By Patrick Morrison
WE all know the importance of the goalkeeper position and how it has become one of, if not the most important positions on the field of play.
With that said, the goalkeeping position should then also be one of, if not the most important position to develop for your club and county. For all goalkeepers to develop properly to their maximum performance level, they must be exposed to the optimal environments required to achieve this level.
This environment is one in which quality position specific coaching covering all areas of goalkeeping, strength and conditioning specific to their position as well as how they perform, other goalkeepers of a similar age group and performance level and of course the ability to succeed and fail in equal measure are all present to shape the goalkeepers’ development.
In Gaelic games, it is now commonplace for all counties to have Underage Academies. These places by their very definition have been set up to develop the young players into better players as they journey through to senior football. In GAA, the academies are an institution of distinguished players, at several age groups, aiming to promote and maintain the standards of their own particular counties.
These academies are based around teams and as such choose the very best at each position in each county at each age group and usually each team holds two to three goalkeepers within their ranks. This is how they have always been run, and some people have questioned this method as elitist as generally only the same 30 to 40 players are ever on these panels the whole way up through the academies with little breakthrough from other players. It is very possible this is because these other players cannot or will not breakthrough or may have had periods on these teams but have been unable to maintain their involvement.
For goalkeepers though, it always seems to be the same faces year after year meaning these are the only goalkeepers that ever receive what is supposed to be the best quality coaching that their county can offer. For goalkeepers I have often thought ‘is there a different approach that may work better for the goalkeepers of the entire county and not just a select few that are the recipients each year?’ My answer is to begin a Goalkeeping Academy.
Start an academy that is solely for the goalkeepers of your county where every goalkeeper from every team at every age group can come and receive the best quality coaching that their county can offer them. I do fully appreciate that setting something like this up and the logistics of it would be no mean feat, but it is very achievable.
Like all academies it will need someone at the top who can oversee what is being done in every session every week. This ‘Academy Head’ would also be responsible in acquiring the best possible goalkeeping coaches for this academy. They will also be responsible, with the input of the academy coaches below them, for creating the goalkeeping Ethos, structure, Goalkeeping Principles, and the coaching plans to be used within the academy. They will also ensure that the coaches in the academy are teaching the goalkeepers in accordance with the academy vision and not individualising their coaching to their own agenda.
If we say for an example a county has forty clubs and that the goalkeeping academy caters for the age groups of u-13, u-15, u-17 and u-20 players. If each club was to send one goalkeeper at each level to the academy it would result in each age group having 40 goalkeepers receiving the best quality coaching the county can offer.
As there are four age groups this would allow each age group to be assigned at the very least one session a month to as a starting point, maybe on a Saturday morning. The academy would then run every Saturday morning and would have 40 goalkeepers from every club at every age group at least once per month. If there was a match on the day of their coaching morning, then the coaching can choose who is going to the game and the rest can still receive their coaching.
Now if we say that a goalkeeping coach is capable of coaching ten to 12 goalkeepers at a time that would mean for our 40 goalkeepers, we will need four to five coaches so they can be shared equally.
Every session each month would focus on the different areas of goalkeeping ensuring all areas are covered and ensuring that they are age specific or performance level specific.
As well as this it will be important that goalkeepers are not receiving their coaching from the same coaches every month so they can be exposed to the different coaching and goalkeeping style so long as the core academy ideals are present. Again, it will be the Head Goalkeeping coach’s job to ensure that all sessions are planned and proper periodisation plan is followed.
This idea is something I have long held, and thought would be a massive addition to any county that is serious about developing their goalkeeping selection pool. To go fully into it and fully explain the vision I have had I would need a full Gaelic Life paper on its own. But, it is something that is very achievable and if was correctly set up would in my opinion pay massive dividends for counties in the future. There is no harm in ‘Deepening The Well.’
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