Author Archives: Leon

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The road to becoming an “All American”

The recent Philadelphia Soccer Coaches Convention was a great learning tool, but also one to celebrate achievements. For one young man, whom I have had the pleasure of working with, it was an opportunity to pick up his recognition of becoming an “All-American” player.

The United Soccer Coaches ( Previously the NSCAA ) announced in December the 127 players ( 67 boys & 60 girls ) who had been recognized across the country for their efforts and performances throughout the fall of 2017 in their High School season.

The players were formally acknowledged for their accomplishments at the All-America Luncheon on January 20, 2018 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in conjunction with the 2018 United Soccer Coaches Convention.

Mauricio Arango, a senior from Yorktown Heights, NY was one of three goalkeepers chosen for the boys.

I had the pleasure of working with Mo when I was the goalkeeper coach for Everton FC Westchester as part of the Development Academy. We struck up a great relationship from the first session, which I recall was just him and myself as the note had not gone out to the teams that there was going to be goalkeeper training that night. 

Mauricio has some great training qualities that can be emulated by all goalkeepers.

  • He is always on time to practice and prepared
  • He gives 100% to each session, even if he is tired
  • He is good to have as part of the training because of his hard work, other goalkeepers try to reach his effort, making the session more enjoyable for all involved
  • Mauricio communicates with the coach and with the other goalkeepers during the session. Either to ask questions or to encourage the other gk’s with a “well done”or a “good save”

Here is Mauricio’s highlight video.

I asked Mauricio how and why he may have got picked for such an award.

“I play for Yorktown High School in Westchester, New York and as a team, we had a great year. We won the Section 1 championship for the first time in 27 years and for the second time in school history. We won our region semi-final game and reached the region finals, which is the equivalent to state quarterfinals, only to lose to Ithaca High School”

So, it helps that your High School had a good year. How did he do personally?

“Personally, I recorded 11 clean sheets and only allowed more than one goal on three separate occasions. I won MVP of the League, I was voted the Section 1 Class AA MVP of the playoffs, and I won the Section 1 Player of the Year. I received All-Section, All-State, All-Region, and All-American honors as well.”

That is impressive! It’s starting to tie in now… The clean sheets are both good stats and help the team to get points. It is the combination of winning and securing the shutout at the back that starts to get people to take notice. I’m sure that wasn’t the only thing. What attributes did you bring to the team to help you stand out?

“I think what got me recognized was my leadership on the field. I knew I could perform game after game but it was my leadership and my presence on the pitch that elevated my game even more. I was also always one of the most intense players in the field, I cared so much about my teammates and the overall outcome of the game that I couldn’t accept defeat. That’s what really helped me get recognized.”

Mauricio in action with his High School team (left) and at the Goalkeeping Residential Camp with team-mate Cam. Two success stories as one plays High School and the other the Development Academy with NYCFC.

Your team must have been pretty good. Were you called into action much and did you make any crucial saves?

“In the Section Semifinals against Arlington HS at their home, we were up 1-0 with about 10 minutes left. I made three saves about five minutes when they were pressuring us. They couldn’t find the equalizer and I think that motivated the team into closing out the game and going on to win that game and going on to win the Section final. In the season, I probably made between three and eight saves in a game.”

You have played US Development Academy soccer and High School. What would you say are the differences?

“I think the biggest difference is the pace of the game and the intensity of the training sessions. The pace in which the Academy games are played is much faster and it demands quick thinking and quick decision making. The training sessions for goalkeepers are also more intense at the Academy. You usually don’t have a goalkeeper coach at High School so it can be difficult at times to keep that high level of intensity when you are running your own sessions.

Why did you make the decision to play High School soccer?

“All my friends were playing High School sports and I felt that I was missing a great opportunity to make friendships and to make memories. I also knew that my High School team was one of the top teams in the section so I didn’t feel it was a big step down in quality.”

What would you say is the weakest part of your game and how did you deal with it or disguise it during the season?

My weakest part of my game would have to be my distribution and one on one situations. I disguised it by distributing as quick as I possibly could. As long as the ball was out of my hands and into the feet of my teammates I was happy. My distribution did progress as the season went on so it didn’t become a detriment to my game. For one on one situations, I learned to anticipate through balls and that made it easier to collect balls and to cut out attacks.

How was the actual ceremony in Philadelphia?

“The All-American ceremony in Philadelphia was an amazing experience. It was great to meet top quality high school players from all across the country. It felt great getting recognized as a goalkeeper too because we usually don’t get much love. It was also great to see all the college level athletes getting recognized, that really motived me to work hard in in my future endeavors, whether that’s it’s soccer or in life. The ceremony was an unforgettable experience. “

What are your college plans?

“I will be attending Quinnipiac University studying _______________________ I have been offered a spot on the team.”

