Goalkeeper Training

 As with the training of a Legendary field player the keeper training environment has to be specific to the areas of greatest game challenge and pressure. Consequently all live keeper situations in Legends practices involve two full squads of players, broken down into 1 v 1 or 2 v 2 mini games, all dribbling, passing and shooting within 25 yards of goal. A vital component of the Legends philosophy is that players who have been taught and constantly challenged to create space and score goals in the crowded penalty area, can easily overcome the simpler challenges posed in other less pressured areas of the field. Consequently, all practice after the technical training phase of the field player program, involves live situations within 25 yards of goal with many balls in play at the same time. This extreme focus on the final phase, or goal scoring aspect of the game, is incredibly specific and beneficial to goalkeepers who face realistic game type pressure every second of every minute in Legends practices.

The more specific the training environment is to the key areas and challenges inherent within the game, the greater the positive learning. The components of a Legends training session are maximally specific and realistic, plus relentlessly repetitive and challenging to goalkeepers. This is because the Legends philosophy involves 20-30 players all simultaneously attempting to penetrate and score. As a consequence, the Legends trained keeper faces hundreds of very realistic, live attacking situations and a barrage of 1 v 1, 2 v 2 situations and shots from all angles and distances within 25 yards, in every practice. The tremendous relativity of this environment challenges the keeper to the greatest possible degree and maximizes the developmental benefits enjoyed by any goalkeeper who train in this manner.

Economy of Training Applied to Goalkeeping
Economy of training is the second of the three essential physical education principles. To maximize the benefits of economy of training for goalies the great coach will structure the practice environment and training session content so that the keeper enjoys the greatest possible skill acquisition benefit. The Training Soccer Legends philosophy dovetails beautifully with economy of training principles because the environment created by positioning two age appropriate goals approximately 25 yards apart, creates a field of optimal size for challenging and developing the three key areas of goalkeeping, i.e. diving saves, reaction saves and 1 v 1 saves. Furthermore, the dribbling and finishing content of all practices involved in stage 2 and the additional passing and first time finishing component in stage 3 of the Legends field player curriculum, creates the perfect environment, and provides the very best practice content, for testing and further developing a goalkeeper’s abilities. The emphasis on relentless attack involved in this type of training creates an almost perfect pressure-training environment for goalkeepers. The most effective pressure training is where the goalie is forced to make a realistic “big play” save, distribute the ball quickly and immediately make another “big play” save. In the Legends philosophy the benefits of pressure training are maximized because the practices are structured to guarantee maximum repetition of the “big play save – distribution – big play save” sequence. Because the practice environment and content demands constant repetition of the “big play” from both the field players and goalies all parties enjoy an optimal level of pressure and individual development. This is how the Legends philosophy utilizes the economy of training principle to get the best out of every player at every practice.

Transfer of Training Applied To Legends Goalkeeping
The Physical Education transfer of training principle establishes that all task specific assimilation, evaluative and neuromuscular development transfers into greater efficiency of related skill performance. When a keeper has been trained to perform the most difficult saves under the greatest pressure, all other similar but less difficult techniques, become relatively easy to perform. Therefore, if a keeper is constantly trained to overcome greater challenges than those encountered during games, she will be more likely to enjoy subsequent success in making the harder saves and find the simpler saves, that are an essential part of the goalkeepers repertoire, very easy to make. For example; where the keeper has developed great proficiency in making the extended diving catch to save a shot destined for the top corner of the net, she is guaranteed to be more effective when dealing with the easier skill of timing and catching crosses when the physical and psychological pressure is reduced. Likewise, any keeper with the ability to quickly read the 1 v 1 and the courage to attack and win the ball at the feet of the onrushing attacker, will have little problem reading and successfully dealing with the driven cross. Added to which, any keeper who can consistently make the reaction save against driven shots from attackers close to goal will have little difficulty dealing with shots taken from further out. This is because positive transfer of training is maximal from the most difficult skills in the tightest areas, to easier skills in expanded space and time, but minimal from the easier skills with expanded space and time, to the restricted spaces in the penalty area involved with the “Training Soccer Legends” 1 v 1 & 2 v 2 philosophy.

Unfortunately for most goalies traditional goalkeeper training programs set up artificial situations where the keeper has an unrealistic amount of time to prepare for making the save, as opposed to realistic situations that emulate the conditions found in the crowded penalty area on match day. Because traditional keeper training contains little real game like pressure, it should be no surprise when a keeper with great technique and effectiveness in the artificial and unrealistic practice environment, can’t make an easier save in the competitive cauldron of the real game.

When recruiting goalkeepers enlightened college coaches look for supreme ability to do three things very well:

  • The diving save
  • The reaction save
  • The 1 v 1 breakaway save

These are the three most difficult skills in the goalkeeping lexicon and the three skills that separate the great from the average keeper.

College coaches also look for goalkeepers with good foot-skills who can handle a poor back pass efficiently and clear the danger. The Legends program is famous for developing incredible foot skills and has always focused on a supreme level of diving, reaction and 1 v 1 ability under pressure. This is done in way that most other programs can’t begin to conceptualize.

  • First, in our weekly goalkeeping specific practices we put our primary focus on teaching great technique and tactical understanding of diving, reaction and 1 v 1 breakaway saves.
  • Second, in our team practices the goalkeeper faces hundreds of shots and breakaways. We place two training field goals just 20-25 yards apart for all practices. All field players play 1 v 1 & 2 v 2 at the same time, therefore many shots are taken in very quick succession and, all practice long in very quick succession, the goalie has to make hundreds of diving, reaction and 1 v 1 saves. The situation is totally dynamic and realistic at all times. This means that each practice contains hundreds of attacking plays that are very specific to the greatest pressure a goalie will ever encounter in the 11 v 11 game situation. When the “Training Soccer Legends” situation is compared to the live game it can be seen that at no time in a typical match does the pressure on the goalkeeper exceed that found in the Legends training situation. Over the days, months and years our goalies get used to foiling all variations of crucial attacking plays in the box. As a consequence, the appropriate responses become habitual and our keepers become brilliant at making the three most difficult saves in soccer, i.e. diving, 1 v 1 & reaction.
  • Third, during games in the initial phases of our program, Legends field players are instructed to take incredible dribbling risks in all areas of the field. This leads to many lost possessions in the defensive third. The result of this high turnover ratio is an unusual amount of action for the goalie, who has to make more saves in this high risk approach to the game than in a traditional “take no risk” defensive approach.
  • Fourth, goalkeepers trained in this manner have to make many quick tactical decisions due to the number of balls in play. In an average 1 v 1 practice session each goalie has to be aware of the position and relative danger of 10-15 soccer balls. This develops tremendous ability to assess variables, compute those variables and select which ball or situation presents the most danger. The goalie has to quickly and constantly adjust position and focus to deal with the greatest threat. This constant adjustment and assessment of new angles etc, develops the ability of the keeper in the “Training Soccer Legends” system to track multiple threats. The keeper also learns to deal with these threats in a constantly shifting priority order of most-to-least dangerous.
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