The Coaching Ball Revolutionize the Way Kids Learn to Kick a Soccer Ball

Now there is a soccer ball that will guarantee that you will strike a soccer ball low and on target and that will show you where to kick a soccer ball to swerve it or loft it. The Coaching Ball IS soccer’s new training revolution! The Coaching Ball is the soccer ball to improve YOUR … Continue reading “The Coaching Ball Revolutionize the Way Kids Learn to Kick a Soccer Ball”

Now there is a soccer ball that will guarantee that you will strike a soccer ball low and on target and that will show you where to kick a soccer ball to swerve it or loft it. The Coaching Ball IS soccer’s new training revolution! The Coaching Ball is the soccer ball to improve YOUR technique. Youth Soccer will benefit from the strong training experience that the Coaching Ball provides.

The Coaching Ball guarantees to:

o Help soccer players improve their passing and shooting.

o Ideal for all ages.

o Helps improve accuracy.

o Simple to use.

Dual use as it can be used as a regular soccer ball as well.

The coaching ball is the latest and most effective training aid for soccer players of all ages. Prepare for the next tournament or season with the latest soccer training aid with the Coaching Ball. Developed by a fully qualified British coach, the Coaching Ball helps soccer players to visualize where to make contact with the ball. Used by professional coaches, PE teachers, grass roots soccer clubs, soccer academies and parents and grandparents across Europe, the simple patented design allows immediate results to be seen.

Improve Soccer Skills

Developed by a fully qualified British coach, the Coaching Ball helps soccer players to visualize where to make contact with the soccer ball. This simple but highly effective technique lays a solid foundation that gives all children an equal chance of realizing their soccer potential. The “Coaching Ball” has been developed to give budding soccer stars a head start. A unique product, the Coaching Ball enables young soccer players to sharpen their skills from the moment they can walk!

The Coaching Ball is made with a new 2 tone advanced hi-tech PU outer layer with a 4 layer backing (65% Polyester and 35% cotton). The bladder is made of latex with a butyl valve. It is hand sewn in a child labor free environment. The Coaching Ball has brightly colored patches (2 component durable ink printed) labeled with simple directions, such as “Strike”, “Loft”, and “Swerve”. The ball is placed on the floor and the relevant panel kicked according to the shot you require.

The Designer explains

The colored patches allow learners to identify the exact area of the football to strike in order to make the desired pass and is ideal for even the very young beginner”.

With pressure on parents to provide expensive training for their future soccer stars, the Coaching Ball is an inexpensive and effective tool to encourage children to develop their soccer ability. The Coaching Ball is proving successful with professional clubs, with Premiership clubs undertaking field trials of the ball.

Why wait? Give your young soccer player the competitive advantage he or she deserves. The Coaching ball is a perfect gift for soccer players of all ages!

How to use the Coaching Ball:

1. Place the ball onto the ground (valve at the top)

2. Ensure you can see all of the panels.

3. Kick the ball on the correct zone for the pass you wish to achieve.

4. It’s as simple as that!

Applications

You don’t need to be a professional coach to achieve immediate results.

o Strike

-The Drilled Pass

– Direct passes

– Shooting

– Penalty kicks

– Swerve

( Can be used with the inside and outside of the foot)

– Passing Corners

– Free Kicks

– Passing around obstacles

* Loft

– Passing

– Goal Kicks

– Defensive clearances

– Chipping the ball

General Coaching Guidelines – Developing the Sports Skills of Young People

Foreword.

Hi, I’m Keith Place, a qualified rugby union coach and all round sports enthusiast. I have got a lot out of being a coach but particularly rewarding is when you see young people of all abilities getting involved in games and sports and seeing how much fun they can have. When you have coached young people from 7 through to 17 years old and they are still actively participating in sport of all kinds then you can rank that as the ultimate success. My son gave up rugby union at around 13 years old but continued to play cricket for a local club and football in the park with his mates. This year at 17 he started playing rugby again… the seeds were sown and he has realised that sport can play a part in his life on his terms.

Introduction to coaching.

If you are a sports coach, you are no stranger to planning activities for young people that keeps them actively engaged and enjoying their activity. However there are many people whether employed to do so, say through schools, or who are acting as volunteers, that might need some more guidance on how to run sports activities in a safe and engaging way.

It is paramount that coaches establish an enjoyable environment for all players in their care. This will be beneficial in the short term by encouraging young people to actively participate in your sessions and in the longer term by encouraging participants to continue with sports and games into the future.

