In teaching tactical decision-making, I believe in making sure every player understands the reasons for choosing every tactical option. I also believe it's important to appreciate that it's a choice because there are always alternatives.
Tactics is decision-making. A goalkeeper's decisions must be made quickly, on the fly, taking rapidly changing conditions into account. A goalkeeper's decisions are also final, since there is usually no one behind them to back them up if they make a mistake. This section will cover a few key areas of goalkeeping decision-making.
Perhaps this should go under Psychology, but a goalkeeper should always remember to never give up on a shot. This is especially true on deflections or breakaways - the goalkeeper who is ready to spring to their feet and try again just might get a chance to make another save. Remember that the shooter is just as likely to flub as the goalkeeper, and the goalkeeper should always be ready to take advantage of the opponent's mistakes.
Strangely, the first decision a keeper should make when facing a shot is to not make a decision at all! Instead, the keeper should react to a situation as it develops, rather than acting right away. They should stay patient until the right moment comes. Some rules of thumb for keepers:
Inexperienced keepers struggle with trying to decide when to come off their line. This is certainly a difficult decision to make, since it depends on both the situation on the field - attacker's speed and ability, positions of other players on both offense and defense - and the keeper's ability and confidence.
Position from the middle to the top of the penalty area helps the goalkeeper get to long through balls more quickly (even intercepting and clearing them outside the area if necessary), and also puts the keeper in the play for use as an outlet for a defender under pressure. Even when they are back, the keeper should stay a minimum of 1-2 yards off the goal line to maintain some angle. A goalkeeper who stays rooted on the line not only concedes the better part of the penalty area to the attacking team, but gives them the most net to shoot at when they do get close (see basic positioning).
A very common question I get asked is, "When should I come out?" I think this is the wrong question. It should be, "How should I come out?" I think that the exact timing is much less critical than coming out hard and decisively and not second-guessing. This is not just for breakaways, but applies to any attempt at the ball (handling crosses, long through balls, etc).
The goalkeeper should:
Never start a run by backing up. They should check the posts, look around at the situation, wait for the right moment, but the keeper should do all of this while on their toes and ready to move forward. (Any backpedalling should have been done previously, well before the keeper's charge. See the Breakaway section for more details.
Young and inexperienced goalkeepers may lack the confidence to come hard on a breakaway or out for a high cross. Build confidence by first teaching them proper techniques, and slowly building into game situations - no pressure, then light pressure, then heavy traffic. A keeper who is confident in their footwork, catching ability, and other techniques will have less to worry about when the time comes to be aggressive.
Younger and inexperienced goalkeepers often wonder when they should dive. The answer is, "almost never". A good goalkeeper minimizes the need to dive by being in good position, aggressively sweeping up loose balls, and challenging shooters. A dive should only be used as a last resort, and always after the shot has been taken. The keeper should stay on their feet as long as possible - once they've dived, they're committed and can't change their mind if the shooter does something else.
A dive is the ultimate and desperate reaction to a shot, it should only be used in ultimate and desperate situations.
Communication is a key for every player on the soccer field, and especially so for the goalkeeper. Once the keeper has made a decision, the defenders need to know what it is. The goalkeeper also must be a organizer and general on the field - they are the only player who faces the field the whole time and are the best positioned to see the development of the play.
The keeper should know at least these two basic calls:
The keeper must yell these commands loudly and repeat them if necessary. There must be no doubt in anyone's mind who's ball it is! This even includes the opposing team - forwards will sometimes back off if they think the keeper is coming hard.
The keeper should also direct traffic and position defenders on the field. Don't expect a lot of this to occur with young keepers, especially those who don't play in goal full time, but with experience a 14 or 15 year old full-time goalkeeper should be able to scan the field and the set the defense as necessary. To do this, the keeper must be a student of the game - they must know:
In short, they must be a second coach out on the soccer field. This is a tall order for a youth soccer player, but here are a few points that will help develop this.
Communication between the goalkeeper and defenders is a key to making the defense function as a unit.
|© 2003 Jeff Benjamin, all rights reserved|