We receive a lot of questions about training on your own and training programs. I will always refer people to check the other information on this web site. Rachel and I both have covered a variety of issues on the topic. In addition, the subject is also covered in the previous Q&A section of the website. Having said all that, let’s talk about it some more.
Having a training program means you’re training for something. What that something is, is completely up to you. It can be to get better, to make a team, to kick better with your left foot, to win a tournament, a championship, the World Cup, whatever you want. It’s a goal that means something to you.
It’s important to set goals that are realistic, measurable and obtainable. It’s great to want to win an Olympic Gold Medal, but to do that you have to make an Olympic team. That’s not something everyone can do. Anyone can set a goal of clearing 80% of all shots to their left foot to safety. Set goals that you can make. There are long term goals and short term goals and it’s important to have both. Achieving goals is part of the process for measuring improvement.
Whatever the level you play at, overall improvement is always a good goal. It’s also a very broad concept. Getting better means knowing what you’re good and bad at. It requires you to review and critique your game and that involves some thought. I think better when I write things down and if you’re going to the trouble of doing a training program, you should have a training notebook.
As a player, I used my training notebook as a resource for a number of areas. It’s a place to keep notes and materials as they pertain to my team, my training, my game play, my mental game, my skills or whatever is important to my development as a keeper. Many coaches ask their teams to keep a notebook and have very specific formats as to what should go in them. If that’s the case, you should also consider keeping a notebook of your own just for goalkeeping. A notebook can be a personal thing and some things you might not want to share. I can keep whatever I want in my own notebook and have access to it all the time.
When you decide that you want to start a training program on your own make sure you check with your coach. I get a lot of keepers who tell me their teams don’t do anything for keepers and then you talk to their coaches and they tell you something different. Not every practice is going to be a goalkeeper practice. Coaches have a lot of needs when it comes down to meeting the demands of preparing for a game. Sometimes a coach doesn’t realize they’ve ignored the position and by your going to them, they realize that.
It’s also important that you let your coach know what you’re doing if you’re thinking about a training program. If you have access to a training program with your team, then obviously that takes precedent over everything else you do. Many players don’t. Either way, your coach is someone who’s there to help you get better. By keeping them informed of what you want to do, you let them help you.
We talked about general improvement as a goal earlier and how broad a concept it is. There are ways to make improvement tangible. First off, think about the skills of the position. Now is a good time to get the notebook out. Write down the skills that are involved at the level you play at. Saving is a skill, but there are
a hundred different skills that can be used to make a save. Clearing skills are just as important as save skills and there are another hundred skills available to make a save and take the ball to a space. It’s important to identify skills as they relate to the level you play. A 12 year old isn’t likely to be seeing the same kind of situations as played in Premier leagues.
Breaking skills down by saving and clearing skills is only one way to start a skills inventory. Saving skills can be broken down by parts of the body: feet, legs, hands, or body. You can break it down by speed of shot: slow, medium, or fast. Use Left side or right side (as in feet and hands) and areas of the goal (centre, within two feet reach and balls in the corners) are other ways you can break down skills. Think of ways you can clear the ball: first time with your feet, a stationary ball with your feet or stick, first time off your hands into space, etc. Deflecting is a clearing skill, especially with hand protectors and high-density foam in general. There are a hundred different ways you can kick a ball to a certain area using a particular foot. You can identify those skills and should.
Once you’ve identified skills you use, think of a way you can measure them. I like to think of skills as a test when I measure them. I like to drill where I have ten repetitions and I see how many I’m successful in. 7 out of 10 is a C, 8 out of 10 a B, 9 out of 10 an A-, and 10 is an A. Until I get an A in a skill I can stand to work on it.
When you test yourself make sure you’re doing an accurate test. If I want to test kicking medium paced balls within two feet of my left foot, I need someone or something to deliver the ball with proper speed and location. That’s something you might be able to organize with the help of your coach. If you can’t work this into your team training, see if you can get your team-mates to help out.
If you are going to train on your own, make sure you’re really training. If forwards are going to help me out with putting balls at goal, I want to help them out by letting them know exactly what I want. If I want a ball hit from a specific location, put a cone there. Make sure they know exactly where you want the ball and the pace you want it at. There’s a huge difference in how you’re going to kick a medium paced ball on the ground and one that’s twelve inches in the air. You base mastery of a skill by consistent repetitions and you can’t do that if balls are all over the place. Tests can be fun and training should be, but make sure you’re doing what you want to when you train. If things aren’t defined, it’s easy for them to break down.
We talked about using your coach as a resource. Make sure you do work with someone. It’s a good idea to have a sounding board when you set goals, plan drills or do tests. Equipment is another resource. Equipment is everything from having enough balls and cones to playing on the right surface to working with good people. The internet is another resource. Use everything you can to help you get what you’re training for. Prepare to be flexible. You may have to invest in some balls. You might have to make rebound boards. You might end up training on tennis courts. If training is going to be important, having the right equipment is essential. If you’re creative, you can turn virtually anything into a training situation.
Creativity is key. As I said, we get a ton of questions about training programs and what the best program for a certain keeper is. We don’t know the best particular program for you, but you probably do. If you’re critical you know what you’re good at and what you need to work on. Think of ways you can work on the skill and make it happen. This starts with a vision and a notebook is a great start. Use it to plan your future successes and chronicle the progress.
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