time in goal, but the team had no goalkeeper coach. We started a series of training sessions about a year ago, and we had a good time:

Cam responds that the goalie lessons are “awesome”. Not sure where “awesome” ranks on the middle school list of positive adjectives these days–I think it’s considerably better than “cool” and maybe not quite as good as “beast” which I gather is the new top of the scale (replacing “sick”).
Anyway, he says he’s having fun and you’ve taught him a lot of stuff he didn’t know, particularly about diving.  (Not sure you’ve particularly taught him about diving, but that’s what he particularly likes 🙂
He is going to play in a practice game Sunday on the big field (James can’t make it, so I assume Cam will be in goal the whole game). So he can see how that goes…
He adds that you can do sit-ups “incredibly fast” even though you are “actually pretty old”.  But still, he is impressed, either by your core strength or by the fact that you’ve survived to such an advanced age.  Hard to say which…

Cut to this year’s Association Cup. Cam arrived in Lemoore without his gloves so I let him borrow a pair for the two games. Afterward, his mom wrote:

“Cam wants to know how much you want for those gloves? 🙂 kidding aside, he’s grateful for the gk training *and* the gloves…he came up very big today, 2 clean sheets, *lots* of great saves, good distribution, and they’re squeaking through to next weekend on a 0-0 tie and a 1-0 win over the Cosmos…”

The next weekend,

Cam’s team is through to the semifinals of Association Cup next weekend!

Regulation ended in a 1-1 tie, 20 minutes of golden goal overtime and then Cam saved the first PK of the shootout, diving beautifully (and he almost saved a second one kicked high in the middle, but it hit the crossbar).  His team made four in a row to win the shootout 4-2.

Allan asked Cam, while he was getting ready what you had taught him about PKs, and he remembered something about making a guess based on how the kicker lines up…apparently that worked 🙂

The Earthquakes won their semifinal 2 – 0 last Saturday, another shutout for Cam. Sunday, they played the final and took a scoreless tie through overtime. Cam made his team’s fifth PK to put them up 4 – 3 and then defended the opponent’s fifth kick:

The Earthquakes won the Cup. Their keeper had a brilliant series of five matches, allowing only one goal through the run of play. He made a save in both PK shootouts, while the opposing team’s keeper saved none.

My contribution was not large: we trained for six sessions for about 90 minutes each time. There’s many goalkeeper coaches out there, and the CYSA offers coaches a course on how to do it. Cam’s story brought home to me that it can make a huge difference in a team’s success. Coaches who do not provide training for their goalkeepers are leaving money on the table.

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