Mauricio with his father and his award at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia.


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Goalkeeping take-aways from the Philadelphia soccer coaches convention

I attended the United Soccer Coaches Soccer convention in Philadelphia earlier on in the year. It was the first time I had been in six years and was excited to see sold old work colleagues but also to really educate myself on the latest goalkeeping trends.

Here are the field sessions or classroom sessions I attended.

  • Functional Training for Goalkeepers – Mike Crane (Florida Atlantic University) & Andrew Sparks (Swansea City)
  • Goalkeeping Trends in the College Game – Chris Rich (Duke University) & Tim Wassell (Penn State University)
  • Modern Trends in Goalkeeping – Lisa Cole ( Papa New Guinea U20 WNT)
  • Training Concepts for Youth Goalkeepers – Karl Spratt (NE Revolution) & Jason Grubb (Houston Dynamo)
  • Team Games that Integrate the Goalkeeper – Kat Mertz (University of Oregon)
  • Effective Strategies for Players with AD/HD – Shawn Danhouser (US Youth Soccer Midwest region)


As we preach at Goalkeeper HQ, it was stated that the modern day goalkeeper’s job is different from 20 years ago and it can be argued that the goalkeeper’s job has changed in the last five years or so. This is because the game itself is evolving. 

There is now an attacking trend in the game, which lends itself to playing three defenders at the back or even if there are four in the formation, there are often attacking full backs which are encouraged to get high up the field.

Below is a diagram of what the average game looks like for a college goalkeeper playing 90 minutes.

  1. Goalkeeper has possession of the ball for just 4 minutes
  2. 18% of the game is the bits most people associate with goalkeeping – Catches, saves & punches
  3. 82% is distribution related – More than when I wrote an article called Back Pass – Facts

On average, the goalkeeper is expected to make 2.6 saves per game & around 30 passes. The key is to ensure the 2.6 saves are saves and not goals and that as many of those 30 passes are as accurate as possible.


1 – An increased importance of distribution

2 – The ability to deal with quick transitions, both denying the opposition and also setting up a quick transition for your team

3 – Crosses are now rarely floated into the box. They are now whipped in quicker to “Second 6yd box” between 6yd box and the penalty spot or pulled back.



Here are some examples:

  • A fast team, looking to counter-attack requiring the goalkeeper to distribute quickly beyond the oppositions back line.
  • A team that builds from the back requires a goalkeeper comfortable to play from the back accurately and provide a number of different ranges 
  • A goalkeeper who is comfortable playing high will enable the team to go with three at the back.

It is often easier for the coach to change the goalkeeper to fit the needs of the team style than for the coach to adopt a style that is best for the goalkeeper



With the trend to now whip in fast, low crosses or to pull the ball back, goalkeepers are tending to drop further back and provide more reaction time than to step up and narrow the angle. New balls provide a higher velocity and more movement requiring this reaction time. 

Goalkeepers are now taller, and more athletic which enables them to block more of the goal when they are set and have enough reaction time. In fact, goalkeepers are required to be amongst the top athletes on the team. 


Height / Weight – 6′ / 180lb

Vertical Jump – 32″ (Ranked #3 on team)

Broad Jump – 9′ (Ranked #3 on team)

40yd dash – 4.8secs (Ranked #5 on team)


Height / Weight – 5’11 / 145lb

Vertical Jump – College improvement = 7.5″ (Ranked #1 on team)

Broad Jump – College improvement = 11″ (Ranked #1 on team)

40yd dash – College improvement = .2secs (Ranked #3 on team)



There are differences in the demands of each stage of goalkeeper development. It is our job as goalkeeper coaches to make sure that the goalkeeper understands what is expected of them and to also incorporate the relevant aspects of each theme of goalkeeping. 

  • Servers should be hitting moving balls as that’s what happens in games 
  • Goalkeepers should face a variety of servers for the same practice or drill to get used to adjusting to different speeds and trajectories of the ball that different servers bring
  • After saves are made, a transition should be incorporated in the release of the ball
  • A backpass scenario can be provided prior to most saves



As stated above, a team may have to adopt a style based on their strengths. It is important that the team know the goalkeeper’s strengths and weaknesses so they can better deal with them. 

It is just as important for the goalkeeper to know the team’s strengths and weaknesses. It may be that the goalkeeper works out that the left back always cuts in because they are right footed. It might be that one central defender is more comfortable with the ball at their feet than the other.

The goalkeeper should use time with the team to get to gel in a relationship.


For any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to reach out.

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Following a college GK coach on a recruiting trip

In this video, originally used for our Mentor program, we follow Yale women’s goalkeeper coach, Marty Walker as he recruits players from Surf Cup in San Diego.


