Sunday, August 14, 2011

Youth Soccer: The Pressure of Playing Goalie

Thoughts from the dad of a soccer goalie regarding specialization at a position and the pressure to perform at a high level at a young age.


Last year, my daughter, CC, was the #1 goalie for her team, but she only played the second half of each game. I really didn't realize that she was the #1 goalie until overtime of the Ohio State Cup Quarter Final game. When the score was tied at the end of regulation, I really wasn't sure which goalie the coach was going to send out for OT. As it turned out, my daughter ended up playing the first OT period, so I expected the other goalie to play the second one. At the end of the first overtime period however, my daughter stayed in the game and therefore was the goalie on the field for the crucial PKs. PK participants can only be selected from the players on the field at the end of the second OT period.

I didn't realize she was the #1 until this day because the other goalie was very capable too. My daughter ended up shutting out the other team in both OT periods and made two great saves in the PK shootout to help the team win the game. I wrote about that in Youth Soccer: The Pressure of the PK Shootout.

This year, the coach decided to go with one goalie for this season and my daughter was chosen. I had mixed emotions about this decision.

  • I was thrilled that my daughter stood out enough to be selected to be the starting and primary goalie for one of the best teams in the state of Ohio, 
  • But, I really liked the dad of the other goalie
  • And I really liked the other goalie who happened to be one of my daughter's best friends on the team. 
  • I was also concerned about the team without a backup plan in case of illness or injury.
  • And I was concerned about my daughter specializing at goalie at age 11. Lets say you specialize at striker and are not quite good enough, the coach can move you to midfield. While a player is spending the majority his or her time working on perfecting the goalie position, he or she is rapidly losing ground to other players on his or her foot skills. So if a player is not quite good enough for goalie, then there may not be another option. It's not impossible for a goalie to move back onto the field, but let's face it, it makes the chances tougher.
  • Finally, I wasn't sure my daughter nor I were ready for the pressure that comes with being "THE" goalie on a top team. A team that parents invest a lot of money and emotion for their kids to play on. We all know that goal scorers get a disproportionate amount of credit for wins and goalkeepers get a disproportionate amount of blame for loses.

The Fall season starts today with a scrimmage against one of the best teams in the state of Kentucky and we would start to understand the last point.

The Main Point

Regarding specialization: My daughter didn't want to play soccer this fall if she were not going to be full time goalie. She has allergies and sports induced asthma so outside sports with lots of running are problematic. The wheezing and shortness of breath during games takes the fun out of the game for her. As such, she decided that she would rather concentrate on improving on basketball and volleyball (indoor sports) if she could not play goalie full time. We do not force sports on our kids, so that made the specialization issue easy.

Regarding the pressure: She seems confident and ready. She didn't like being on the bench during the crucial AAU Championship basketball games. She wants to be in the spotlight and she wants the ball. Well, she will be getting lots of balls this soccer season as the primary goalie for a team playing in an elite regional soccer league where the best teams from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana compete. I am ready too. I am feeding off of her confidence but I did remind her something her cousin Dineen said, "If the other team scores a goal, I know that that ball had to go through 10 other players first before it went by me."



4 comments:

  1. I can understand your concern. Asking a kid what position they want to "specialize" in at such a young age is the same as asking a 15 year old what they want their major to be in college. They may love it right now, but are you taking away their chance to learn other skills or discover a new position they love to play? And being known as "the goalie" or "the pitcher" or "the quarterback," puts pressure on them to perform their best no matter what.

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  2. At this point, I am happy that she is not specializing in one sport at this young age. Many kids are. So I am ok with her specializing at goalie.

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  3. Your daughter didn't shut out the other team. Your daughter's team did.

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  4. Your daughter didn't shut out the other team. Your daughter's team did.

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