The title of this post may sound a bit extreme but as a goalkeeper I have learned to not only watch and read the game I am involved with, but watch and read the players that are playing in front of me. That includes both my teammates as well as the opposition. Here at the just4keepers international academy for keepers in New Jersey we help develop the goalkeeper’s mindset as well as his/hers physical skills and mechanics.
Let’s start from the goalkeeper’s teammates. A goalkeeper is the last line of defense and he/she has a complete view of the entire football field. No other player has that view. He/she also has more time to view and survey the game as it unfolds in front of them as well as the way their teammates’ playing habits, mood and playing style. The goalkeeper can also do the same for the other team. Because of the fact a goalkeepers’ teammates have less time to see, analyze and create correct decisions due to the constant pressure and speed of the game a goalkeeper can be a great asset to his or her teammates, both by guiding them to make the correct decision in where they stand, how to receive a pass, what to do when they receive the pass as well help them mentally when they are beaten by an opponent, make a good play or even just tired and hurt.
By doing all these things a goalkeeper will be helping his/her teammates in making better decisions, gaining more confidence from his/her teammates in believing that the particular goalkeeper has his/her field player’s back and in return the goalkeeper will see an increase in the field player’s desire to help their goalkeeper in any way they can.
Understanding these fine points and consistently reinforcing them is part of the just4keepers goalkeeper academy in New Jersey mind set and philosophy. We take the time to explain these things properly and make the goalkeeper feel as one of the most in demand positions on a team rather than just an extra position that can always be filled by someone who’s skills are lacking on the field.
A goalkeeper’s position is not just making saves but leading the entire team. Some say that the midfielder should be the best player, both technically and tactically. He/she should be able to read the game and make quick decisions. I beg to differ. A goalkeeper has much more on his plate both physically as well as mentally.
Think of it this way, there are usually 17 players on a roster, only two keepers. Any of the 15 players can adjust and play another field player’s position with pretty good success rate. But when a goalkeeper goes down in most cases he/she can only be replaced with success by another keeper.
What does it take for a goalkeeper to be “the best”? Is it talent or dedication? Nature or nurture? Or are both required for success on the soccer pitch?
Niko ALexopoulos is a talented and successful youth soccer coach who is the Director of Coaching at Just4keepersInterantional Academy in New Jersey and the-owner of SoccerSkillz.
As an ex player Niko has loved the sport since he was 4 years old. That was the 1st time his dad, an ex professional goalkeeper for FC Olympiakos, took him to the stadium and Niko started to experienced pro soccer in Europe at a very young age. The rest is history. Soccer has always been part of his life, both on and off the pitch. From his early years as a 4year old playing in his dad’s pro team peanut programs for kids, to the older training sessions, through US high school, college and eventually going back to Europe and playing at the pro level Niko has loved the game, and the lessons it has taught him both on and off the pitch. The lessons are never ending and as a coach a new chapter is written on a daily basis that brings new dynamics into his coaching that are on a much different perspective than that of a player.
Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers tells the stories of many successful people. He highlights the fact that successful people all have natural “God-given” ability and a passion for their field of expertise. Gladwell also talks about major turning points in their lives where they as individuals recognized the opportunity in front of them, seized that opportunity and then displayed a high work ethic to reach the pinnacle of their given fields. These people were blessed with a natural talent, were high achievers and recognized that they were in the right place at the right time.
Now let us explore the development of the goalkeeper and ask the question: Is it the role of the coach to develop the player or to create the environment that allows the goalkeeper to develop?
This ignites the question; for a goalkeeper to be successful, are there some ingredients that he/she needs to bring to the table as well, and what are they?
There is no doubt that the successful and experienced coach requires many skills to create the environment for successful goalkeeper development, and coaches that lack management skills and soccer knowledge will hinder player development.
That said, in just4keepers international academy the success of a goalkeeper is much more than that and is based around two major concepts that are completely out of the coach’s control.
The first is the natural “God-given” talent that the goalkeeper brings to the table. Call this the players “Talent Potential.”
The second call it the goalkeeper’s “Learning Potential.” What this means is the overall drive of the goalkeeper, his or her personality and work ethic. Is the goalkeeper a high achiever or not?
From the J4K perspective, when we discuss the “Learning Potential” of goalkeepers we are talking about their desire to become the best they can be. Goalkeepers with a high learning potential have a true passion for the game, it is always in their thoughts, and they love to watch the game when they are not playing. These goalkeepers never miss a training session, and best most dedicated goalkeepers treat every training session and game they play like it’s their last. All these youth goalkeepers focus within the session are always high and they ask questions of the coach about the tactics.
Goalkeepers with “Learning Potential” have no issues getting constructive feedback from the coach – they want feedback, and they have a thirst, a hunger to learn. They are strong mentally and can deal with and bounce back from disappointment. They are patient and understand that the journey towards success is a long one.
