Dan Gaspar, founder of Star Goalkeeper Academy and internationally renowned goalkeeper coach, shares the importance of a strong technical foundation, work ethic, and focus in goalkeeper training through the Gaspar's Pit. The progression in training warms up the feet, addresses aspects of the ready position, conditioning, diving, and high balls. Gaspar's Pit in this video is with goalkeepers 14 years of age and up.
While coaching the Columbus Crew I had the distinct pleasure of coaching and working daily with arguably the best goalkeeper from the United States Brad Friedel. Brad was nicknamed “The Human Wall” after his incredible performance in the 2002 World Cup. His resume speaks for itself, All-American and National Champion while at UCLA. Professional player with Newcastle FC, Liverpool, Galatasaray S.K, Columbus Crew, Blackburn Rovers, and his current team Aston Villa. As a national team player Brad had the opportunity to play at Three FIFA World Cup Tournaments and has over 80 appearances with our National Team. Dr. Joesph Machnik, the founder of the No1 Soccer camps, was his goalkeeper coach for many of those games.
Brad has achieved just about every conceivable award and recognition possible as a player. He is an incredible person and an incredible athlete. The thing that I found most remarkable when working with Brad was his intensity of purpose, and his incredible mental toughness.
Vince Lombardi summed up exceptional players like Brad Friedel with this quote:
“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self denial. Also most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will, that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind-you could call it character in action.”
In our last article we discussed the need to overcome and push on. We discussed why the No 1 Soccer Camps utilizes “pressure training” in order to challenge yourself and reach the next level. And we discussed the need to practice with a purpose. Brad Friedel was able to show a group of our campers during a week at the No1 Soccer Camp in Wisconsin a few years back just what it took to truly be the No 1 Goalkeeper in the United States. Brad was on for Thursday night’s pressure training session; in fact he volunteered to do every demonstration. He was working to stay sharp for an upcoming National Team Camp. Brad was unbelievable, completing a group of 20 intense individual exercises lasting 40 seconds each. A remarkable achievement. No one could compete with him. When we took a water break and moved the campers behind the goal for some final demonstrations, Brad insisted that he be allowed to continue, even though fatigue was a reality. After an additional ten exercises in a full size goal and NEVER allowing a goal, the camp erupted in applause and perhaps reverence, for what we all had just witnessed. He refused against all odds to be scored upon! He trained as if every shot was critical; he trained as if the World cup trophy was on the line. Practice makes permanent, and Brad showed all of us that night at the No1 Soccer Camps, what it truly takes to be number 1. But he wasn’t done.
As the campers were excused from the field to shower and get ready for our evening lecture, Brad approached me and asked if I could stay out with him for a little while to work on some crosses and distribution. Incredible, after almost 90 minutes of intense physical and mental training he wanted more. After another hour of supreme technical work, he could finally call it a night. Brad had incredible mental toughness and an incredible desire to reach the next level. He surely has achieved that and more. Brad showed us all “a perfectly disciplined will, that refuses to give in.”
No1 Soccer Camps
To learn more about No 1. Camps regional director Greg Andrulis, No.1 Goalkeeper Camp philosophy, camp dates, and locations visit www.no1soccercamps.com
Keeperstop.com had the privilege of spending time with Dan Gaspar while he was a featured clinician at the USYSA convention in Texas. Dan Gaspar is the current head coach at the University of Hartford, a member of the Portuguese National Team staff, the founder and president of Star Goalkeeper Academy. Coach Gaspar has been an innovator in goalkeeper education for close to 40 years. The questions I posed Dan were an effort to help goalkeepers see how he approaches goalkeeper education at varying levels. I feel as players, coaches, and parents we have a tendency to over complicate the game and training.
Keeperstop.com Question: How do you approach Goalkeeper training at the International Level?