Stick to the APES principle below and you can’t go far wrong;

ACTIVITY – all players involved at all times

PURPOSE – ensure there is a clear objective

ENJOYMENT – make the session varied and fun

SAFE – activities and play areas must be appropriate

The role of the coach:

Sports coaching, rather like all forms of teaching, is a rewarding and challenging way to spend your time. As a coach you will have to adopt a range of roles such as:

Leader, organiser, manager, counsellor, motivator, decision maker, role model, etc etc

Good coaching requires you to be able to:

Continually improve all players

Get the best out of all the players

Develop techniques into skills

Develop the players ‘game sense’ i.e. their ability to assess what’s happening around them and make appropriate decisions

A quick checklist of good positive steps to take.

1

Make sure the area is clean and safe before you start.

2

Set some simple rules of engagement and state them clearly at the outset

3

Gain players attention before giving information or instruction

4

Get them doing something simple straight away – use it as the warm up

5

Make sure you have all equipment to hand at the outset

6

Check that the participants are appropriately dressed for the activity and the conditions

7

Understand what you will do if a player is injured, ie stop the activity etc

8

Maximise the involvement of all players. Some sports/games have higher required skill levels than others.

9

Choose appropriate activities for the ages and abilities of the players

10

Maintain players good behaviour throughout the session

11

Provide Variety and Challenge during the activity

12

Provide demonstrations to facilitate learning

13

Encourage players to play within the spirit of the game

14

Conclude the session positively and appropriately

1. Make sure the area is clean and safe before you start.

Remove rubbish, clean up after dogs, remove loose bits of paving and or other potential trip hazards etc. Then check all equipment for damage, loose fittings and any other potential hazards. Check that the surface on which you about to play is suitable for the activity you have chosen, it is particularly important to recognise hard ground in extremes of drought or cold. This is just common sense and takes a few minutes at most but is often a neglected part of ensuring the area is safe to start off with.

2. Set up some simple rules of engagement.

For example, before rugby training I had a specific ‘no kicking’ policy. All the lads loved to run out on the pitch, grab a ball and just kick the hell out of it. “No real damage done” you might say. However, most lads couldn’t kick properly (we hadn’t coached this bit), balls flew everywhere, there had been no warm up, and it took a few minutes of valuable time to get the balls back and for everyone to be ready for the session.

So, by rules of engagement, I mean just simple straightforward clear messages as to what you want them to do when they reach the games area. This might be; “walk to the games area, get one ball between three players and pass it to each other along the ground until I blow the whistle for you all to gather round ready to begin”.

3. Gain players attention before giving information or instruction

The younger the participant, the more important this is. Attention will wander, as I am sure teachers will know only too well. So keep this short and simple. In your plan (we’ll talk about this in a little while) have a simple, fun and inclusive session to start with. Keep it very simple and get the session going quickly. Use an individual or group to demonstrate what needs doing and make sure the groups are all listening. Check understanding and then let them get on with it. If you are outside, stand facing the sun, don’t make the children squint into the light, it will distract them.

4. Get them doing something simple straight away – use it as the 5 minute warm up.

As I have alluded to above, a planned simple activity will be great as a warm up and to get the session going. You do not want participants standing around getting bored or cold whilst you explain the intricacies of the off-side rule or the different ways you can be out in cricket! How often have you seen teachers picking sides, explaining rules or getting the pitch marked out while the children stand around? (Too often!) This can be a managed session like a sequential warm-up or just jogging around the pitch holding hands. Whatever it is, keep them all moving and get them warm.

5. Make sure you have all equipment to hand at the outset

If you have to get equipment ready, this should be part of your prep before the session starts, but if equipment is rudimentary, you can prepare this whilst the group is warming up, providing you can keep an eye on proceedings at the same time. With more than one coach on hand, this stuff is all very simple to organise. I ask the participants not to touch any equipment before I say so (one of my rules of engagement). This way my well prepared activities aren’t ruined by all the cones, ladders, bags and so on being moved or interfered with and no one can hurt themselves on any of it… you don’t want a child picking up a javelin and throwing it do you?

6. Check that the participants are appropriately dressed for the activity and the conditions

I have turned out to see my own children play sports of all kinds and I have seen them freezing, even though I sent them out with plenty of gear to wear in their sports bag. I also know that they are unlikely to put on a hat and/or sun screen unless reminded by a teacher or coach. It is your responsibility as coach to ensure that all participants have enough clothing on and the appropriate clothing/apparatus depending on the activity.

