Westfield Soccer Association

Developing young goal players

Weekly email 5/15/2015



During the general meeting last Monday night I shared the clubs philosophy on developing goalkeepers, or goal players as I like to call the players in the goal, to repeat once again that we do not want players to focus on just 1 position from a very young age on. We can all agree that it would be detrimental to a player’s development when played in only one position from a very young age on. Why would we have players focus on the position in the goal from a very young age on then, if we all know this can hurt their development?


The two most heard arguments for working with fulltime keepers at a young age are:


1 – Other teams and/or other clubs work with fulltime goalkeepers from U9 on. We lose games because we do not have a full time keeper.


2 – Our players do not want to play in the goal (U9 or U10).


I’m fully aware that many other programs/clubs allow teams to play players in the goal fulltime from a very young age on. These clubs/programs do their young players such a disservice by limiting the opportunities to develop them. Remember, we want players to learn the game given the principles of the game, not just given a position. Players can only gain a good understanding of the game when they have played the different positions on the team when growing up. Players who became goalkeepers at too young of an age can be spotted from miles away when they are U13/U14. They might be decent shot blockers, but struggle to read the game and will not be good goal players. Goal players are comfortable with the ball at their feet and can be used as an extra player in possession of the ball. It is very exciting to watch some of our younger players play in the goal when they come out of the goal to intercept balls that are played in behind our defense! The short term gains we would have by playing with full time keepers from a very young age on do not outweigh the benefits of rotating players over the different positions for the first few years in travel. Are we worried about the outcome or do we focus on the process?


I’m fully aware that the majority of players at U9 and U10 do not necessarily like to play in goal. This could easily be because they have never gotten any training as a goalkeeper and/or because the emphasis on the outcome stresses either the coaches and/or the parents out. Making a mistake as a keeper can be costly and if we do not allow for our keepers to make mistakes they will never be comfortable in the goal.


Moving forward, starting the Fall of 2015, I will work with the professional trainers assigned to our younger teams to make sure that all players will receive basic goalkeeper training to be more comfortable in the goal.  Expecting every player to have a turn in goal at U9 and U10, maybe even U11, does wonders when trying to eliminate the pressure of playing in goal. No one can’t point fingers to anyone else for making mistakes in the goal or letting one go in, as the chances are that every player will give up at least one goal in the game they play as a goal player. Learning the game is as much about learning to respect each position as it is about anything else.


Beyond age 12 some kids will have their mind made up and have decided that they want to be fulltime goal players. This decision can’t be made unless they have had several years of playing and experimenting in different positions. They learned to play the game given the principles of the game, are comfortable playing with their feet and have a good enough of an understanding of the game that they are capable to read the game.

There is a lot more information I can include to support the philosophy not to work with fulltime keepers at least at U9-U11. To make sure this email doesn’t become too long I will leave you with a few examples of keepers/goal players that have developed to become decent keepers, taking the path as described above.


I worked with 2 very decent and talented goal players in my last year with my FC team. Both of these boys had played on the field till at least U13, but still became good goal players. They were very much capable of playing with their feet, they were able to read the game well, their technique as a keeper/shot blocker was really good as well, but because they read the game well they hardly ever needed to make diving saves. One of them spend most of his high school playing career on the field as a player and both of them were definitely good enough to play in college.


Please check the attached link as well. Going through the information provided you will realize that the keeper in this example did not focus on the position till way later in her playing career. She is considered to be one of the best goalkeepers ever produced by the US.  If this path worked for her, I do not see why it wouldn’t work for our keepers. Please do not forget that we focus heavily on the process and that the outcome of a game at U9 or U10 does not determine whether a coach is really good or not. Winning is considered a positive byproduct of player development, including the development of our future goal players.



Thank you,




Ruben Vloedgraven

Director of Coaching - Westfield Soccer Association