Dan Gaspar: With a professional mentality. Training with senior international goalkeepers is a much different approach than training the Youth National Team goalkeepers. With the Youth National Team goalkeepers the focus is on development. Preparing them for the future challenges they will confront at the next level. With the Senior National Team goalkeepers the focus is primarily on maintaining them at peak performance. I assess the opponent and base on that assessment I duplicate situations that our goalkeepers will confront. Much more functional training. It's about preparing them to have the confidence to successfully deal with the challenges they will confront. We also provide our goalkeepers with a DVD of the key opposition players and their characteristics, restarts, style of play and speed of play. We also, will provide each goalkeeper with a DVD with their highlights combined with their favorite music for motivation.
Keeperstop.com Question: You have been an innovator in goalkeeper education in the US with Star Goalkeeper Academy. How does youth goalkeeper training and professional goalkeeper training defer?
Dan Gaspar: At the youth level, we focus on establishing a solid foundation. We push them to success by establishing solid training ethics. We refine the technical aspects, tactical awareness, build physical attributes as well as prepare them psychologically for the demands of the art of goalkeeping. At the professional level, we assume they have mastered the aspects we develop at the youth level. With that assumption, at the professional level we guide the keepers to success. Meaning, we establish an honest and open dialog. We discover what the professional goalkeeper feels they need to be sharp and we combine their personal needs with our needs as educators to achieve maximum results. At this level we must connect the goalkeeper and the field players so that their is harmony in the decision making process. Strong communication skills are encouraged to organize the team as well as effective distribution skills to maintain possession once the save is made. Working with youth or professional goalkeepers, open and honest dialogue is required and essential to developing a cooperative partnership between goalkeeper and goalkeeper coach. The goalkeeper must believe that the goalkeeper coach will be by their side regardless of the results. At the professional level the stress levels are enormous. Therefore, it is crucial that mental conditioning aspect is part of the overall training program. One critical mistake could be the mental down of a club or country. It is important to establish performance charts so that we can see if there is a pattern in their play.
Keeperstop.com Question: How do you prepare the Portuguese national team keepers the day before a match?
Dan Gaspar: We rehearse our standardize pre game warm up activities. The warm up is designed to meet the specific needs of the goalkeeper. A solid warm up provides consistency in the goalkeeper needs. The warm up is often a reflection of the goalkeeper’s personality. At the professional level the matches are televised. You need to make sure we know exactly how much time we need to conduct the warm up. With the high fan noise level at the stadium we could not speak to each other. This means, that we mastered physical gestures that would indicate what was the next activity in the warm up. That allows us to establish rhythm and allow the warm up to flow. That sort of sequence demonstrates you are prepared. The more prepared you are the less likely hood of surprises would occurred.
We also discuss mental visualization the night before. Visualizing the actions before they occurred in the match. In other words, the goalkeeper played the match in his head prior to the actual game. Also, it was normal for us to do the warm up the day before the match on the playing pitch. During this time, the goalkeeper would make friends with the field and survey the goal area. At the end of the warm up the goalkeeper would sit in the stands and visualize his performance the day before the match. The goalkeeper would pick out a spot or object in the stadium. This spot or objective would give them strength and power. It would also give them comfort when needed.
Keeperstop.com Question: How do you prepare your keepers emotionally and intellectually the day of the match?
Dan Gaspar: I leave them alone. It is their time to go through their rituals. I would give them a thumbs or up or a wink of an eye to give them confidence. I acted as if there are no worries. My body language and actions would be that I had total confidence in them; they have prepared themselves for battle. Depending on the goalkeeper sometimes we take a blank t-shirts and write with a marker some significant statement to the goalkeeper. They would then ware it under their goalkeeper jersey.
Keeperstop.com Question: Goalkeepers that you have coached have represented their Country. What advice do you give your goalkeepers to cope with mistakes during the game?
Dan Gaspar: Once a mistake is made during the game the first thing is to understand at that moment and accept that you cannot change that mistake. Acceptance is key. You can do this by controlling your breathing. Inhale positive energy through your nose and exhale the waste out through your mouth. Shake your body and get moving again. Be dynamic and alive. You can even pick up grass and hold it until you release the mistake from your mind. You can create an imaginary wastebasket at the corner of the field. You made a mistake mentally toss it into the wastebasket. Remember the quicker you bounce back the more confidence your team mates will have that they can depend on you. No matter how great of a goalkeeper you are or will be, one thing for certain, you will make mistakes and concede goals. The great ones learn and grow from the mistakes and move on.