Many sports require mouth guards, pads and protectors and so on. The safety gear is usually quite obvious and I am sure you will check. However, too often kids don’t wear enough layers. Again using the rugby example, we insist on appropriate layering even when the lads were 15 years old. They often had no more sense than when they were 7! It’s OK for you as a teacher or coach to be warm and snug beneath all your layers but within reason, make sure all participants are well wrapped up. If children get cold they will not concentrate and they certainly won’t enjoy the activity. If it is hot, ensure there is plenty of water available and make sure you allow for quick breaks when they can get a drink.

7. Understand what you will do if a player is injured, stop the activity etc

There will be a process within your environment, albeit a school or sports facility, for dealing with injury and accident. However, you can still plan for the unexpected and let the participants know what it is. If you have to treat or tend to an injured player, stop the game and perhaps get the players to repeat the warm up routines whilst you deal with the situation. If they are very young, get them to all wait together until they can be led to a safe and warm place. I have been in a situation waiting for a helicopter to arrive following a suspected neck injury. We sent all the players into the changing rooms, with two well-known parents, (never just one), as a safe and warm place to await further instructions.

8. Maximise the involvement of all players.

Nothing will put a young person off sport more than a lack of involvement. Standing around waiting for something to happen is no fun and they are not learning anything and frankly it’s your fault. Move players around from position to position, give them specific tasks to perform, set up mini sessions of just a few players at a time. For example, football can be several 3 v 3 sessions, not just 11 v 11 on a huge pitch. You don’t want to hold back the talented few, but you do want to aid the development of the many. I have seen examples of ‘dumbing down’ and ‘playing up’ and neither is satisfactory.

9. Choose appropriate activities for the ages and abilities of the players

Some sports are very difficult for younger players to grasp. It is often more fun and far more productive to get children running around and competing with very little ball skills involved. Relay Running Teams, perhaps with obstacles of various kinds, can be great fun, noisy, competitive and engaging. As a rugby coach this never failed to miss and the players would ask for this activity as part of the longer session. As part of Long term Athletic Development, (LTAD), speed, balance and agility are all addressed using this type of activity. Add a ball into the equation and you can gradually add other techniques which can be developed into skills.

10. Maintain players’ good behaviour throughout the session

Just like in the classroom, disruptive behaviour will affect the attention of all players not just the individual concerned. In a sports club in extreme cases the individual can be asked to leave (happily I have never been put in this situation). However, I have had to remove participants from sessions when they would not behave appropriately. In a school environment it’s not always so easy. So, focusing on the tasks and keeping momentum from one task to another will help the participants’ attention and prevent attention waning.

11. Provide Variety and Challenge during the activity

Just as above, players will become bored with the same activity over and over again. In a sports club, repetition through drills can be a useful tool for skills coaching but in mixed ability groups it is good to move from one activity to another to keep interest and attention.

Gradual increments in skill level can add more challenge and is another way to build in variety.

12. Provide demonstrations to facilitate learning

Clearly explain each activity, using demonstrations as much as possible. Watch the groups carefully to check that the instructions have been understood. Get the more advanced members of the group to demonstrate the more difficult skills and other players the less demanding activities. It is still important to involve everyone even at this stage.

13. Encourage players to play within the spirit of the game. This may be a rugby union mantra again but I make no apologies. It is important that everyone involved in sport show respect to each other; the players the coaches, the spectators. I actively encourage competitive spirit in all forms of sport and activity but this must go hand in hand with respect and good behaviour. It is your chance as a coach to shape how young people respond to decision making during a game and how they respond to adverse results. You will also have to deal with parents and spectators’ behaviour on occasion. Let the parents know what you expect from them at the start of the session, perhaps as part of the briefing. I use this to very good effect; I brief the teams and let the parents gather round and listen, and let everyone know about code of conduct. For another guide as to how one might approach attitude, I like the 5 tenets of Taekwon-do; Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit. These tenets are at the heart of the positive development of the individual for this particular martial art. They could just as easily be the guide for approaching any sport or activity.

14. Conclude the session positively and appropriately

It is good to finish the session on a high. Children often love to play British Bulldog at the end of a rugby or football session. This doesn’t have to be physically challenging for the smaller children, just running from one end of the area to another with a person in the middle playing ‘tig’. It could be the final 20 minutes playing a full game of football after training and so on. It is important to finish on a high, with a culmination of activity that you might have practiced during the session, allowing the more advanced players the chance to show off their skills and the less adept, being able to practice and participate. When you bring the game to a close, in the final minute or so (remember you don’t want them to get cold or dehydrated), you can explain very briefly what it is you have just practiced and thank them for their effort.

