Good morning to all! Hope everyone is well and injury free as we continue to head into the "meat" of Fall seasons across the US.
I was working last night with our Academy aged GKs (u8s thru u12s). These are what I call the "Little1s" and although we spend a HUGE amount of time working on catching and moving our feet to get into the ball path, I am constantly asked by parents and young GKs, "How do I deal with a break-away"? The answer--particularly for Little1s-- is, well, it's not easy.
First and foremost for a GK of any level, the main ingredient in a 1v1 situation is courage. You're staring down a player who's "in" and usually there are--particularly at young ages--a 'herd' of defenders chasing him/her. So the GK sees not only a breakaway toward a 'GIANT' goal, but a throng of out of control players descending upon him/her. Courage is vital. And, not all Little1s are that brave yet! And parents and coaches.....THAT's OK.
We try to teach our GKs to get in the proper angle as we approach 'the herd'. This has to be done very quickly, and most young GKs are late in getting into ball-line (proper angle) from the goal. Then, we ask the young GK to 'stalk' the attacker by moving toward the striker--but moving toward the striker under control. (Again, for young GKS this is a MIGHTY challenge). Then, we ask the 'Little1" to make him/herself as big as possible and hope that the attacking striker hits the ball right at our young GK, or maybe better, shoots wide of the goal. ALL of this while the herd behind the striker is still stampeding! (Remember what I said about courage?).
Anyway, we hope for the best, and we try to teach the GK to make the most of a bad situation by presenting as big a barrier/obstacle to the attacker as possible and then hoping for the best. If the GK makes a save or the striker shoots wide...GREAT SAVE! But if the striker scores....well, the odds were against the Little1 to begin with and we fetch the ball from the net and start over. And finally--and this is MOST important--if the "Little1" has gone down or spread him/herself to create that barrier; I coach them to stay down "until the dust has settled", meaning the striker and the 'herd' have subsided. Most GK injuries--at all levels--are created by late arriving defender(s) who collide with their own GK. I try to make sure that our Little1s understand that a breakaway occurs because we had a malfunction somewhere in mid-field or our defensive third, and that as GKs we try to minimize the goal and scoring opportunity by placing ourselves in harm's way; but NOT by sacrificing ourselves to injury (usually concussion).
This is VITAL as GKS grow and rise through the levels of competitive football/soccer. Remember, on 1v1s, try to make it as difficult as possible for the other team to score....but "live to fight another day" by protecting yourself.
Goalkeepers sometime need to be a bit crazy, but they DON'T need to be injured through crazy decisions--especially at the younger ages.
May the ground beneath your dive be soft. May your goalposts be 3 feet wide. May the other team shoot everything right at you.
All the Best--EV