Takeaways from the video include:

  • Marty looks at Goalkeepers two years ahead of the recruitment year
  • Coaches have many players and games to watch – They are unlikely to stay for the whole game.
  • Players playing for MLS teams get the attention of the coach
  • The perception of the goalkeeper in warm-up is important to encourage coaches to stay and watch games
  • Coaches viewing schedule is based on communication from prospective recruits prior to the tournament
  • Although coaches dont just wonder the field in the hope to find someone, they may be at a game looking at someone else ( an outfield player perhaps ) and if you impress, they may inquire about you.
  • The game may not allow you to shine. If you look good when not busy, the coach will make a point of seeing you in a different game.
  • Marty was looking at the goalkeeper’s ability to communicate with defenders as well as show good technique, even with the easy saves.
  • Distribution and starting positions are other areas in which coaches can judge your ability without even making a save.
  • The Surf Cup is ideal for recruiting as it has many fields in the same area – Allowing goalkeepers to catch the eye of recruits not necessarily there to see you.
  • Grades need to be as good as possible as certain grades are needed to get into schools

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Goalkeeper’s taking penalties

The Charity shield often shows goalkeepers taking penalties if the game ends in a draw. Today saw Courtois miss his to hand Arsenal the first silverware of the season ( Albeit a glorified friendly ) 

Here are a few goalkeepers scoring penalties – As you can see Courtois is no stranger to taking a good penalty.


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How to improve consistency of performance as a goalkeeper.

The new season provides for many the opportunity to reflect, refuel, reengage, restructure and refocus for future performance growth.

Achievements and failures are in the past – new journeys, opportunities, obstacles, and challenges lie ahead. The best athletes and coaches prepare effectively for all these challenges.

The Mind is the Athlete

Every sporting decision we make—every reaction, every choice, and every movement is based on a fine motor skill using not only the muscles of the body but predetermined by the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

First, you need to understand that there will be good days and bad days on the field. You cannot play at the same exact level every day. Even pro players have ups and downs.

For goalkeeping, one success factor that I’ve observed, which is present across all of the different levels, is consistency. It is what they do each and every day over and over again that allows them to achieve their results. A goalkeeper will always be remembered by the mistakes they make. Therefore it is important to increase the consistency of good performances.

Wolff’s Law states that the body conforms and adapts to the intensities and directions it is habitually subjected to. The key word is habitually. It’s not enough to do a single intense workout then expect to be faster, fitter, stronger. It’s the workouts that you habitually do every week for many weeks that make your body faster, fitter, stronger. Hence the reason for this 8 week plan.

The good news is consistency is a piece of the puzzle that we can all solve. Consistency is not a skill or talent—you have direct control over it. Here are eight habits that will increase your consistency and ultimately your success on game day.

  1. Pregame routine –  Arrive early to the field to settle into a routine. Take care of all the details of checking and organizing your equipment.
  2. Warm-Up – Warm up the same way for every game. This will signal your body and mind of your readiness to play. This is not the time to try anything new. Stick to your tried-atrnd-true method for preparing yourself.
  3. Game Plan – Know the game plan from the coach with regards to distribution methods, speed of play, and any adaptations due to weather conditions.
  4. Mental Routine –  Have a mental routine to help you visualize good saves.
  5. Commit – Once you have decided on technical method for saving, commit to it.
  6. Trust – Trust your training, your abilities, and most importantly, your capability to make the correct save or decision.
  7. Emotional Control – If a mistake happens, you may not like it… but get over it. One bad decision is not an indication that you are playing badly. You are only as good as your next save. Riding the emotional roller coaster is a consistency-killer.
  8. Now is the Time – During play is not the time to evaluate your progress, analyze your technique, or project the final result. Stick to your plan… What do you need to do at this moment?

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The Goalkeeper as the Quarterback of the team!

I have spoken to many of the Goalkeeper HQ community about the importance of the goalkeeper being comfortable with their feet. Those that have read my coaching philosophy and expectations know that despite there being so many topics to cover as a goalkeeper, distribution in some shape or form will be covered in my sessions. Why? Because the goalkeeper is not only the last line of defense, but now, the modern day goalkeeper is also the first line of attack. (The inspiration for our L1 range of Goalkeeper Gloves) 

It is as important for us as goalkeepers to be able to play the ball out of the back as it is for a quarterback not to throw interceptions or get sacked.

I have provided other articles regarding how we can control the tempo from goal kicks, but we also get to dictate the style in which the team play. Do we Hail Mary every time? Do you go short? Do you get rid of straight away or do you hold on? 

There are some important coaching points when playing out of the back.

  • A good first touch is important 
  • Be in a position to play early if required
  • Be comfortable with left or right foot to avoid being read.
  • Have a range of passes in your locker – Long or short, Driven or lofted
  • Communicate with players 

For all his faults this year, Claudio Bravo was brought in to Manchester City for one reason…… to provide the first line of attack to the team. This video below shows both how often he has to deal with the ball at his feet, and how good he is as the Quarterback of the team.

