Covid Forces Goalie Coach Back Into The Classroom: 10+1 Social Distanced Goalie Training Revelations , by Jack Bowen

After running weekly Goalie Combines nationally for 21 years, this summer we drastically changed the training format due to county protocol and in the interest of athlete safety:

-No “shared objects” (i.e. no passing or shooting)

-Goalies required to be 8 feet apart at all times

-I coached from the top of the stands adjacent to the pool while wearing a face shield and microphone.

I was initially a bit apprehensive but, about 2 days into it, became excited about the novel opportunities for learning—for both goalies and their coach.

This new approach to training maximized the focus on what’s always been the core of our goalkeeper training: A strong emphasis on fundamentals and technique, thus allowing goalies to focus on the most important facet of their game—breaking bad habits and forming and developing good ones. Without a ball zipping at the goalie from various points at varying speeds, goalies can really hone in on fundamentals, connecting the many nuances of the goalie-move throughout the course of training.

Along the way, I continuously discovered new ways to coach goalie fundamentals which I had spent a lifetime working on—and repeatedly announced and celebrated them to my goalies!—all providing goalies the opportunity to work on technique in an even more effective manner.

What follows are the 10 revelations, plus a bonus 11th, all celebrating both the importance and excitement of being a life-long learner as well as, for the athletes, becoming better goalies:

10 + 1 SOCIAL DISTANCING GOALIE TRAINING REVELATIONS

1. Game Situation Quick Hands Pull Downs: For my entire career as a goalie and coach I’ve done the pull down move in the following manner: explode up, using proper technique, as high and quickly as possible. But this summer I recognized something interesting, which I communicated to goalies by way of a car analogy.

When you want a car that cruises smoothly at 70 mph, you need to buy a car that can actually go much faster. You’ll never drive it 170, but it will allow you to do what you actually want to do more effectively. Likewise with our standard pull down move: goalies should continue practicing this way, even though it has them practicing blocking a shot which, depending on the height of the goalie, could be going a full foot over the bottom of the crossbar.

So, in addition to these “170 mph pull downs” goalies should also practice a more game-situation, quick hands pull down: Explode up and out, with maximum explosiveness, focused on quick hands reaching only to the height of the bottom of the crossbar.

2. Facing Goal Lobs: Due to social distancing protocol, much of our training involved goalies facing the goal. This is something we often do with our non-lob shots, allowing goalies the opportunity to see where they are in the goal as they make their shot-blocking move. I’d never thought to do this with lobs because of the uniqueness of the shot which requires goalies to move across the face of the goal, drop back into the goal, and not initially explode up and out.

But, facing the goal provides an opportunity to work on one of the main reason goalies get scored on by lob shots: goalies often come up too early, reaching for the ball while only halfway across the goal, with the ball still 6-8 feet off the goal line. Facing the goal serves as the perfect indicator for when a goalie should time the explosive component of their lob move, thus maximizing the time they move their foundation back to the point where the ball is actually blockable.

3. Counter Passing Ball Up-Walk Forward For Speed: Our game-situation passing (i.e. all passing following a brief warm-up) has had goalies focus on two things: having the ball up (so teammates can see it) and walking it forward (to decrease the distance of the pass). But, until this summer, we’d never explicitly worked on the speed component of walking the ball forward, which itself requires a certain sort of technique.

In short, as the typical counter attack takes 6-7 seconds prior to the goalie passing the ball, goalies can actually cut the distance of that pass by 20%. This shorter pass confers many advantages as the shorter pass:

a. Arrives at the offense faster

b. Is in the air for less time so is harder for defense to steal

c. Is much easier to pass accurately.

4. New Vantage Point for Coach—Egg Beater Focus: Being up in the stands looking down, I could literally see things I hadn’t seen before. One of the biggest areas I could focus on was how goalies are using their legs to explode up: arguably the most important facet of our shot-blocking move. The common errors I noticed were the following:

a. Instead of going through a few eggbeater cycles leading up to the explosive breaststroke kick, I noticed some goalies skipping this, relying just on 1 (or in some cases, two) breaststroke kicks. This not only fails to maximize explosiveness but, more importantly, without the consistent power of the high-RPM eggbeater, the goalie also loses the opportunity to start their move instantaneously, using precious time (milliseconds!) to get going before they lunge.

b. Some goalies are still not ‘grabbing’ water with the larger calves and, instead, rely on smaller areas like the top of the foot (soccer kick) or bottom of the foot (pistons). Just as with all other strokes in the water, eggbeater has its own proper technique which allows us to maximize the height and explosiveness of our eggbeater.

c. From the stands, I can better see the “stutter step” some goalies take: The problem which occurs when the goalie is not actually in their spring-like base-position and then, when going for the shot, needs to take time to get in that position in order to explode. This is an easy habit to break but is harder to detect.

5. RPM Focus for Lobs: One very important nuance of the goalie move involves helping the goalie to get to their maximum leg speed (what we refer to as RPM’s) and, then, connecting this leg speed to their move, thus increasing explosiveness and also minimizing the time needed between starting the shot block move and actually doing it, thus allowing us the chance to get to the ball faster to block it.

For whatever reason, we’ve never done this with our lob technique focus, likely because the move seems like it’s not an overtly explosive one when, in fact, it is (or, it should be, as we’re covering a lot of water in a short time).

So, now, we include our RPM Focus Drill—having the goalies put their hands straight up for 1 second to get to max RPM’s before coming back to base position but maintaining the RPMs—with lobs, along with all other shot blocking moves as well.

...Revelations 6-10 +1 Coming Next Week!