Conclusion:

Coaches of young players should:

Recognise the importance of fun and enjoyment. Most learning is achieved by doing.

Appreciate the needs of the players before the needs of the sport.

Be a positive role model

Keep winning and losing in perspective – encourage young players to act with dignity in all circumstances.

Respect all referees/officials and the decisions they make – at all times, ensuring that all players do the same.

Provide positive verbal feedback in a constructive and encouraging manner, both during coaching sessions and games

Just for fun!

Don’t send the class for a 5 mile run while you have a fag behind the sports pavilion.

Don’t send the class on a 5 mile run because you’ve got a hang-over and need a coffee.

Don’t laugh at players who clearly have no clue which direction they are even supposed to be playing in!

Don’t laugh at players who run away when the ball comes towards them.

Don’t laugh at players when they get hit in the face with a ball and are pole-axed (even if it looked funny)

Don’t chat up the parents whilst you’re supposed to be coaching the session

Don’t take off a player during a game for missing an open goal!

Don’t take off a player because you don’t like their parents.

Don’t take off a player because they didn’t do their Maths homework.

Don’t pick a player who wears bright red football boots. What’s all that about!

Don’t pick a player just because you fancy their Mum.

Don’t call everyone mate..or say yeah? after every sentence. Coaches really don’t do this.

Don’t shout at/threaten the referee for all the stupid mistakes that they WILL make during a game.

Don’t volunteer to be a referee unless you can help it… you’ll make loads of stupid mistakes during games and in lessons!

Don’t yell at children for crying when they’re cold..sometimes I feel like crying when I’m cold. Send them back to the classroom and give them a hot chocolate.

Take the p-ss out of kids who dive when they’re tackled – like they’ve seen on telly!!

Don’t let Mothers rush on to the pitch every time little Jonny falls over.

Don’t let Fathers go into denial when little Jonny needs the air ambulance.

Send girls off for squealing at everything during any kind of ball game.

Send girls off for standing about chatting during any kind of game.

Send girls off for playing with their hair during any kind of game.

Don’t argue with parents about refereeing decisions – it will lead to a fight.

Don’t be truthful about a child’s abilities in front of their parents – it will lead to a fight.

Don’t laugh at a child’s sporting prowess in front of their parents – see above.

… Just for fun… but there’s just a hint of truth in here too.

Have great fun coaching, I know I do.

Keith

Introduction to Goalkeeper Coaching

There are many Goalkeeper Trainers working in football but few Goalkeeper Coaches. What’s the difference? Well, usually a trainer will be an ex-pro or similar who has been handed his coaching role on a plate by a duty bound club once he’s finished his playing career. This type of coach is fantastic at developing drills to push physical boundaries; however is not necessarily an analytical man.

From my perspective, we need to develop their natural attributes within the desired technical specifications and to do this we need to pay specific attention to the motor skills of the individual. The role of a coach is to push the player to exceed his current ability, but too many concentrate on the “I was better than that!” technique. As a coach working at all levels in the game it is up to us to ensure that these players enjoy their sport, but with a competitive desire to improve. The higher up the football pyramid you travel the less ‘coaching’ you do as you end up purely mentoring! The job at the higher levels involves planning, delivery and execution as there is little need to step in with a professional and say “What do we know about the set position?”, however coaching mistakes is an everyday part of our make up.

When stepping in on a mistake it is important not to hammer the individual, but more to use the ‘Guide and Discovery’ style of asking open questions then listening to the answers and always make sure you limit yourself to the amount of times you can pick up on that mistake before you receive either a volley of abuse or a crack in the face! We are fickle creatures who know our own limits and to repeatedly receive criticism will entail one unhappy individual! Goalkeepers are indeed a rare breed. I have yet to meet one who likes criticism. We all love to hear positives about our game as we are our biggest and fiercest personal critics. It is the role of the coach to deliver a positive attitude for each and every game. Through our drills we can ensure correct preparation for the Saturday and allow the keeper to walk onto the pitch glowing in the knowledge that he deserves to be there and that he warrants his position as number one.

