By Patrick Morrison
THIS season I am involved with several teams from various age groups and grades. From senior inter-county, both male and female, u-20 level, as well as several club teams across all grades. I also field questions and queries from goalkeepers I have previously coached, some whom I have never coached as well as people who read these columns about their goalkeeping problems and/or necessities. Most of the time when people reach out, they are looking for drills and inspiration for certain areas of their game that they would like to improve on.
One of the most common areas I get questioned upon is also one of the most important areas a goalkeeper should be competent in performing confidently. That is COMMUNICATION.
Just last week I had a coach contact me about a young goalkeeper that they were developing and their reluctance to communicate when on the field of play. Like most young adults, they explained the young goalkeeper was somewhat shy and reserved so encouraging them to marshal their defence during training and games has been challenging.
As I had explained to the inquisitive coach, just recently I had devised a communication drill to aid goalkeepers with their communication. The inspiration for the drill came from a video I had watched online of a shepherd giving a public demonstration of how he herds his sheep using his 10 sheep dogs. By using the dog’s names, whistles, sounds, and commands, the shepherd directs the movements and actions of his dogs to ensure that they have full control over the herd of sheep.
He has a command, sound, or whistle for every action he requires the dogs to complete. He even has a command to tell a dog to go find the sheep and bring them back to him. He calls this command and says nothing more to the dog and the dogs goes and finds the sheep and brings them back to where the shepherd is standing. It was truly remarkable.
It reminded me of when I was younger and would sit on my oul fella’s knee watching the show ‘One Man and His Dog,’ which was the televised sheepdog championships where the shepherds would have to navigate their flocks through various gates and obstacles in the quickest time possible.
This resonated with me in relation to a goalkeeper marshalling their defence during a game. It is vital for any team to have a specific language for them to use during games that allows them to communicate with one another effectively. The goalkeeper is paramount to this and should be the number one communicator within any team.
By using their voice, a goalkeeper must be able to manoeuvre their defensive ‘dogs’ into the positions they need to control the offensive ‘sheep.’
THE SHEEPDOG DRILL
To set up the drill, cone out four squares using four different coloured cones (one red square, one blue square, etc.) putting each of the coloured squares into a corner of a 20mx20m overall square. How big the coloured squares are will be at your discretion. In the middle of the 20×20 square place two slalom poles three metres apart to be used as a gate.
The goalkeeper (the shepherd) stands on the outside of the big square. Another keeper/player (the sheepdog) stands between the gate in the middle with either a monkey hat or blindfold covering their eyes.
The coach will have four cones in their hand and the colour of each cone will match the colour of each of the coloured squares.
To begin the drill the coach will hold up one of the coloured cones they are holding, and the goalkeeper (shepherd) must direct the sheepdog into the corresponding coloured square.
The sheepdog will only be permitted to move to the commands called to them by the goalkeeper. They will not be permitted to move on their own initiative because this means the goalkeeper’s commands must be as precise as possible to ensure they direct the sheepdog efficiently.
Once the sheepdog reaches the desired square the coach holds up another colour or even two colours for the goalkeeper to direct the sheepdog toward them in sequence.
If the coach adds in the command “GATE” when holding up the cones this means that the goalkeeper must first manoeuvre the sheepdog through the gate in the middle before moving them into the coloured square. Continue this for a minute or two then swap the keeper around for a number of sets each.
It is a very fun drill to complete and after a few sets you will really see improvements in your goalkeeper’s communication skills. Once they have mastered this you can increase the difficulty by enforcing a time limit to get the sheepdog to each square, add in a second sheepdog, and/or by outlawing certain calls and enforcing others. You can also ‘colourblind’ the colours by simply reversing them i.e. – blue is green, red is yellow etc.
The coach gave me great feedback about the results of the drill, and he has developed it further already for the young goalkeeper. I myself have seen massive leaps in communication skills for all of the goalkeepers I have used the drill for.
Before, the only way to work on your communication was during training games (small-sided or full-sided) but now this drill allows for specific communication skill development.
Hopefully it will inspire people to create more communication drills in the future so we can help our goalkeepers command their ‘SHEEPDOGS!’
Email: email@example.com; Facebook: @MSoG11; Twitter: @MorSchGk