It seems that the keeper is not needed in a small-sided game. How will the keeper learn the position?
Question 9:
It seems that the keeper is not needed in a small-sided game. How will the keeper learn the position?
TONY WAITERS, National Instructional Staff, former England and Liverpool Goalkeeper, Author

First of all I must question the question. I do not agree that "the keeper is not needed in a small-sided game." I have been embroiled in this argument for a long time now and no one has yet convinced me of the merits of not including a goalkeeper. Having had the good fortune of traveling 72 countries of the world, almost always on soccer business, and watching kids playing soccer (often without coaches), I have never seen a pick-up game of soccer with young children where they did not elect to have goalkeepers. It's an integral part of their fun and the thrill of the game.

Certainly, we don't want permanently positioned goalkeepers. Young children should have the opportunity of learning all the skills of the game -- providing they are ready for them. Goalkeeping -- stopping or catching a ball with the hands -- can be introduced to children as young as three years of age -- so long as it is in a fun, child-friendly, non-intimidating environment.

Once children are into opposed play -- whether that is 3 vs. 3 or 4 vs.4 (and maybe we should wait until 6- of 7-years of age before starting any type of opposed play anyway), if the program prior to the introduction of opposition is correct, the children will be able to cope with the goalkeeping situation.

The concern for safety and self-esteem is understandable, but if the situation is presented right, it's great fun for the kids. Let's face it, it is perfectly natural for children to catch and tumble.

In a small-sided program with a rotation that puts every child in goal for a short period on an equal-time basis, I cannot see why we would not have keepers. Young children, as field players, don't go in aggressively or dangerously at the goalkeeper. And the factor of self-esteem applies equally to attacker, defender or goalkeeper. The attacker beats the defender. The defender dispossesses the attacker. The goalkeeper denies the shooter.

Some say I'm biased towards goalkeeping because I was a keeper myself. I wasn't until I was 14-years of age. Prior to becoming a keeper, I was a field player, but I'd played in goal from the get-go. We all did.

As children, one of our favorite games was "Three Goals In." There could be as many as five or six of us all playing into one goal. The keeper would kick the ball out and we'd all compete for the ball. The first person to score three goals got the privilege of going "in" (the goal).

If your program decides a no-goalkeeping rule in games -- for whatever reason -- do not deny the children the opportunity of learning one part of the great skills and thrills of the game -- goalkeeping -- in fun activities. Just remember, it's child's play


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