Number One as the Eleventh Player; a part of the team, not apart from the team.

In this article, we are going delve into depths of the role of the goalkeeper and how the demands placed on them have evolved dramatically over time. The constant debate around goalkeeper coaching in isolation, and coaching the goalkeeper within team practice will be challenged for years to come; although in my personal opinion, there is a place for both... which I will discuss in more detail later.

The evolution of goalkeeping hasn’t been a recent occurrence, with goalkeepers like Rogério Ceni of Brazil, René Higuita of Columbia, and José Luis Chilavert of Paraguay; comparable to the likes of modern goalkeepers such as Ederson Moraes of Brazil, Jordan Pickford of England, in their ability to defend the space and protect the goal with great creativity and athleticism.

The same can be said for goalkeeper coaching - don’t get me wrong, the days of the goalkeeper(s) and coach are sent over to ‘compost corner’, with just enough space for 10x10, a couple of cones, a few footballs and left to they’re own devices are still among us. However, there is a lot of fantastic work going on around the world, where coaches are going into great detail about the demands of the goalkeepers across all disciplines.

Since the introduction of the back-pass rule in 1992, the emphasis on goalkeepers having to use their feet in open play much more frequently. During the days of the back pass, goalkeepers would be able to manage the game and relieve pressure by picking the ball up and drop it down. The back-pass rule has conditioned the goalkeeper to be able to use their feet effectively; whether it be to clear the ball and potentially reduce the risk of losing possession, or retain and progress possession under pressure.

Having now established what the roles & responsibilities of the goalkeeper are within the game as a player, and expectations of them as a defender of the space behind the defensive unit and protector of the goal; how can we as coaches and educators of the game identify the needs of the individual and
collaborate within the team philosophy and principles?

The importance of realism and relevance in practice has to be considered when working with goalkeepers in isolation. As a coach, can you cover all phases of the game? Can you recreate similar elements of the game that the goalkeeper will be exposed to? Is the workload appropriate for the individual and the position in general? Does the goalkeeper get a wide range of cues, triggers and interference to be able to adapt efficiently to the picture in front of them?

This is where it’s important to find a balance between position specific coaching and coaching the goalkeeper within the team.

What happens when you’ve taken the time to go into great detail when planning a session, the goalkeepers go over to the team and they are doing something completely different? How can we as clubs and coaches ‘bridge this gap’ to ensure that position specific practice leads into the team training?

Here is a session plan on ‘Developing Possession’, which is team focused and facilitates the needs of the specific units within the team that coincide with the conditions, constraints and challenges placed on individuals within the game.

Objective: maintaining and developing possession within the principles and phases of play.

Organisation: pitch dimensions, zonal markings, scoring methods, players & positions, stages of learning/maturation.

Observation: in & out of possession principles, maintaining space to create passing opportunities beyond/beside/ behind the ball, support and security on, near and away from the ball.

Opportunity: individual, unit and team conditions, constraints and challenges to allow for learning and consolidation.

Outcome: implementing principles of possession; progressing by identifying opposition vulnerability, and/or developing possession through the thirds and channels of the pitch.

Things to consider when focusing on developing play from the goalkeepers possession is splitting it into three phases (and in no particular order); 1. playing around, 2. playing through, 3. playing into (player or space).

The order in which you would consider expressing importance can depend on the specific focus for that week; it could be playing forwards early and identifying alternatives from front to back, but in the example we’ve used playing around first to develop the goalkeepers confidence in regular possession of the ball.

These phases should help the goalkeeper to identify the opportunities available in possession and provide ownership and creativity in their approach.

Key factors to consider when working with the goalkeeper are broken down in to ‘in possession’ and ‘out of possession’;

In possession:
Support; providing depth near or away from the ball, speed and angle of support depends on pressure on the ball. Ensure the team have width, depth & mobility/ rotation (make the pitch as big as possible).

Scanning; awareness of the press, cover and balance depending on the type of pass back to the goalkeeper, and decision on what pass is best (linked to the principles earlier). Identify if the player the ball is intended for has a good body shape to received to play forwards or under pressure.

Receiving & Passing; can the goalkeeper recognise and play the pass first time? Can the goalkeeper draw the opponent and relieve the pressure through building or progress possession? Pass selection and application is key; if there are opportunities to exploit the oppositions weaknesses (playing into space behind or between or playing through) then those passes should be encouraged.

Out of Possession:
Security; ensure there is cover and balance near the ball to ensure if possession is lost, then the team have the ability to recover into organised formation in transition.

Team can support play by goalkeeper and defensive unit step up the pitch to support behind the ball and goalkeeper is in a position to defend the space.

It’s important to look at focusing on one of the specific area of the individuals development and identifying whether the the condition, challenge or constraint area split into technical, tactical, physical, psychological and social. Be detailed in the individuals objective but ensure that there are decisions to make and problems to solve; and finally make sure you return to the person to discuss the learning process and ask them how they would improve and implement further.

So how do I challenge the goalkeeper to try something different within open play? Going into more detail about conditions, challenges, constraints; all three have immense value, depending where the individual/unit/team are in their learning/maturation stage. Important thing to remember as a coach is “the right intervention, right player, right time”.

Condition could be “if you score by playing through the thirds, your goal counts as two” which might be important if players need to understand/consolidate the ‘what, where, how, why?’ within their learning. Using condition might be useful when the team may need more time to develop possession and experiment.

Challenge can be slightly more specific but more individualised, for example “how many different ways can the team play into the midfield third”. This gives the player opportunity to try something different, but will reward the player for trying to play or being successful in playing into midfield.

Constraint is a more restricted approach in that it limits choices for players; an example of this could be “you must play through the midfield third before you score”. This still allows for exploration, however it seems more refined in terms of opportunities to try different things due to how much emphasis is placed on the constraint.

By implementing one, some or all of these will give the players more ownership of their own learning, it will give you as the coach a platform to scaffold questioning to support their own learning and provides a clearer process for the next stage of their development.

Remember, it’s important to allow an opportunity for reflection and consolidation to allow the individual/unit/team to see the relevance of what they are learning, decisions required within that learning and problem-solving to do something different when the situation arises.

Just to recap on the topic and purpose of this blog; the focus was on ‘implementing the goalkeeper into team practice’, the purpose was to give an idea of how this could happen and different ways to engage and empower the individual to impact their own learning and development.

Things to take away... Try to plan a syllabus which is linked to the team objectives; ensure the individual has ownership of experimenting with the decisions and actions within the session and support the player when they make a mistake and allow them opportunity to refocus and reapply the skillset in process.

Författare: Jamie-Lloyds Davies