Parenting, of course, has its challenges. Parenting a Youth Soccer Player adds another level of challenges to negotiate. Parenting a GOALKEEPER – that’s a whole new level.
While parents of youth soccer players chat on the sidelines, swap stories on Facebook and connect with other parents in on-line communities such as SoccerParenting.com – when your child is a goalkeeper, it often feels like there is something missing with the conversations. What you deal with, as the parent of a goalkeeper, is markedly different compared to field player parents.
There is the obvious: ridiculously disgusting smelling goalkeeper gloves. And, there is the not-so-obvious: the stress you feel when your child makes a mistake or the unique mental makeup of a child who embraces the pressure of the position and enjoys throwing their body at the feet of an oncoming striker!
Yes, there are gross gloves and unique goalkeeper mentalities that present parenting challenges. On top of that, there are limited resources for guidance for parents of goalkeepers. In an effort to bridge some of the gaps, here’s a quick guide to help you along the way.
9 Ways for a Parent to Support the Youth Goalkeeper
- Don't call them a Goalie.
I have to put this one top of the list because it’s a cringe-worthy statement that is a clear indication of a parents’ understanding, or lack thereof, of the game and position. In the United States we call the position a Goalkeeper. In some other countries they say Goalie – but not here. It would be like calling a hockey Goaltender a Goalkeeper or the Catcher in baseball the Catchperson. That being said, SO MANY PEOPLE get this wrong, including many coaches. Lead the way here!
- Find them a Technical Trainer
Some clubs are organized enough to have a full time goalkeeper coach at the club providing regular training for the goalkeepers. If your club is not one of those, or if your child wants additional training, find it! There are some great resources available for finding goalkeeper training, and some well-organized companies with trainers located around the country. Ask around for some recommendations, as not all goalkeeper coaches are alike! And, keep in mind – this is a goalkeeper trainer, not a coach. A trainer generally focuses on more technical training and doesn’t generally watch games and coordinate with the team coach on tactics. If some coordination and cooperation can exist – even better! If you are interested in finding a goalkeeper trainer near you and don’t know where to start – send me an email. I will help.
- Catch them Being Good
It’s hard to fully understand the fact that your child is going to learn from making mistakes. And, in their position, a mistake often results in a goal being scored. The sting of a goal being scored on them seems like a tough way to learn! Try not to stress as it’s all part of the development process. What will help? To use Tony DiCicco’s popular book title: Catch them Being Good.
Make sure they have a strong memory bank of great saves, stellar communication or spot-on distribution to get them through the tough times and keep them confident. Help them feed this bank by pointing out great things they did in a game. Even if it was a game where they lost or where they made a big mistake – help them to always take away a positive or two.
- Buy them a jersey!
If your child is just starting out in goal and has been wearing the team away jersey or even a training bib as their goalkeeper jersey – buy them a goalkeeper jersey. One of the cool things about the position, after all, is that you stand out amongst your peers. Wearing a special jersey helps a young player begin to identify as a goalkeeper.
- Keep a positive look on your face
I remember growing up as a goalkeeper I’d always draw strength from my parents when I took a quick glance to the sideline. If I’d just made a mistake or the game was stressful – I could always count on a reassuring look or a subtle arm pump to help me stay focused and remember that 10 other people were in front of me.
- Let them be critical
I’ll say it again, goalkeepers learn from their mistakes. It’s an essential part of a goalkeeper’s development. While there’s a fine line between being too critical and being productive in their evaluation of their mistakes, in order to learn and grow and develop, a goalkeeper needs to analyze their mistakes and learn from them. Allow your goalkeeper to dissect a play that led to a goal or dangerous situation and help them develop the skills and abilities to learn from them so they don’t happen again.
- Protect them in training
Get them all the gear they need. I always like keepers to come to training with pants and long sleeved jerseys. Even in the heat of the summer, if the session involves repeated diving or breakaways – I require long pants. Do other coaches require that? No, many do not. In fact, in the past 10 or so years we are starting to see more and more goalkeepers come to training in short sleeved jerseys. Of course, they are emulating their favorite professional player who they see on TV. Do you think that professional player wears a short-sleeved jersey in training? Most likely not.
When I was playing professionally in Italy there is no way I would have been allowed to train without pants and a jersey. In fact, my coach often encouraged me to wear two jerseys as he spread saw dust down all over the goal area before we trained as a means of softening our movements to the ground. You must protect your greatest asset – your body. If I can barely move around normally without hot yoga a few times a week as it is – imagine how I would feel if I hadn’t been protecting my body more in my earlier years?
- Find a goalkeeper camp for them
I know, kids get lots of training and developmental opportunities and they are expensive. I’m not saying this is a must – but if you are able to afford it – find a goalkeeper specific camp with a great reputation and send them. I do not mean a college camp with goalkeeper training – I mean a goalkeeper specific camp. Personally, I grew up going to No. 1 Camps and then worked many years for SoccerPlus Camps and No. 1 Camps. While they were the original goalkeeper camps in the United States and are still going strong today – there are now more goalkeeper specific camps to choose from. Send them.
After months and months of interacting with field player teammates and maybe a handful of other keepers in a training environment through the club – to stand on a field with 50 or 100 other goalkeepers is a powerful thing. Goalkeepers are a special breed of human being – and when a young goalkeeper suddenly finds themselves amongst so many of them – there is an amazing sense of “THIS is where I belong” that happens.
- Bring your crossword puzzle.
This was my mother’s coping mechanism. It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested in the game; it wasn’t that she didn’t want to be there – I just took her always working on a crossword puzzle as a normal part of my soccer experience. Now, I realize that sitting and watching a game was just too difficult for her, too stressful. That being said, when I needed that reassuring look – she always had it.