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Being a Better Goalie
Being a Better Goalie | Ryan Hopkins, Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Tips for Recruiting, College coaches on Soccer, editorschoice, Goalkeepers

Edwin van der Sar of Manchester United on his final appearance for Manchester United. Great example of an excellent Goal Keeper. ISIPhotos

Behind the scene with College Coaches: Being a Good Goal Keeper

What do college coaches really look for?  How do the college coaches identify players?  What are the key tips for recruiting?  SN goes behind the scenes and asks  college coaches what they look for.  Ryan Hopkins, assistant coach/goal keeper coach at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo holds his USSF “A” license, a Master's Degree from Concordia University-Irvine in Athletic Administration and answers the questions everyone wants to know...if they are a goalie.

As the saying goes a “fine wine only gets better with age”.  This can also be very true of goalkeepers.  As you look around world soccer you can see 40 some things Edwin Van der Sar, Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, and Mark Schwarzer (technically 38) have all enjoyed fine careers well after their 35th birthdays.  They have been able to stay at the top of their games because of not only their outstanding physical conditioning but, also their phenomenal mental conditioning.  

Being a good keeper requires more than just fast reflexes and shot stopping.  Much of the work for a goalkeeper revolves around the mental side of the game and game experience. With the best view of the pitch on the field, a goalkeeper has the responsibility to command and organize his defense as well as make split second decisions that can make or break a game. 

There are definitely some ways to help accelerate your experience level. Watch high level games live! We all have pro teams in our area, watch what the pro keepers do, how they position themselves when the ball is in different parts of the field.  Watch and listen to how they communicate to their teammates and organize them, to help limit scoring chances for the other team.  

Also watch their decision making on when to come for balls and when to stay on their line.

Also, I feel the goalkeeping coach for a team can also be a big difference and help here.  I think it is imperative for goalkeeper coaches to stand with their goalkeepers during training and help them through the organization of a team as well as their positioning. This is a time where a goalkeeper coach can give tips and share their experience.  

Another way for younger keepers to gain experience is to just ask questions of older keepers.  Ask about things that have worked for them and what has not worked for them.  

BECOME A STUDENT OF YOUR POSITION AND OF THE GAME!!!

Another big factor is positional sense.  You won't see Edwin Van der Sar diving around his goal as much as he did in his younger days. That's because he knows where to be before shots come and he knows his goal area so well that he does not need to dive that often.  He also understands the angles of the position so well that he literally does not give shooters anything to shoot at. 

Another area where young keepers can improve is their ability to play with their feet.  In the modern game keepers have become required to be able to handle the ball with their feet and help their team keep possession of the ball. Watching Edwin Van der Sar and Victor Valdes you can see how comfortable they are with the ball and how much it helps their team. I have seen a very alarming trend in youth keepers being thrown in the goal at a young age and never having the chance to properly develop their feet. I encourage all keepers to keep playing on the field as much a possible to keep this area of their game sharp.  Also make sure you are working in technical reps with your feet when you are working with your goalkeeper coach.  If he does not do it already, ask him!  

Hopefully you younger keepers out there can take this information and help improve your experience before you hit the twilight of your career!  

Hopefully this has given all you keepers out there some ideas on what I look for when I am evaluating a goalkeeper. Good luck to all of you with your college search and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments that you might have.

Cal Poly Soccer


Ryan Hopkins is in his third season as an assistant coach at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Hopkins had spent 5 years before that at NAIA powerhouse Concordia University-Irvine and at one of the nation's elite youth soccer clubs, the Irvine Strikers.

Hopkins was a two-time NAIA All-American as a goalkeeper at Concordia University-Irvine and was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2010. He currently holds his USSF “A” License and has a Master's Degree from Concordia University-Irvine in Athletic Administration.

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