Goalkeeper. The one position that stands out from the rest. The one player that wears a different color and can use hands. The one player who is in the spotlight when goals get scored. The position that is considered by many to be occupied by crazy people. The position most often forgotten and neglected.
Many players go through their entire careers without ever having played goalkeeper in a competitive match. When coaches make a point to rotate their players’ positions, they often fail to have everyone play keeper. This is a major disservice to these players.
In order for players to truly have the most complete development, they must play goalkeeper at some point in their careers. Here’s why:
1. They will develop new abilities.
Goalkeeper requires a totally different set of skills than field players. By playing goalkeeper, players will develop these skills. It also requires a whole new array of physical movements. The coordination and athleticism required to play goalkeeper helps kids develop into better athletes and translates to their play as field players. So even if goalkeeper is not a child’s long-term position, the skills and agility they develop will benefit them.
2. They will develop new perspective.
Goalkeepers see the game from an entirely different point of view. The whole game is in front of them. They can see everything happening. By watching the game from this point of view, players can gain a new perspective and realize concepts they previously did not understand or think about. For instance, if a player has been failing to mark a runner on the far side, when this player plays goalkeeper, he can see this situation from the keeper’s angle, which may help him realize how important it is and begin to recognize how he can mark this player when he is back playing as a field player.
3. It builds character.
Goalkeeper is a demanding position. Moving across the face of the goal in split seconds, diving, getting off the ground quickly, and jumping are all very physically demanding actions. Then there’s sticking your face right where someone is swinging their leg. That takes a lot of courage and bravery. If a player can fight through all the adversity that is required to play in goal, she will be a better, more resilient person for it. There is also a lot of perceived pressure for goalkeepers. Being the last person trying to stop the ball – especially on a breakaway – is a tough position. Learning to deal with and overcome this type of pressure is important for all soccer players.
4. They will develop empathy.
Goalkeepers are the most misunderstood players on the team. It’s hard for others to relate to them and understand what they go through. If all field players were formerly goalkeepers, they would be able to empathize with their keepers and relate to them. Goalkeepers would no longer be the inadvertent outcasts. This is important for the development of positive team chemistry.
5. It could be their calling.
If a person never tries something, he will never know if he likes it or is good at it. It’s possible that there are a lot more great goalkeepers out there that we will never know about because they have never actually played. With kids, we never know when they might develop a passion for something. It is important that we allow kids the opportunity to develop a passion for goalkeeping. Even if we already have a stud goalkeeper and the player who is begging us to try it is our leading goal scorer, we must give him a chance to try playing in goal. We never know if in 5 years, that goalkeeper changes his mind and the goal scorer is no longer able to finish chances like he used to. Don’t let 5 years go to waste without at least seeing if there could be a standout goalkeeper being developed.
6. They could become coaches.
All players must hang up their boots one day. Many of them will become coaches. It is crucial that all coaches be knowledgeable about goalkeeping. By having an actual playing background to use as a reference, coaches are much better able to serve their goalkeepers.
As coaches, we need to encourage and allow all of our young players to try goalkeeping at some point. As parents, we must encourage our children to try goalkeeping. Some of them might be nervous about it. We must be positive, help them relax, and help them see it as an opportunity to learn and get better. There is no actual pressure. As long as they do their best, we should be happy with their performance and give positive feedback. Allow kids to become the best players they can be. Allow them all to play goalkeeper.