The fall season is over. Hopefully your team has moved indoors. As the goalkeeper however, getting the ball smashed at you from point blank range and diving around on hardwood gym floors or a thin layer of turf sitting atop a cement foundation doesn’t quite cultivate the well rounded goalkeeper coaches are looking for in the spring. Here are five things you can be doing this winter to lift your game.
- Play. Your team should be practicing indoors once or twice week. If they aren’t you should be looking for supplemental training options during the winter break. Supplemental training is a great way to work on technique. The ideal training regimen for a youth goalkeeper can vary, but you should be looking to get one or two days of training in with your team per week as well as at least one goalkeeper specific training session per week during the winter season.
- Futsal. There is no way to sugarcoat it—goalkeepers must be good with their feet. There is no excuse for a goalkeeper who can’t play with his feet in the modern game. The youth goalkeeper should aim to be just as good with his or her feet as the outfield players. If you think your teammates would laugh at that notion, it’s time to set some new goals. Futsal training is a great way to improve close control, quick decision making and ball mastery. It is played indoors on hardwood gym floors with a smaller, weighted ball that doesn’t bounce much. Look to sign up for a futsal program and compete as an outfield player. It’s a great and fun way to improve a part of your game that is integral to goalkeeping. The New York Red Bull’s offer a great futsal / futbolinho program. You can sign up to try out here.
- Yoga. A key aspect of goalkeeping that takes time to develop is balance and core strength. The benefits of yoga for athletes are numerous and in turn, top professionals and college athletes have adopted a yoga routine as part of their practice. Going to a class is a great way to reap the benefits of yoga, but there are some great and FREE options young athletes can explore at home. I personally like Yoga with Adriene to help me advance my own practice.
- Strength and Conditioning. The winter is an ideal time to focus on building a base level of fitness. Some endurance training is a great idea even for young goalkeepers as long as the temperature outside does not dip below freezing. Young athletes should also be working on building strength. Body weight exercises are an ideal way for players below the age of 13 to build strength. Push ups, squats, sit ups, lunges and dips are all great body weight exercises that can help goalkeepers build strength without putting too much stress on their joints. Athletes older than 13 should look to incorporate a gym routine and learn the basics of dumbbell and barbell weightlifting. The goal is to build explosive strength, so dead lifts, squats, and bench presses, are all excellent exercises to incorporate into a weightlifting regimen. Take a look at this article on some of Tim Howard’s training techniques.
- Cross Train. Play other sports! If you are serious about soccer then you must put soccer first. America has always produced excellent goalkeepers and one of the main reasons for that is because they play a wide variety of sports growing up. Basketball is great for footwork and hand eye coordination; wrestling can help build explosive hip power and all around functional strength; gymnastics can help develop overall athleticism, balance, power and flexibility; boxing is great for hand speed and reaction time. Its not too important which sport you choose, so long as you are having fun and working hard.
Michael Sylvia is the current goalkeeper coach for the New York Red Bull’s Regional Development School and former men’s goalkeeper coach for Kean University.