I moved into coaching at a relatively young age. There were several factors that determined my pathway. Firstly whilst I was still at school, I had a burning desire to become a Goalkeeper Coach. I used my time instead of studying dreaming up new, creative drills to put a keeper through their paces, I still use this notebook today (although not all of them were particularly good!) This has been the only aspect of coaching that has held my interest and desire and this is why I am still passionate about the position. I feel that if I had some tuition and door openings when I was younger then perhaps the grade could have been achieved. As it was I feel that I allowed myself to waste my talent and this in turn has now allowed me to pass this advice onto today’s youngsters. I had the ability as a youngster but not the passion, I discovered this once my age had started going against me and I realised I was a “could have” rather than a “was”. The other massive factor was my cruciate ligament injury dictated that I could no longer play at the level I desired. I am hugely proud to be a coach and take immense satisfaction from each session I deliver. Admittedly some sessions are so frustrating you feel like a glorified babysitter but perseverance is the key and the next session will probably be fantastic! No two sessions are alike, and even as a freelance coach working with up to 6 different clubs or individuals a day means that you need to tailor your planned session to suit them rather than to suit you. There is no room for boredom in your coaching and it is very rarely that I will repeat a drill (but you will probably be asked to by the energetic keepers that really enjoyed it last time!), I feel that if you are creative enough then repetition is unnecessary and you can ensure maximum attention during your sessions but always have a plan B!

Unfortunately those of us that initially state “I’m going to coach goalkeepers” need to realise the many hurdles that lie in our paths. Firstly please forget any dream of becoming a first team goalkeeper coach for a professional club. Very, very rarely will a “no mark” achieve a deserved position with the first team. There are many open minded people involved in football at the lower levels who will allow you the chance to prove your worth, but the higher up the pyramid you climb then the more intense the “football snobbery” is. Just stay true to yourself and your goalkeepers and you will achieve a level where you can be happy and also proud of what you do. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with many coaches working at various levels of football.

Some were ex pro players, many just local goalkeepers but the ones that stood out to me were the ones delivering their sessions with such passion and enthusiasm that I wanted to pull my gloves on and join in (regardless of the pain I felt the following morning and the distinct lack of sympathy from my wife!). Unsurprisingly these sessions were mostly held by the grass roots coaches, he of the analytical mind and desire to improve not just those around him but also himself. It is amazing to watch some of these “lesser” coaches at work as they have a tendency to spot their goalkeepers mistakes very quickly. By working closely with his keepers he has built up an unforgiving knowledge of his player’s motor skills and natural ability, this allows him to pinpoint mistakes that we as spectators simply did not notice. By watching the goalkeeper perform the drill again it soon becomes apparent of the improvement that the coach has on his individual performance. This is another reason why I am such a big advocate of positional specific coaching.

From my developing perspective the sessions that I have observed from the ex professional goalkeepers are a little too textbook and old school (with the notable exception of Mark Morris-former Wrexham keeper- for whom I have massive respect!) with little to challenge the participant. However my theory for this is because they purely play the role of mentor to their players and not coach. Because they have been in that position then they possibly fall into the trap of simply guiding their juniors through the sessions rather than asking the right questions of them. However this is just my theory and it is little wonder that I am no longer welcome on the FA’s goalkeeping courses!

I read an article regarding top level female goalkeepers in Australia and their coach. He was a detailed coach who wouldn’t allow mistakes to be consistently made to the extent that even if a save was made he would step in to correct any faults in the lead up to the end product. The author even commented on how this individual search for perfection provoked further analysis of other goalkeeper coach’s work. This led to the inevitable that the other coaches that allowed the mistakes to occur were allowing bad habits to creep into their game. I can fully understand both sides of the argument here as in the first instance what do we want the goalkeeper to do? The priority for any goalkeeper and coach is from time of kick off until the referee blows the final whistle at the conclusion is for the goalkeeper to have prevented the ball from hitting the net by using any means possible. During these 90 minutes technique is allowed to go out of the window providing he hasn’t conceded, which is a bizarre train of thought.

The other side is that if the goalkeeper is prepared to train badly then he too must be prepared to play badly and this is the duty of the coach and his ethics as to whether he will allow the mistakes in pursuit of the final goal. I remain steadfast in my belief that if you are true to yourself and you’re beliefs then that is how you should approach any given situation…as per your personal guide. There comes an inevitable situation when you are working with a goalkeeper that doesn’t possess the natural ability to work as per the textbook, with probably the most notable goalkeeper being Denmark’s Peter Schmeichel. He was possibly the most un-regulation goalkeeper ever but also regarded by many as the greatest as his style worked for him and it would have been foolish of his coach to have insisted on trying to change him. This approach to coaching can only realistically be reserved for experienced, seasoned professional or those with exceptional talent. In all my years of coaching and the hundreds of goalkeepers that I’ve personally worked with there has only been one instance of the knowledge gained through coaching courses and playing experience had to go out of the window!

