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Among all soccer players who would like to improve, a good percent are keepers.

A very curious statistic: among my last 10 individual soccer students, 7 are keepers.

You ask, Why? I asked myself the same question, too.

I think that the reasons are basically two.

The first is obvious. It's really rare that a team has a specific keeper coach. Sometimes the coach finds extra time to coach the keeper apart, before or after team practice, but itís really rare. More often, a parent kicks the ball to the keeper, left and right, PRETENDING to coach or warm him or her up! I love the effort but, itís totally ineffective!

I always say to my keeper students, that a keeper is a traditional field soccer player, that usually plays in defense and for a few seconds in a game, is allowed to use his or her hands. So, itís great for keepers to train like all other players in handling the ball with the feet, but when itís time to work specifically in developing keeping soccer skills, that is the problem. In general, thereís no practice at all.

The second reason is a mix of self esteem, modesty and responsibility. Iíve said many times that keepers are a world apart. They are very different from the rest of the players.

Self esteem? Yes. When they do something, the real keepers (not the ones, as on many teams, someone that is not good enough to play on the field so, mistakenly, will be the keeper!), they like to do it right! So, they work on getting better and they do their soccer homework. At every lesson, I always notice little improvements in handling the ball and this is transformed into confidence during the games.

Modesty? Yes. They know that at the moment they have limitations in their keeping skills and have the modesty to say: ĒI need to work on getting better and I donít know how!Ē

Responsibility? Yes. They know that when some other player on the field makes a mistake itís often fixable. When they made a mistake they know that the game could be gone. Lost! We coaches, always try to take away this concept. We say that we play in 11. We win in 11 and lose in 11 and this is absolutely true. Itís true for all of us. Almost for all of us. But not for the keepers. The real ones. They feel the responsibility that they are the last chance not to get beaten. They are the seat-belt. If something bad happens, Iím here, count on me because Iíll save you! When the seat-belt brakes, we know the consequence. So, even if no one has to give them this responsibility, the one to save all of us, they feel it anyway and this, pushes them to get better!

I have, or I have had, keeper students of all ages. From 11 to over 30, male and female.

I love working with them. They like to get muddy and wet. For them, that is the fun part. I really envy them for this. In particular the girls. In general, some soccer girl players, are like little 'princesses'! They come to the field, already dressed with the uniform, super clean, and at the end of the game, even playing on a super-swampy field, they come out the same as when they arrived. Apart from the shoes, that can be taken off, theyíre still super clean and can sit in the car like when they arrived. Immaculate! I remember that during a game, muddy field, one of my U16 girls, came to the border of the field to show me her knees covered with a little of mud, and told me: "LOOK!!!", like she was injured and literally covered in blood!!!

It was very funny, but sometimes this is the reality so, to see my keeper students get wet and muddy for 1 hour jumping and diving on the ground, or worse, SIT or LIE there and do the exercises in the mud, itís great!

A few months ago, I was working with my older students. An ex American football player, 6í6Ē, a kind of refrigerator that in the last few months has lost more than 40 pounds and now looks like Superman! Because of his mass, the greatest problem that he had was to move fast and come up fast from the ground. We were working on that and, during a pause, I was telling him about the horrible way in which professional keepers come out when facing a break-through from the side. I told him that often, keepers face the opponents standing with the legs open, inviting them to shoot through their legs, instead of finding the right timing and challenge them on the ground when the ball is 50/50.

We simulated that situation dozens of times. I was jogging in his direction and saying aloud "50/50" when the ball was challengeable and "not anymore" when I was touching it. Little by little he adjusted himself in attacking me by diving on the ground (attacking the ball), just after I had touched it, when it was 50/50 again. From his last email to me, it seems like he got the concept!

"Coach: Just wanted to let you know, that I actually defended a situation in which we practiced on Friday, just this last Saturday....I did just as we practiced (attacked the ball at the 50/50 point) and it worked!! Thanks so much!"

Wow, this is great. For me, itís worth more than all the soccer trophies I won in my life. To transfer theory to reality and see that it works, is like a science experiment for me. I clearly have my personal convictions that are the fruits of 50 years on a soccer field but, I need to test my ideas because one thing is to have convictions and another thing is to see that they are correct.

So thanks students for permitting me to test my soccer ideas with you and, in helping you, you help me to become a better coach/teacher everyday.

Coach Gianni
Posted on 27 Sep 2007 by coachgianni
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