Over recent years, much debate has been facilitated within the goalkeeping world about the structures and framework through which goalkeepers are developed. The goalkeeping position is infamous within footballing circles for having a number of 'red line' characteristics, that goalkeepers have to achieve, or be predicted to achieve, in order to be considered for the position (i.e. being 6"3 tall). Whilst this was never comprehensive among all clubs and all goalkeepers, it has certainly been a trend in recent goalkeeping pathways, and recruitment philosophies. However, as the demands of the game continue to emerge, and the evolution of varied and unique goalkeeping talent continues to be showcased ever more prominently, we speak to Tony Parks (Premier League Goalkeeping consultant and former Head of Goalkeeping at Tottenham Hotspur) about the importance of developing goalkeepers as individuals, as opposed to trying to shoe them into the same 'mould'.
With an ever-changing game, we don't know what skills our goalkeepers will require in 15 or 20 years. As a result, how can we know what competencies and characteristics we should be prioritising when recognising and developing young and emerging goalkeepers? It's an incredibly complex terrain, and this is why Tony puts being an 'effective' goalkeeper, at the top of his list of priorities:
APPRECIATING INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES
With these priorities in place, it then becomes crucial that goalkeeper coaches can develop and empower the individuals they're working with to maximise their strengths and minimise their weaknesses. This is a process that ought to be player-centred, with facilitation and support from the coach, and fully geared to developing each individual that a given goalkeeper coach might be working with to be the best version of themselves:
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
Having worked at various different levels of the game, with international goalkeepers of incredibly individual and differing goalkeeping styles, one might expect that Tony has developed his insight about coaching each goalkeeper as an individual through these experiences. However, he relates the ability and necessity to develop each goalkeeper through their own bespoke pathway back to his time as an FA national coach with the England representative age teams, where he would be taking a goalkeeper from their club environment and have to work in equilibrium with goalkeepers who may be following different styles with their club on a daily basis:
Covering a theme such as developing individuals is fundamental to coaching and development as a whole, far beyond goalkeeping, football and even sport: In what circumstances is it most 'efficient' to develop people through a ready-made mould, and in what situations should we be searching to empower individuals to be the best versions of themselves?
Naturally, this will change dependent on the context that we find ourselves in as a developer. In goalkeeping terms:
- What are my objectives for this goalkeeper?
- What constitutes 'success' for this goalkeeper?
- How can I take purposeful actions to design a deliberate development pathway as a result?
In the case of developing technically individual goalkeepers, the differences may come in the way that we design sessions, the way that we communicate with goalkeepers and the way that we frame information that we want to share with them.
To learn more on this topic or to share how you develop goalkeepers individually, towards a set structure or otherwise. Head to the Goalkeeping Intelligence forum following the link below and share your thoughts!