Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Make the Save

“Do whatever it takes to make the save.” I’ve heard coaches say this all my life and while I agree that in game situations a GK needs to use whatever they’ve got to keep the ball from crossing the line, I think it’s a mistake to encourage that mentality as a regular part of training. If the job is to develop goalkeepers, the priority must be to provide them with the technical tools to deal the wide range of services and shots they encounter. That technical foundation will give them the best chance of making the big-time save when it really counts

I recently saw a National Pool GK give up a far-post goal that she got a fingertip on but could not keep from coming off the inside of the post and rolling across the line. It’s a save I know she’s capable of making. The frustrating part for both of us was that she was trained not to make it. In her regular training sessions she is often told to “make the save, whatever it takes” so when this ball was played across the penalty area she essentially ran across the goal mouth, then tried to get low again and dive for the ball. Her hips were facing the wrong direction and she was way too high…as I watched her move across the goal I knew she wouldn’t make the save. She’s probably done exactly the same thing in training hundreds of times so that is how her body knows to solve that problem.

So why was she allowed to do that in training? I’m sure a lot of the time it works and the touch she gets saves a goal. What made this time different? Maybe the ball had better pace or she got a late read on it. Maybe her arm angle was off; it could have been any one of a number of things. But the real thing that made this situation different was that it was against China’s u17 National Team and that one goal was the difference in that quarter-final match.

I don’t place blame on the Goalkeeper for the goal. I do question the goalkeeper coaches  who create an environment  in which keepers don’t have to be technically good, they have to get a result. If she’d had better technique, I’m confident she would have saved it. But where will that technical ability come from in the instant you really need it if it’s not something you strive for everyday? 

To me it’s simple. The players want to be good but they don’t know what that means or how to get there unless we show them. It’s up to us as coaches to do the work and create an environment that, not only asks them to be good (make the save) but shows them how to be good (proper technique.)

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