Coaches Corner with Kevin Botterill

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    I'm Kevin Botterill and one of my main responsibilities on the Bulldog Soccer team is coaching the goalkeepers.  Goalkeeping is a very specialized position, and has a completely different set of requirements to those of the field players.  This means that it requires a player with a very different skill set and also requires a different type of training.

    The following is a list of the main requirement s of a goalkeeper in no particular order:-

    1)      Size and range - A goalkeeper has top be able to cover as much of the goal as possible to save shots.  Height is a huge advantage, as well as, quickness and power in jumping and diving.  The goalkeeper also has to be able to claim balls above the field players in crossing situations.

    2)      Quickness and agility - A goalkeeper must be able to cover ground towards the ball or across the goal quickly both on their feet and diving.  They must also be able to change direction suddenly while maintaining balance and control of their body.

    3)      Hand - eye coordination - A good goalkeeper cleanly catches everything that they get two hands to.   They are also able to make very quick one-handed reaction saves and can adjust at the last second to stop a ball that is deflected.

    4)      Distribution - A goalkeeper is the last line of defense but also the first line of attack.  She must be able to keep possession with her feet when dealing with back passes, often under pressure.  She must be able to start quick counter attacks with long and accurate throws, punts and dropkicks.  The goalkeeper must also be able to come out of her area at speed to clear bouncing balls at awkward heights with her feet or her head.

    5)      Fearlessness - A goalkeeper is expected to put their body where forwards and defenders may both be swinging their legs at the ball.  Collisions are part of the game and must be accepted to excel.

    6)      Attention to detail -A goalkeeper is the difference between the opposition scoring or not, and therefore, winning and losing.  The difference between making a save cleanly and giving up a goal is often minute but these differences have to be worked on every day in practice.  A goalkeeper must constantly strive to be perfect in her handling, positioning, diving technique etc. in order to reach her potential.

    7)      Mental toughness - While field players can make numerous big mistakes during a game and often go unpunished, a goalkeeper's mistakes generally lead to goals.  A goalkeeper has to be strong enough to accept this, put mistakes behind them and continue to be aggressive and take responsibility for protecting the goal.

    8)      Leadership and communication- The goalkeeper is far more than a shot-stopper.  They are the leader and coach of the defenders.  A goalkeeper must understand the game and the defensive tactics of the team and be able to communicate quickly and effectively with their teammates.  The goalkeeper must inspire trust from the defenders in front of them and also instill the desire to defend fearlessly for them.  The goalkeeper must hold their teammates accountable for what they do wrong and make sure that they are acknowledged for what they do right.

    I am often asked what drills a goalkeeper should practice in order to improve.  This is a very difficult question as all goalkeepers are different and therefore have different strengths and weaknesses to address.  Also depending upon the age, skill set and physical abilities of the goalkeeper a different route to improvement may be appropriate.  Below are some basic tips to ensure that you develop your game.

    1)      Get goalkeeper coaching - this can be in the form of individual lessons from a club or college coach, from your team coach before, during or after practice or by attending camps and clinics.  Obviously the more quality coaching you receive and then apply the better you will get.  Ask the coach about your strengths and weaknesses and what you can do to improve. 

    2)      Improve handling - Basic handling (which is hugely important) requires just a ball and a wall, a goalpost or the ground to work on.  Simply throw the ball against a rebounding surface and catch it cleanly with correct technique.  Our goalkeepers spend 15 mins or so a day just some variation of this.

    3)      Practice communication and leadership in every game situation - The leadership aspect is the most important and hardest to teach of all goalkeeping skills.  Train it every chance you get, make sure you are vocal in all of your games, but also scrimmages and small-sided games in practice and any other team situation you find yourself in.  Your teammates need to view you as a leader all the time, don't think that you can just turn it on in games.

    4)      Improve your distribution - The ability to drop kick (striking the ball just as it hits the ground) is huge in the women's game as it allows a player to add 10-20 yards to their punts.  All it takes is a few minutes a day hitting directly into a goal until you get the timing right.  The overarm throw is also a big (and underused) weapon for starting counter attacks and can be trained the same way.   Make sure that your arm brushes against your ear as you throw it and that you step down on the ball-side leg (your right if you throw right handed) as you release.

    5)      WATCH SOCCER - This last tip is not restricted to goalkeepers, but in order to learn the most about what attackers might do, what defenders should do and what decisions (good and bad) other goalkeepers make you need to watch as much soccer as possible.   This can be on TV, on the internet (youtube etc) and also live (local college, club, High School and professional games are all great learning environments).


    I hope that this has been informative and given you some insight into the being a goalkeeper.  I look forward to seeing you at our games and working with you at one of our camps/clinics.

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