This lad has just signed for the Arsenal Academy from Derby County and is an exceptionally massive talent; my only concern is that they don’t try to change his style too much. When I first worked with him I ran through the textbook coaching points with each drill and situation and he truly struggled with certain aspects, yet when I allowed him to train in his own style his form was superb. Everything I put his way he dealt with superbly, so I had to immediately rethink and say “OK, let’s work with what you’ve got rather than against it.” In my humble opinion he has a bright future in the game if he believes in himself. When you’re working with full time footballers the mistakes lessen but that doesn’t automatically allow you to ignore them, in our analytical eye we have to ascertain whether that magnificent top handed worldie could have been prevented in the build up?

Chances are it maybe couldn’t but if we can add 1% extra to our goalkeeper’s performances on a regular basis then everyone will benefit. It is so easy to overlook the tiny details for fear of arguments or differences of opinion but we must be strong in our belief and set out to prove just how different the situation might have been. At grass roots level every coaching point must be covered before divulging too many technicalities, you will know whether a young goalkeeper possesses the magical quality or not from very early on. If he does then it is naïve not to provide him with as much extra information as possible in their quest to become a professional, however those that do not exhume this quality may become bogged down in worrying about the extra tiny details as for them consistently saving the goal is part of their development and we should ensure that they are able to do this to the best of their abilities.

I am passionate about creating not only gifted goalkeepers but also gifted individuals who can hold their heads high. To do this I must challenge them physically and, more importantly, mentally. During my sessions I expect them to be pushed hard between the sticks but during rest and free time to be pushed just as hard in assessing their performance. I remember as a junior player I kept a secret notepad and marked myself out of ten for certain aspects of my game or training (even though there was no such thing as a goalkeeper coach then!) and wrote a small analogy of my games. This information would be processed during my daily kick about with my brother in our back garden (another who should have achieved professional level but couldn’t open any doors!) and from there I would improve tiny aspects in my game.

I don’t feel as though today’s youth players have the same drive that existed twenty or thirty years ago, and if a clubs stumbles across a player that is willing to put in the little extra they will do everything to nurture his passion but complain about over-doing it!. Certainly when I was training at semi-pro level everything I was asked to do was achieved at match pace or was an attempt to try to develop what I already had but, and I’m not alone in this thought, I feel that today’s players simply do what they are asked – no more or no less. And this disappoints me!

I was offered a trial with Chelsea when I was much younger but I never went because football was just a hobby back then. I regret it now but not then because I was very naive. This is why it frustrates me to see talented kids not putting that extra in, thinking that they’ve already got it made because of where they are, but why wouldn’t you want to be the best? I want to be the best Goalkeeper Coach and am working my hardest to achieve this (however I know full well that the status I desire is always going to be out of reach for people like me!), and to the frustration of my wife and kids I spend hours in my office working on new ideas, and hours at the training pitch delivering my new ideas, and hours at the ground gaining inspiration for new ideas…..you get the picture!

Surely as a coach we aim to make the individual as good as they can possibly be to allow them to play at a deserved level. We can do this by setting a positive example and encouraging the goalkeeper to develop, we can also challenge by being innovative with our coaching methods and drills. We are NOT ruled by textbooks and courses, these are merely tools in our armoury which we adapt to suit our style and personality. Why can’t we be creative in our approach to the session? Why can’t we do things that aren’t set in stone? In short…….why can’t we?

I am currently working privately with a goalkeeper for a premiership club and some of the things that they are encouraging him to do is absurd! For example if your goalkeeper is saving a driven ball in a non textbook way, but has never made an error in his method, why change it? If it’s working for him then work WITH him! Sure, give him the tools to do his job but it’s up to him whether he chooses a hammer or a screwdriver! This top club are trying to change his style and asking him to deal with situations in a certain way. Would they have done that with the un-orthodox Peter Schmeichel? Not a chance! Technically inept but what a top keeper?! Work with what you’ve got and develop the individual rather than, upon a mistake, exclaiming “I told you so!” At the lower levels coaching goalkeepers is just that. At a top level you purely guide and mentor them but it is at grass roots where techniques are nurtured and developed. That is the area that I am passionate about as any fool can advise a top class goalkeeper but can they develop? Can they notice when they led with their top arm rather than the longer lower arm? Can they tell when the keepers’ feet didn’t move quickly enough into the flight of the ball? You tell me! I have my own answers and I’m likely to upset enough people without adding more to the list!

