Keeping it Real – Service is the Key

How often does a striker say ‘set’ before striking a ball? When does the attacker pick the ball up and volley the ball into the keepers’ hands? So why do we include this in our coaching?

This season I’ve made a conscious effort to try and devise more realistic triggers for the keepers I have been coaching. This has included, a touch on the ball before shooting or playing / receiving a pass before shooting.

In terms of practice design, I try to work on devising drills based on the last 2 touches / passes before a shot or cross is attempted. Video evidence, if you have access to IT, from previous matches has been a tremendous help with this as you would imagine. Of course, when working on set plays the ball is more than likely to be stationary.

The feedback from the keepers has been that the practices are much more realistic in terms of ball speed, flight, trajectory, reaction times and ultimately their decision making.

Don’t get me wrong, at times we need to serve the ball by hand to help players develop an understanding of the fundamental techniques or reaching high balls in the top corners but as these techniques improve we need to stretch and challenge the keepers with more realistic game based service which means stretching ourselves as goalkeeping coaches.

When designing practices, I try to use minimal equipment maybe just a couple of cones or flat discs just for footwork and basic movement patterns. The aim is then remove these by the end of the session once the keeper has understood the key fundamentals we are working on.

A preseason session might involve using cones, poles and ladders when working on speed and agility but we need to be careful not to make keepers dependant on these coaching aids. Get them used to the flight and movement of the ball, the goalmouth environment, the body shape of strikers so that they can make more effective decisions.

These adjustments to my training sessions have not only been more beneficial to the keepers but also stretched me as a coach.

The next time you watch a goalkeeper you coach in a match see how they move and get set, does it replicate your training sessions? Try planning sessions around specific areas that both you and the goalkeeper feel they need to improve and develop if possible based on actual game performances.

Everyone coaches in a different way and the keepers will all have their preferred way of training. All I’m suggesting is that by making the service in our sessions more directly related to the game surely, we will see better ‘live’ performances as the keeper will be able to more readily recognise the pictures and triggers in front of them and thus make better, more effective decisions.

Discuss at your leisure.

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Matt George

FA Goalkeeping Coach Education Tutor and ESFA England U18 Goalkeeping Coach

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