When to Specialize as a Goalkeeper
Do you have a child interested in playing goalkeeper? While it is important not to specialize in soccer positions too quickly, it can provide them with more opportunities.
Key Takeaways From This Article:
- While there is no hard rule on when kids should start specializing as a goalkeeper, it is recommended to play multiple positions until they are 12 (U13).
- Being a keeper requires a unique set of skills, here are some questions to ask yourself before you make the commitment.
- Being a goalkeeper can open up opportunities as you get older. Many teams have a difficult time finding a good one.
Goalkeeping requires a unique set of specific set of skills, and it’s important to know when your child should start focusing on developing these skills.
In my opinion, I don’t think any kid should specialize in a single position until they are 12. As someone who is interested in the position, I think it can be very beneficial to keep playing in the net but also in another position to work on your footwork.
In this article, we’ll explore when to specialize as a goalkeeper and why it’s crucial not to specialize so young.
Playing as a Field Player & Goalkeeper
Playing as a field player and goalkeeper can have many benefits including seeing the field differently, working on foot skills, and communicating from different angles of the field.
As someone who is keen on being a goalkeeper, learning how to make quick decisions with your feet is going to help you immensely in the long run.
Many more youth clubs and teams are playing the ball back and switching play from one side to the other. At the same time, many coaches recognize this and, on the defensive end, they will pressure the backline and goalkeeper.
Knowing how to pass quickly with precision will help kickstart your offense.
For this reason, I do think it’s valuable to play the field up until you are eleven (or U12). After this, specializing as a keeper can open up doors for you.
Potential Challenges of Early Specialization
As a young goalkeeper, you may feel the pressure to specialize in soccer early on in your career. While specialization can have its benefits, there are also potential challenges that come with it.
Increased Risk of Injury
One of the main concerns with early specialization is the increased risk of injury. When you focus solely on playing one position, you may be more susceptible to overuse injuries.
For example, goalkeepers may experience repetitive strain injuries due to the constant use of their hands and arms.
Additionally, playing the same position year-round can lead to muscle imbalances and weaknesses that can increase the risk of injury.
Another potential challenge of early specialization is burnout. When you focus solely on one position, you may begin to lose interest or become bored with it.
I saw this happen this year. A player played goalkeeper for the past five years and he slowly started to hate it because of the pressure and lack of movement from box-to-box. He wanted to switch positions but he was placed on the team as a keeper so he had to make the tough decision to stay on as a goalie or find another team. He chose to stay but we’ll see what happens next season.
Limited Skill Development
Specializing too early can also limit your skill development. While you may become proficient in blocking shots, you may miss out on developing your footwork. Your goalie coach may work with you on it but there’s no substitute for going out there and getting reps.
Are You the Right Fit as a Goalie?
In my experience, the successful goalies are ones that have a little edge to them. They overlook the status quo. They’ll put their bodies on the line to save a goal.
Before you specialize, you’ll want to consider these questions.
- Are you willing to take on the full responsibility for every goal that is scored?
- Do you have great hand-eye-coordination?
- Are you able to focus, anticipate, and make quick reactions?
- Are you okay with seeing little action from time to time?
- Are you projected to be “tall”?
I snuck the last one in there because it helps to be tall as a keeper. I think soccer is one of those unique sports that you don’t have to be super tall or strong to play at the highest level but it sure does help as a goalkeeper. It makes sense right? Your reach is longer and you’re able to cover more net if you are 6’3 rather than 5’7″.
Know Thy Self
At the end of the day, you just need to know yourself with (maybe) a little nudge from the closest to you like parents or coaches. It’s frowned upon to specialize at younger ages but if you absolutely love it then maybe you can balance it out. Play in games as a goalkeeper but practice as a field player.
While specializing as a goalkeeper can limit your various skills it can present a lot of opportunities. In my son’s club and other teams in the area, teams are always looking for a dedicated goalkeeper. Most kids want to score goals and make tackles so finding someone who is mature enough to block shots can be valuable for a coach.
For most clubs, there will be specialized training for goalies. You will also practice with your current team and hopefully get game-like reps in.
Keep in mind that as you get older, it becomes harder to switch positions and you may need to focus on one position to compete at a higher level. If you have the physical attributes, such as height, agility, and quick reflexes, and the technical skills, such as handling, footwork, and positioning, you may consider specializing as a goalkeeper.
It is also important to have a passion for the position and enjoy the challenge of being the last line of defense. Goalkeeping requires mental toughness, concentration, and leadership skills, so make sure you have the right mindset and attitude to succeed!
Remember, while specializing under 12 is not recommended, there is no hard rule for it. It really comes down to your individual circumstances and passion. Whether you decide to specialize early or later, make sure you work hard, train consistently, and seek feedback from your coaches and teammates to improve your performance!