The image conjured up by 99.9% of people involved with football of a goalkeeper coaching session is that of the keeper flying up and down pulling off save after save before respite and then repeating. Whilst this is an occurrence the majority of the session should be focussed on technique. I am guilty of being this naïve when I first stepped into coaching as it was my belief that if I ended the session absolutely shattered then it was a good one, therefore I brought this antiquated methodology with me and my sessions. Experience has taught me that whilst a good blow out now and again is enjoyable, my main concern should be that of “How is the keeper doing that?” rather than the “How many reps?” of several years back. I now focus on what is happening leading up to the securing of the ball, studying the movement and shape and ensuring that there is adequate consistency in the approach so my main focus now is to build up the confidence of technique in my early part of the session with maybe a good blow-out to finish off.

Because of the structure of training sessions now, separate focus is placed upon fitness and indeed the leading clubs employ coaches specifically for this role which means that the emphasis is taken off our sessions to include aspects of aerobic and anaerobic fitness; this allows us to build the techniques far more solidly. I understand however that this is a luxury and that many goalkeeper coaches still have the need to push the physical boundaries of the individual but this can be done periodically with an element of trust from the coach that the keepers will have enough professionalism to maintain peak fitness in “their time”. Don’t forget that many Goalkeeper Coaches will probably work with the keepers for an hour or less per day (because of the inclusion in SSG’s or phases of play etc) so to waste valuable time on fitness is an unnecessary event. I liken this to the semi-pro sides that train maybe twice a week with a game on a Saturday, whose first training session of each week is literally fitness work and they’ll be extremely fortunate to even see a football during the first half of a session.

The coach has to trust his players to maintain private fitness in order to improve the techniques and tactical knowledge of the game for the benefit of the results! Goalkeeping fitness is vastly different from many other athletes; a goalkeeper needs short bursts of explosive power rather than great stamina. This has always been my main argument in pre-season, other than if the goalkeeper has come back overweight I always try to insist on working the goalkeepers separately from day one. It’s great for them to have good core fitness and they as professional (or lower) will want to keep this stability, but from my humble point of view time spent working on aspects purely for their position is of paramount importance. Individually goalkeepers will want to work on strength with weights and resistance work his priority, but as a group and as their coach, I want them to improve on things that relate to their performance on a Saturday. My pre-seasons have been planned to initially push their physical boundaries (and subsequently raise their fitness levels) whilst working with a ball. I hate to see any training without footballs and whilst I acknowledge that maybe 95% of footballers rarely see a football during the early weeks of pre-season, working with a ball from the start of each session is my belief in quickly aiding their development.

There are certain characteristics necessary to becoming a good coach and although I am slightly big headed, I do class myself as a good coach! I truly enjoy turning up for work because no two days are the same and, I suppose, to some extent I am in control! All goalkeepers are control freaks and leaders so a natural progression into coaching is logical. I am brave enough to take responsibility for the development and performances of the keepers at my club and they return this with hard work and positive attitudes. Not everybody though will make a good coach, much the same as not everybody makes a good driver (particularly women!) but a good coach possess the natural enthusiasm and drive for perfection as his goalkeepers. It is always a good idea to approach each session with the thinking ” I want these boys to leave better prepared than when they started”, and this ensures that even if they take away just the slightest detail from the session then it has been worthwhile – just wait until Saturday when you see the successful results from the training pitch translate into a match situation as this truly is a great sensation.

The differences in which you adapt your coaching styles are massive as you progress from the community work to working with professionals, and it is a blessing to dip back in to the grass roots sessions now and again as then you realise why you started coaching in the first place. I get a massive deal of satisfaction from working with the full timers and the centres but on a different scale I really enjoy delivering sessions for the local junior club sides. I believe that in setting up our Goalkeeping Department we had to establish great links with the local communities as these are the clubs from where we would source our future stars. As my background was formed by doing lots of freelance work with many clubs this link was relatively easy to maintain however you inevitably come across the odd Neanderthal that refuses to allow his players to better themselves in case he doesn’t win the league!

These grass roots sessions can be a real eye opener and sometimes a kick up the backside, as it is easy to forget that football is primarily about enjoyment, and seeing a huge smile on a kids face as he’s pulled off a worldie is reason enough to ensure that this fact is not overlooked. A professional footballer is there to entertain, yes, but he is also there to be entertained and as his coach it is up to us to ensure the correct balance between banter and pure hard work. Grass roots sessions are where you can learn to coach and by stepping back to this environment allows us to periodically reassess our ethics and translate our findings to our work with professionals. “Little Jimmy” can offer us far greater challenges than the first teamer on many different levels that we need to quickly adapt to get the best from him in that session and that experience is easily reproduced when faced with a challenge on the full time training pitch. I find that coaching is a wonderful experience if approached positively and at whatever level you work you can never stop learning from the reactions of all the goalkeepers that you encounter.

