El Luchador the Goalkeeper who snapped…
We had a decent goalie. One day, he’s out there doing his “goalie thing”, and he dives and crushes the wind out of a sweet shot on goal. He gets off the ground, looks over at the coaches and transcends into a new dimension or something. The goalie tosses his hands in the air, swings back his head and screams “Woo! Yeah, baby!”. He then flails his arms through the air, acting a fool.
We had to consider he was losing his freaking mind. Had we been too harsh on him? We weren’t sure. He then taunted the other players, showing aggressive, and hopefully clean, gestures to the other players, his own team, and little kids on the side-lines.
At halftime, we him what he was doing.
He said, “I’m acting like my favorite wrestler!”
I raised my uni-brow (hadn’t shaved in a while) and nodded.
His demeanor suddenly changed. He turned red and ducked his head for a moment and said, “Sorry coach, I won’t do it again.”
I leaned over to him, took a deep breath and said, “Listen here punk. If you don’t pretend to be the craziest wrestler I’ve ever seen for the rest of this game, you’ll wish you were never born.” I threw my head back and howled. “Woo!” I put my fat finger against his confused chest. “And then I’ll see you in the ring on Sunday night and you’re going down! You got that brother!? I’m taking you downtown Julie Brown”
OK. I’ll admit, some of that is minor embellishment on my part. Sorry.
When he returned to the field. He didn’t fail us. For that day he became El Luchador (the Wrestler). He kept it up the rest of the season. It was great. The ones lucky enough to witness it got a real kick out of watching him bust a move. The other teams feared him, on and off the field. A few of the refs questioned his style and advanced, aggressive terminology, but it was exciting to watch and fulfilling to help coach him.
He transformed himself from being a decent player into being an awesome goalie.
I’ve read plenty of soccer coaching books over the years. Several articles on teaching children the “beautiful game”. But on that day, El Luchador taught me one of the most important lessons I ever learned as a coach.
It’ll make you a better coach.
Respect the role, it’s the literal path to success
When we do the team draft, we want to find and choose our goalies early. There needs to be a child on your roster to try as the goalie. We shouldn’t want to wait and use whoever’s left on the team as the goalie. We can’t use random players, the worst player on the team, or draw names from a hat to pick someone to pretend to be the goalie. Goalies are important. I repeat, (in an angry Irish accent) “Keepers are too important to ya kid. Don’t be stupid. You got to have the best!”
The goalie position contains the most sacred of tasks. If they fail at their job, you lose. If they slip up too many times, those weeks of practice, team selection, conditioning, pregame warm-ups, halftime speeches and whatever are at a loss. You lose. NO ONE else on the field has this amount of focused responsibility, not even the coach.
On offense, anyone with a literal foot can score a goal. In reality, you don’t even need a foot, just “nub” the ball past the goalie. If someone throws a human torso at the ball, it may still project the thing into the goal. (Thanks, Newton.)
Anyone can score, but almost no one can effectively stop one. Most kids playing soccer do not have the ability to block a well-placed shot. Most days, I couldn’t prevent a less-than-decent placed shot from reaching its preferred destination.
Defenders are super important, but if your best defender fails at his job, goal prevention still lies with the goalie.
If your assistant coach sucks at his job, it doesn’t mean they will score on your team. If the parents on the sideline are up to their normal abusive ways, it still doesn’t mean that your team will lose. If referee’s make one bad call, after another bad call, it still doesn’t mean your team will lose.
This is basic. There’s the white line behind your goalie’s feet. If the ball crosses that line too many times in one game you lose. It’s the goalie’s responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen. The defense can aid him in that calling. The offense can help prevent a ball from reaching the other end of the field.
“Even If your assistant coach strips to his underwear, and whips his shirt in the air, while riding a lawn mower across the field, and singing the wheels on the bus to distract the bejeezus out of the other team’s shooter during a penalty kick, it’s STILL the goalie’s job to ensure the ball doesn’t cross the little white line. (The line might be brown or even imaginary, it’s based on your rec league’s budget.)”
This means choosing a goalie should be our top priority during tryouts. In later posts, I’ll lay out the top personality types and skills of a potential recreational goalie.
With finding the best keep, it’s not enough to ask other coaches which kids have done it before. It’s a start. You can’t rely on your friends for advice or speak with the parents for ideas of who can guard the sacred goal (They’ll probably lie, anyway. Parents hate watching their kids goalie. The ones that do are either former goalies or Satan worshipers). It’s your job to find good goalies. It requires research, knowledge, and theoretical psychology to know/guess what players you need. Because the best goalies I’ve ever seen didn’t start out as goalies. Someone found them, indoctrinated them, and converted them to the dark side.
Father of four boys and married to a smoking hot wife. A coaching enthusiast, comedian, and author of fart jokes dressed as blogs.
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