Ah, my favorite subject.
This is pretty much the most important player on the field by position definition alone in my book. The Goalie can and often should have more impact on your team than any other. As a coach, you want to get and be close to your goalie. That relationship needs to be be special, almost sacred. It must be rooted in mutual respect that hopefully grows into a mad love affair.
Great goalies are not simply born. They are definitely made. It is always wonderful to have any player with athletic gifts, but many non-gifted athletes have been all-time great goalies. Goalie impact is valued in many different ways, and its power has almost no limits.
Physical skills and quickness are obviously things that anyone would want in a goalie. The two most important characteristics for a goalie might be: He must not flinch or duck, not ever! And He must have the passion to play the position!
A coach should share the growth of the goalie process. The more he gives, the more he will get in return.
THE MEANING OF ROUTINE
As a goalie coach, the greatest thing you can do for any goalkeeper is not an ancient Chinese secret. Get that jump rope thing going, and make him/her/them get good at skipping on it, like boxers do, where it looks almost like a dance. The hand/eye/body connection can be profound.
Goalies perform on-field tasks that are quite different from their on field mates. The way they get ready to play on any given day can make a difference in their confidence level every single day. Goalies do not necessarily have to be warming up as one of the team for the entire pre activity time. They are getting armed for a different kind of combat. Goalies need to create that place where they prepare.
Goalies need to stretch a lot before they get in the cage and take live shots. Nimbleness and confidence travel the same path.
DARE TO PREPARE – FUN IN THE BUN
Pre practice and or pre game hand passing and other drills and exercises using props like tennis balls and sun glasses make the process of improving continuously an evolving game itself and fun for two, or even more to play. Made-up games like these are not ‘won’ or ‘lost’. They are definitely ‘win-win’ deals.
Goalies at higher levels can also use this type of ‘play’ to measure things like reaction and coordination as well as to warm up and to get their goalie body GAME ready.
WARMING HIM UP
If possible, the coach should warm up the goalie every day. Obviously if you have 5 goalies you might want to rethink that. By the way, it’s amazing what this will do for the coach’s stickwork, but more importantly it gives you one on one time with your goalie every day. The goalie is a tool for the coach to plant the seeds he wants his team to grow.
The warm-up is for him, the Goalie. Work a progression that is allowed to change but has a consistent, basic structure. Make sure he is seeing the ball come out of your stick. Work the pace that works best for him. When he lets one by, throw the next one to the same spot. Let him make the adjustment for himself if possible.
SEND A GOALIE MESSAGE TO YOUR DEFENSE
The entire defense must be centered and focusing on protecting the goal in some form, and ultimately HELPING THE GOALIE MAKE THE SAVE. For example: your defender does a good enough job defensively on a shooter inside the chosen defensive system and if he can get a little lift check at just the right time which takes 5 mph off the shooter’s shot, that can enable your goalie to make a “great” save. Everyone feels good in these types of situations except for the team that is shooting of course.
Protecting the goal is the concept for defense that must be mantra and that makes the goalie Buddha.
The goalie, as the eyes for his defense, must always be in position to see as much as possible. It is not easy to cover 360 degrees of potential enemy all the time.
When your team is in any situation, settled or chaotic, protecting where the ball goes in must be the instinct. This will help a team to always be stingy. You are not worried about some guy on the other team “going off” on whoever he is matched up with because everyone is looking to help protect the goal and the goalie. Yes, some guys can just score, no doubt, but a solid defense led by a capable goal tender can make a difference that ultimately keeps the ball out of ‘our’ goal.
IT’S IN THE GAME
Everyone on the team should know and reaffirm the importance of the goalie position. Always make the distinction that it is the position that is important, not only the individual who plays it. Hopefully, as a coach you have goalies that are able to rise to lofty kinds of expectations and play the position with leadership and passion. All the best goalies that I have known have been, shall we say, somewhat ‘quirky’, some more than others. Do not be frightened by this. In most cases it will work for your team in one way or the other. Where many players can be given something to work on that will keep them busy for days, a goalie really needs to be nurtured every step of the way.
Try to have the goalie be part of some kind of “live” drill during a good portion of practice. 3 on 2′s, 4 on 3′s, fast breaks, etc. We find these and variations to be more valuable than too much scrimmaging. In a 2 on 1 drill with a goalie and 1 defender, the goalie becomes the focal point and is making saves in live situations. Sometimes, especially early in the year, scrimmaging can be kind of a mess. When they start playing better and catching the ball all the time, a team can do more 6 on 6 scrimmaging. The team needs to earn scrimmage time. You want a goalie to keep things in order and coaches have to build that with the way they build their practices.
The goalie is the heart and soul of the defense, and also its eyes and ears. He is also mostly the last person protecting the goal. He is the player that often starts the offense as well by how well he can get the ball to the attack. He might even take it over the midfield line himself once in a while, although you don’t want to encourage your goalie to get too far away from the goal unless he’s got a gift.
We often ask our teams not to elect the goalie captain. He is a captain just by his position. By not electing him captain, however, he never has to leave a warm-up before the game to go flip a coin. Also, he might not be the one to lead the team in stretching and plyos every day at practice. We like to get our goalie warm-up started as early as possible. This way he will be good and warm by the time the team is finished with stick drills. It also encourages the goalie to work on his own preparation and to begin building a ritual that prepares him to play this most demanding of positions.
BUILDING AN ARC
This arc may be spelled more with a K rather than a c. It might even be flat-lined to a large degree, but the steps that the goalie learns to take inside those sacred six feet will serve him as ark and anchor in angry seas that are attacking in waves. The area immediately around the goal is turbulent and it is shark infested with those who wish to take a bite out of your defense. When the goalie learns to order opposing chaos for his team it is amazing how much you can keep out of your net.
The goalie should have already jumped rope and stretched before he ever gets in the goal. He needs to have his heart rate up a bit before his warm-up begins.
We will talk about goal line extended throughout this book. Always think about what it is and remember things you learn from it.