I always find it fascinating to recall old session plans as this is a clear indication of just how far you have evolved as a coach. If I look back to my very early plans and then flick to more recent plans I can clearly see the path at which my coaching style and experience has followed. As a relative novice to coaching in the early days I believe that I successfully managed to keep things simple in order to maintain the effectiveness of what I was coaching, whereas now the coaching points are much easier to include into a drill without having to structure a session to force the mistakes. There is nothing wrong with the “Stop, Stand Still” method used by many coaches as this really is an effective way to control a session and one that I still utilise when necessary; however I feel that my intelligence and observation has now allowed me to simply coach mistakes and to be totally diligent during the session.

It is staggering when I consider the simplicity of what I used to do when compared to now but I suppose that it is simply evolution and we as coaches cannot afford to stand still in our methods because football is an ever changing probability so we too must adapt to allow our students gain maximum benefit from what we do. The session plans clearly show my evolution and indeed during the course of the season a clear difference is visible especially so over the Christmas break when I evaluated exactly what each head coach wants from their goalkeeper and I finally succumbed to include distribution in my sessions each week. This is an issue that I was adamant against but for the good of their development it is a necessary evil, and so has been incorporated into the sessions ever since. I also felt it necessary to have a structured warm up for the group to do because the initial 20 minutes of each session I found was turning into a question and answer session with parents and also a briefing session from the other coaches, so I decided to put the trust onto the players by issuing written details of the warm up and requesting that they undergo this at their own responsibility.

Some weeks inevitably worked better than others to be honest as with any training it only takes one player to abuse the trust and the whole system falls apart but on the whole I felt it was successful and the parents felt reassured that I could now spare the time to give them adequate feedback. I’ve always tried to allow each goalkeeper total trust when my back is turned and have regularly included written itineraries for them to follow should I be absent for whatever reason, I believe that by managing the time in this way the common goal can still be reached as we need to be totally aware of what is happening with our players but by allowing “dead time” are we really moving forwards as human nature will recall us back to our old habits as soon as the pressure is off. The goalkeepers appreciate this extra input as long as it is not a demand but simply a request; after all it is done for a reason and a purpose as they are able to acknowledge this in the majority of cases. I prefer to concentrate on one topic per week as I feel that this will make the learning easier and quicker for the individual.

For example if we moved from shot stopping to distribution in an hours session then imagine the amount of relevant coaching points? However by incorporating distribution into a shot stopping session we can still build technique without firing lots of learning issues at the goalkeeper. Unless there is a glaring mistake being made consistently in the distribution then the focus can remain on the shot stopping techniques and the goalkeeper is subconsciously improving his distribution whilst concentrating on his shot stopping. I got this theory from studying several continental coaches whose drills always begin or end with a moving ball for example if the coach was working on distribution from the hands then he would fire in an initial serve for the goalkeeper to catch as his following movements were then match realistic. This blew me away as to be totally honest the majority of coaching, up until this point, that I had both received and delivered had all began from the goalkeeper moving to an end serve albeit via an obstacle or simply a distance.

I realised then that if I could introduce this into my sessions without it interfering with my style then it must be beneficial to the goalkeeper as it allows more natural movement throughout the drills. The other things that also occurred to me were the inclusion of stationary footballs placed purely for the goalkeeper to dive onto at some point during the drill – this, I felt, would allow the goalkeeper to adopt a more natural set position for any following serve as he has been pulled totally out of shape beforehand whereas by telling the goalkeeper what to expect and striking a dead ball can create a false ambience and the goalkeeper may over concentrate on his shape in this instance when he may not replicate at match pace. If we can pull the goalkeeper out of shape at any point during training then we should receive a more exact picture of what happens on a Saturday which in turn means that we can improve on the tiny details that create a save. Any extra obstacle we can include to delay the end result will allow us to better study the mechanics of the save as the goalkeeper will instinctively adopt his natural position without overly thinking about what he is doing so the inclusion of hurdles, footballs, cones and even commands is a must in the majority of my sessions as I acknowledge that the harder the obstacle before the save the easier the game play situation will be to adjust to.