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Dealing with pre-game nerves

This article has been taken from a recent newsletter from Goalkeeper HQ partner and Yale assistant coach, Marty Walker, who delivers weekly articles on sports psychology. You can sign up for his newsletter here.  Check out his web site, e-mail him at

Pre Game Nerves!!!!!

How do they make athletes feel? Do they get excited about the impending competition or do they crumble under the pressure of nervousness and anxiety?

The truth is that it is perfectly normal to have a range of nervousness prior to competition and I believe in their necessity in obtaining optimum performance. Just as we feed our bodies with the fuel to perform, fueling our mind and managing our mind for performance is a necessity. Nerves are a fuel for the mind. 

So here are several tips on how to start managing nerves pre-game. In order to maximize your potential as an athlete, these tips need to be learned and mastered. 

So here goes…..

1 – Focus. 
Focus on what you want to happen, not what you want to avoid happening. Narrowing your focus on positive outcomes will help you avoid distractions and unnecessary fears which impact performance.
2 – Process, not outcome.
Focus on your game and you will be able to reach higher consistency. You can never guarantee wins, regardless of how well you perform. Focus on guaranteeing your best effort and then naturally, wins will come more often. But not always.
3 –  Self Talk.
Athletes who learn to identify, understand and restructure their self-talk prior to a performance provide themselves with a successful platform upon which they can pursue performance potential. Being your own best fan is great, but only if your ambitions are challenging and realistic dependent upon your performance capacity. 
4 – Let go of previous mistakes. 
We all make them, so understanding the right time to analyze performance errors and when not to is key to growth and development. Mistakes are necessary for learning. 
5 – Relax – Release. 
If you are feeling physical tension prior to performance it is a sign of hyper-anxiety. How we feel manifests itself in our physical self. If you are struggling to deal with tension. Learn tension and relaxation techniques from a sports psychologist to help you manage your nerves and control your body better. 
6 – Control. 
What are you in control of and what can’t you control? You should be aware of this pre-performance. You can’t change the weather, the coach, the spectators, the opposition…. but you can control your focus, your attention, your goals and your attitude. 
7 – Stretch. 
Mental fatigue leads to feelings of restrictedness and tightness. Stretching is a great way of using the body to control the mind and also helps with relaxation. 
8 – Enjoyment.  
What do you enjoy? Are you a young athlete who loves the sport? Are you a budding athlete who loves the challenge of competition? Or are you a seasoned athlete who loves the pursuit of trophies and glory? Understanding why you do what you do allows you to enjoy the process so much more. 


As always, these are easier said than done and it takes time, effort, patience and focus so that you can control your emotional and mental self so that your physical self can excel. 

 Get more Goalkeeping Psychological advice through the Goalkeeper HQ Membership. Check out the benefits here.

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How does your speed compare to Premier League academy players?

In a recent 442 Article, Leicester City’s strength and conditioning coach Matt Willmott was asked about the physical demands of academy football.

Here are a couple of the questions, with the speed comparisons at the bottom.

How big is the physical difference between Premier League and academy football?

On a basic physical test – for example a 20-metre sprint – the senior academy and first team players are probably fairly close. However, the distances covered at high speed during training or a match would be greater in the first team. The technical gap also raises training intensity and makes it feel a lot harder and that’s probably the biggest difference our players find. First team players are technically superior; they can play different types of passes and move the ball quicker. The technical difference means they have to work harder physically. From a strength point of view, the first team players have had more years training and should be stronger. 
How do you prepare players for the demands of the Premier League?
As soon as players start at the academy at the age of eight, we use a multi-sport system to develop basic physical skills. Once they move into the 12-14 age group, we place a massive emphasis on promoting the quality of athletic movements and developing correct movement patterns to ensure players can reproduce the movements they would do in a game or training. We place importance on the ability of players to control these movements through various positions or under various loads where the movement is challenged. Then as they mature they can be progressively loaded to increase strength and develop power. 
How often are players subjected to physical testing?
Our senior academy players – under-18s and 23s – are tested every six weeks. Our younger age groups, from under-9s to under-16s, are tested every 12 weeks. We test their speed using a 20-metre sprint test; vertical jumps for single and double leg power. We also measure agility through an arrowhead run, while a YOYO and SDS test designed by staff at the club is used to measure endurance. 
Speed test banding (20 metres / 21.8723 yards
Poor = 3.17 secs or more
Below Average = 3.16 – 3.06 secs
Average = 3.05 – 2.96 secs
Good = 2.95 – 2.86
Excellent = 2.85 secs or less
How do you compare?
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