THIS 2020 season has certainly been one of the most turbulent seasons that I can ever remember. With so much uncertainty and upheaval at regular intervals, there has always been some form of disruption whether it be from lockdowns to positive cases on various teams, something seemed to always throw the season into turmoil.
It has been a season that has felt like one extended preseason, even though some form of club season has taken place all club championships have been able to run in their entirety without the need for rescheduling. Even though the club championships have been run off to completion it still feels like one massive preseason because of the fact that most club leagues across the country have been left suspended until further notice. This leaves players in a form of limbo having to balance enjoying life while also ensuring they stay in some form of shape in case of an imminent return to club league competition.
I am currently the goalkeeping coach with the Armagh U17 team and the season has been Go-Stop-Go-Stop-Go all year. Even now, after it has been given the green light to go ahead there is still a constant uncertainty about the competition. There is always the possibility that the team may need to isolate as a whole thus forcing us to forfeit if unable to fulfil our fixture on the specified date.
We have come through one lockdown with them as well as releasing them to their clubs for the summer so that club activity could be completed through this pandemic. The team returned to county training in mid-October only to have to cease for two weeks due to a rise in the positive cases in the county. The time that has been afforded to us to prepare our team has been extremely fragmented and has changed at a moments notice on more than one occasion. With this reduced contact time with my group of goalkeepers, it was evident that I needed to move the focus of every session from quantity to quality.
The restricted training schedule coupled with the close proximity of our first game versus Derry (24th October), our hands have been forced into changing our periodised training plan to improve the quality of what we do. Whenever you are handed a reduced season, for whatever reason it may be, it is important to remember that your coaching should change also. Every session becomes more quality orientated so that these young keepers can performed to the best of their abilities.
From a coaching capacity, it is in times like these that your best coach has to come to the fore since the amount of time you may have with your goalkeepers will be limited and could be completely removed at the drop of a hat. Your coaching focus both collectively and individually becomes more flexible in nature but adaptable for any situation. It requires more planning in terms of having sessions ready for any situation this crazy season may throw at you. These sessions needed to be packed full of game related situations that your goalkeepers will experience on match days.
Training sessions for your goalkeepers is now ran at a high intensity, one that is higher than the intensity they will experience during game days and will be full of game situations. By completing sessions in this manner, it allows the goalkeepers to fine tune their goalkeeping performance at high intensity, thus reducing the amount of time they have to respond to specific game scenarios. These sessions are aiming for an improvement in both the quality of their decision making as well as the speed at which they can make these decisions.
With your sessions focused solely on the processes used in each situation to ensure a preferable outcome, it enables the goalkeepers to create or confirm what options they have and which is the best ones to take in all of the game situations during your sessions. Add into this extra difficulties for them to deal with during each drill (blind sighted, ricochets, physical contact, psychological pressures etc.) and you will find that they will be able to improve their goalkeeping ability over this short period of time. For long term changes in both physical and mental capabilities, there just isn’t enough time to make significant game day changes.
Essentially, in this shortened window of competition you are accepting that you have no time to make any major improvements to their game. What you can improve is the quality of their current goalkeeping abilities. You can sharpen these skills through conditioned drills and game scenarios that replicate the game at a much higher level of intensity than what they will be experiencing in competition. This in turn will force their bodies to adapt and learn how to execute their skills in a more efficient and effective manner.
Ultimately, by increasing the quality of the training by focusing the majority of sessions on fine tuning their game day skills, it will allow your goalkeepers to maximise the abilities they currently have and reduce the amount of errors that are made in the process. With such a short county season about to unfold your emphasis should be on ‘Quality Coaching Over Quantity Training.’