Development of Goalkeepers |Coaches Manual

Development of Goalkeepers

The implementation of goalkeepers within youth soccer is an issue that creates considerable discussion among coaches. Restricting a player to the position of goalkeeper at too early of an age may have a negative effect and eliminate them from future participation in soccer

Children grow at different rates and times. It is impossible to predict who will develop into the best goalkeeper when they are ten. Early selection as a goalkeeper may not be in the player’s best long-term interest. Development of a goalkeeper must be carefully monitored and conducted. The progressive teaching of technical skills is important given the concerns for safety within the position.

Last line of defense – first line of attack.

More than ever before, modern goalkeepers cannot detach themselves from the game. They have become vital elements of the attack as well as their more traditional role as the last defensive stand. They must be accurate passers of the ball during distribution, reliable receivers of the ball under pressure and even show deftness at heading when clearing errant back passes.

This means that the youth goalkeeper must be competent in field skills. Most goalkeeping skills are specific to the position (catching low, medium and high balls, diving, throwing). Older players are more likely to embrace goalkeeping as a more or less permanent role. How well these players incorporate the physical and mental skills of both field player and goalkeeper will determine the true effectiveness of their jobs as the first line of attack and the last line of defense.

Consider This:

  • Players at the U-10 level and older should be encouraged, not forced, to be exposed to goalkeeping roles in practice. Many players develop goalkeeping skills at older ages. Exposing many players at U-10 and U-12 to the position could help identify a hidden talent. Further, exposure to the rigors of goalkeeping may help field players understand the difficulty of the position.
  • Goalkeeping should become an active part of every practice. Unfortunately, many coaches incorrectly set up practices where goalkeepers work mostly by themselves and call on them only for shooting exercises. Goalkeepers should be used early in practice in technical development with the ball at their feet, and either as targets or in their primary role in front of the net to solidify their importance. They should not only play as shot blockers and distributors of the ball, but as active communication links with the rest of the team.
  • The role of the goalkeeper needs to move beyond that of a shot blocker during shooting practice. Coaches should permit goalkeepers to distribute the ball, which increases their decision-making and communication abilities. The goalkeeper’s offensive role should develop in concert with their defensive role.
  • Be Active. Concentration by the goalkeeper is vitally important to their effectiveness. Goalkeepers who stay on their line or who are not attached to the rest of the team will soon be reacting to a desperate situation instead of a relatively safe one. Encouraging goalkeepers to be involved and ready goes a long way in reducing dangerous situations.
  • Goalkeeping is a tough job. Much is expected of goalkeepers, but they receive very little praise. In many ways, goalkeepers are subject to open and unforgiving exposure. Mistakes are clearly showcased and become very personalized, and psychologically deflating. Mistakes will be made. Encouragement and understanding mixed with sound coaching advice will go a long way in creating a stimulating playing environment.
  • When to begin as a goalkeeper is a question asked by many coaches. The authors believe that initiating goalkeeping in games prior to age nine is inappropriate. Children should be exposed to body movements that simulate what goalkeepers do, but to put them under the pressure of being a goalkeeper before they have developed some basic psychomotor and cognitive skills is inappropriate.


  • U-6: No GK required for 3 v 3 games. No GK required for 4 v 4 games.
  • U-8: No GK required for 4 v 4 games.
  • U-10: GK is included within team – rotate players as GK.
  • U-12: GKs identified within team – GKs share time but in order of priority, which is determined by the coach.
  • U-14: GK chosen on ability and contribution to the team.