Last Line of Defence

EVS Save

In the cold depths of last winter I was looking for a coaching challenge – something out of my comfort zone that would develop me and add more depth to my football knowledge. Whilst perusing the local County F.A. websites I saw available spaces on a F.A. Goalkeeper Coaching Award Level 1 course and without haste I signed up.

Traditionally the most coaching a goalkeeper would get at any session a coach puts on is when it comes to a shooting drill. Unfortunately there are not enough coaches around who can facilitate a separate session dedicated to their last line of defence. I’m lucky enough to work with a couple of teams who can afford to split a session as they have enough coaches to do this, with this in mind I wanted to get as much exposure as I could to the goalkeeping world.

First of all I attended a GK Workshop that was held at Fulham F.C’s impressive training facility in South West London. A session was led by Lee Smelt, who holds the position of Academy Goalkeeping Coach at Arsenal. He put on a variety of drills starting with GK specific warm-ups, then moved on to a taster of what to expect on Level 1 and also a peek at Level 2. It was engaging, informative and after that one afternoon I already had expanded my knowledge in this area.

We are always told ‘you have to mad to be a keeper’ and I tend to agree looking back at characters like Bruce Grobbelaar with his famous jelly legs, Jorge Campos’ garish Mexican goalkeeper jerseys and Rene Higuita’s famous ‘scorpion kick’. It is a specialist position and I knew there was more to it than meets the eye so was looking forward to learning the basics of what it takes to be successful between the sticks.

Low Save

The Level 1 course is a 3-day affair with an assessment on the final day on a specified topic assigned by your tutor. There was a mix of students on the course of all ages and with a variety of experience in the goalkeeping world. The tutor brought along a youth goalkeeper from Brentford FC who was used for demonstrations – this was very useful for the majority as we were not as athletic as we used to be!

We were shown specific warm-ups which we all took part in, these targeted all parts of the body and certainly raised the heart rate. After we all gained an understanding of the ‘set position’, which a goalkeeper should get into when anticipating their call to action, we were shown all the variety of saves that made up the course.

As I haven’t had exposure of being a goalkeeper it was fantastic to see the intricacies and coaching points that could be put across. Before the course I could watch a game and identify a great save, after the course I found myself understanding why a certain save was made. For example the ‘Scoop’ technique where you make your legs into the shape of a ‘K’ to ensure the ball does not go through them.

I was assigned the ‘Cup’ technique for my assessment. A 10×10 yard with a 4-yard goal was set up with one server and goalkeeper to coach – these were other participants on the course. For 15mins I got across the coaching points I was taught; Set Position, footwork, ball tucked into midriff with elbows tucked in amongst others. I passed successfully but like all assessments those 15mins felt like an hour! My assessor gave feedback of getting more experience with goalkeepers whether it be coaching them, observing sessions or using other media such as books and DVD’s.

The basic drills and understanding I developed on the 3-day course have really been beneficial to me as a coach. Whilst coaching in the USA, I was able to put on a proficient hour-long session for a young goalkeeper who had no previous training in this area. At the end of the hour he was already making improvements to his stance and technique.

If you get a chance to take part in this Award I recommend you do.

You then have the chance to say ‘I can coach 11 players, can you?!’



Article by Chris Stygal

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