In essence they are “High” achievers. Goalkeepers (and parents) that have and understand the traits required of a high achiever are not only a coach’s dream, but will have a much higher chance of success.
We use the term “Talent Potential” to discuss the “nature versus nurture” topic. Daniel Coyle, author of the book, The Talent Code, discusses this topic of talent in depth. What comes across from the book is that talent is a function of “deep practice,” “ignition” and “master coaching.” Greatness is not born, but it is grown. Great read book; it is a must for coaches, parents and players.)
Although we agree to an extent that talent can be developed, from experience in coaching youth soccer players we believe they are born with a “Level of Potential” that we as coaches do not control. Coaches nurture that potential, refine it and guide the goalkeeper to success. Let’s just categorize the level of potential of these players into Type 1, Type 2, Type 3 and Type 4. From a young age coaches and parents can easily identify these goalkeepers, they are:
Type 1: This is the young goalkeeper who has the natural athletic ability (genetics) and an innate soccer insight and technical ability for the game. You know the one I mean; the goalkeeper who naturally is not only quick, but has quick feet and a quick mind. He or she has had very little training at this time, but all that are watching cannot help but applaud the skills and physical capabilities of the goalkeeper on show. This goalkeeper has been blessed genetically with a talent potential to play at the highest levels of the game.
Type 2: This is the young goalkeeper who is a genetically gifted athlete, however currently falls short in regards to the innate soccer insight and technical ability to excel within the game. In the correct environment, and with a high learning potential, this goalkeeper can both compete with, and evolve into, the “Type 1” player.
Type 3: Unlike the Type 1 or Type 2 goalkeeper, this goalkeeper lacks the natural physiological traits required at the higher levels of the game but does display the innate soccer insight and technical ability for the game. With the correct environment this type of goalkeeper has the potential to play college soccer, but his or her lack of natural athletic ability will hinder their chances to play at the higher levels of the game. This goalkeeper requires a very high learning potential to achieve his or her goals.
Type 4: This goalkeeper falls short on natural athletic ability and the innate soccer insight and technical ability for the game. Although this goalkeeper will have the same opportunities to compete and enjoy the game, unlike the other types of goalkeepers this goalkeeper does not have the talent potential to play at the higher levels of club soccer and will generally not be good enough to play college soccer, no matter how high his/her learning potential is.
We should point out that when discussin the physiological aspect of a goalkeeper, we are not talking about the height and build or size and strength of a goalkeeper, but more about the soccer-specific agility, mobility, speed, strength, power and endurance. An example of two different goalkeeper types would be Valdes and Buffon. The two are different in their physiological make up, but both possess incredible athletic prowess on the soccer field.
When we discuss the “talent potential” and the “learning potential” of goalkeepers we challenge coaches and parents to have more open and honest conversations concerning the ingredients the goalkeeper is bringing to the table. We challenge goalkeepers and parents to look deep inside and ask the question: Where am I/where is my child on the talent and learning potential scale?
Everyone has the ability to develop the skills required to become a “High Achiever.” Playing soccer creates the perfect foundation for success in life, not just soccer. Many goalkeepers will realize their dreams and play college soccer, while others will not. But let us not forget no matter what goalkeeper type, with the correct attitude and a high potential to learn, every goalkeepers can strive to become the best they can be and have many enjoyable years playing the beautiful game!
Whether the reader agrees or disagrees, we hope that our perspective of what we believe are the primary factors of goalkeeper development here at just4keepers international academy, and provoke some food for thought and at the very least reminds every goalkeeper that their quest to greatness is to some extent in their own hands!
Goalkeeper: Good Foot skills And Ability To Read The Game Is Why He Is Today’s Specialized Key Position
In today’s modern soccer game, we take the goalkeeper for granted. A soccer team is made up of 10 players wearing the same design soccer kit and one player in another. This team division is so natural that when a coach lists his formations he does not bother with the first element of his team. To speak of a 1-4-3-3 or 1-4-2-3-1 would seem insane.
When soccer (football) began with its foundation of the Football Association in 1863, there was no such thing as a goalkeeper.
In those early years, in the the United Kingdom at least, it was all about dribbling and scoring goals, and very little emphasis was placed in organizing systems of stopping them. In fact the early game rules makes no reference to a goalkeeper.
Under those early rules, any player could handle the ball by making a ‘fair catch’ – which permitted them a free kick if, immediately after catching the ball, they made an impression in the pitch with their shoe. Running with the ball in both hands and scoring with a throw, was not permitted.
The 1887 Harrow Rules, reflected the game as it had been played at the school for some time, allowed ‘handling’ but only to take a clean catch, at which the player had to shout ‘yards’. If he did so, he was entitled to move three yards in any direction without being challenged.
There was not a player who hung back, although there were, of course, defenders. In phaininda and harpastum, ancient Greek and Roman games that can be regarded as forerunners of football, slower players were positioned at the back.
The goals themselves weren’t standardized. At some public schools, the goal stretched the entire width of the pitch, while at others it consisted of a single tree or door; if the goal was either too big or too small, there was no point in having a keeper.
In Football at Westminster School, HC Benham writes of games that featured goals about 12 yards wide. The space between conveniently located trees at either end of the pitch.
In 1863 the game laws standardized the goal at eight yards wide and in 1866 a revision (insisted upon by players from the Sheffield club – which, unusually, had grown up outside the public school framework) introduced a maximum height of eight feet, it became logical to try to defend that space with a single player. The Sheffield Rules of 1857 make allowance for what was effectively a ‘last man back‘ ruling, and from the mid-1860s the goalkeeper was an accepted position.
In 1871, he was written into the laws as the last remaining player who could use his hands. At that stage, he could handle the ball anywhere on the pitch. In 1887 he was restricted to handling in his own half – a goalkeeper when handling, an FA memorandum noted, was intended ‘to be in defense of his goal’ – and only in 1912 to handling in his own box, mainly because the Sunderland and Wales goalkeeper Leigh Richmond Roose had a habit of bouncing the ball to halfway and then launching kicks on to the opponents’ goalmouth.
It was also in 1912 that the goalkeeper should wear a different colored shirt to the rest of his team: the final division of the keeper from the rest.
Since then, the process has been one of gradual change. For a while, goalkeepers hanged back and stayed on their lines – but, slowly, the benefits of advancing began to be recognized.
Hungarian Gyula Grosics was the first keeper to like to leave his boxand he was a key part of the side that won the 1952 Olympics and went on to beat England 6-3 at Wembley the following year.
Grosics was an intellectual and a little bit odd. He was the start of a trend, though, and the likes of Lev Yashin, perhaps the greatest keeper of them all, the Bulgarian Apostol Sokolov and Liverpool’s Tommy Lawrence began to advance: thus, the sweeper-keeper was born.
In the early seventies, Johan Cruyff insisted that Holland selected as their goalkeeper Jan Jongbloed. He was only 5ft 10ins and not a great keeper in the conventional sense. But he could read the game well and was a decent passer. “If everybody moves forward, you need an extra defender,“ said Cruyff. “So the goalkeeper has to be able to play as well, therefore having good footwork and decent ball skills.“
The introduction of the backpass law in 1992 accelerated the process. Goalkeepers had to be accomplished with at least one foot, ideally both. As they’ve become better players, so they’ve begun to get more involved in the play. Victor Valdes isn’t a great shot-stopper, but he is essential to Barcelona’s style. He kept passing the ball out even after his mistake cost Barca a first-minute goal in El Clasico last December.
Goalkeepers pass more, but they also now score more. Gone are the days when a goal from a keeper was a long punt from his own box; now they weigh in with late headers and, increasingly, penalties and free-kicks. Rogerio Ceni has scored more than 100 times for Sao Paulo.
He is an extreme case off course, but he is part the prevailing mood: goalkeepers are considered less and less the odd man apart, and are becoming once again just another member of the team.
Before we explain how a J4K Goalkeeper Evaluation Trial can benefit a goalkeeper let us go over how it works:
Only a small number of goalkeepers get invited to each trial evaluation.
The trial training session lasts for one hour and in that hour goalkeepers perform certain exercises beginning with a warm up, footwork, proper body movement, technique, distributing and shooting.
This allows the J4K coaches to evaluate the keepers.
After the evaluation J4K invites certain players/keepers to participate in our school. It is not open to all participants.
Goalkeeping is a very specialized position that requires great technique and attention to detail. Attention to detail and sound fundamentals is whatJ4K does. By attending a J4K trial a goalkeeper learns how to pay attention to the little details and fundamentals and become aware of the fine points in executing proper fundamentals that can make a huge difference in one's game.
Benefits of J4K International School:
* Year round goalkeeper specific training, which includes
field training as well as classroom training.
* Guest Featured International Coaches
* Residential Training in our UK Academy
* Universities and Pro Trials
* In depth detail curriculum:
* Physics and footwork (short distance)
* Proper body movement and positioning
* First Touch, (Receiving, controlling and distributing of ball)
Just4Keepers launched this year in 10 states in the USA bringing the same great worldwide brand recognition and reliability.
Just4Keepers in New Jersey is introducing our international school to the local keepers with a series of goalkeeping trial evaluation clinics. You can view details here: http://www.thesportofsoccer.com/2013winterclinics
Soccer has always been an endless source of life lessons on and off the pitch for Niko.As an ex player Niko has loved the sport since he was 4 years old. That was the 1st time his dad, an ex professional goalkeeper for FC Olympiakos, took him to the stadium and Niko started to experienced pro soccer in Europe at a very young age. The rest is history.