Keeperstop.com Question: Any suggestions for aspiring young goalkeepers to achieve their maximum potential?
Dan Gaspar: Love what you do with total passion. Everyday you show up physically, mentally and emotionally. Bring your body, mind and heart. Follow your dreams and don't listen to the experts! Be hungry to learn, grow and develop. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. People who will share their wisdom and knowledge with you. People who will encourage your dreams. Ask yourself, what do you like most about goalkeeping? What do you expect to achieve and what are your objectives? What are you major strengths? What area's do you need to improve? Set your targets, strategies, the obstacles you need to overcome and who will be your mentor. Remember, success is doing the best you can with the tools you have and accepting the results.
I want to thank Coach Gaspar for taking the time to speak with Keeperstop.com. After his time at the USYSA convention he left to be with the Portuguese National Team for their final exhibition game. Portugal beat China 2 - 0. Dan is truly a master motivator. His passion for coaching and goalkeeper education is unparallel.
About Star Goalkeeper Academy:
Star Goalkeeper Academy is an internationally recognized soccer coaching organization specializing in the education of Goalkeepers. Each year under the guidance of founder and International goal coach Dan Gaspar SGA conducts camps and clinics around the United States.
Star Goalkeeper Academy: Schedule
More about Dan Gaspar: Resume
There is a point in each keeper’s development that they realize that being a keeper isn’t just fun and games. They realize there performance and development directly impact the team and in many cases the win or loss column. I think I realized this around 14 years old, which was my freshman year of high school. Like the majority of keepers I didn’t have a goalkeeper coach or a head coach that new much about my specialized position. I realized that in order for me to increase my technique and game awareness I needed to start developing my own training regiment to the best of my abilities. Without knowing the psychology of it all I started developing practice goals for the day and short term goals to attain before my next match. I shared these with my back up and the JV keepers.
Learning to set goals will give a keeper the ability to develop a clear course of action on where they want to go (performance level) and how to get there. The first stage of this is to set “Performance” based goals rather than “Outcome” goals. Outcome goals are not entirely under our control. An example of this could be number of saves. Performance goals are something keepers can control. Such as “ I am going to attack floated crosses played in the air above my head at my highest point”. There is nothing wrong with a keeper stating a goal such as “ I want to make All Conference or All State”. Ambition is great. More importantly is the “how” will that goal be attained.
Make the performance goals realistic; goals that challenge you but are attainable. If a goal is too easy there will be nothing learned or gained by the exercise. An unrealistic goal may also be a detriment since the satisfaction of an accomplishment may never be felt or measured. Set goals in measurable and behavioral terms. “This training session I want to ……” or “This game I will organize and communicate effectively with my central defenders.”
Detail the performance based goals in short and long terms. Short term range goals provide the opportunity to see immediate improvement. Short term goals help to motivate and are steps toward your longer range goal. Longer range goals could be season goals our yearly goals. An example of a Long term yearly goal could be “ Before I return to camp next year I would like to become better at timing and patience when coming out on breakaways”
It is important to write your goals down on a paper. Seeing them in writing helps keep a clear focus. In my mind, it also makes them real if they are on paper. Weightlifters keep a journal that documents their daily workouts to track their progress. Keepers can modify this technique and write down each practice goal as it progresses or builds to a short term goal for a specified date. This allows them to track their progress, reflect on where they started, how far they have come, and also helps detail training exercises that worked well to achieve the desired result. This technique helps make their commitment to achieving the goal stronger and also creates a sense of accomplishment at competition. Once these goals have been identified it is not only important to document them but to also identify target dates. “By When”. Again be challenging but reasonable when selecting a date. Don’t expect to be proficient with breakaways within a week.
Goals should be set for practice and for competition. Practice goals as mentioned are often critical to achieving game goals. The daily practice goals should be positive statements. “Today I am going help improve my catching and absorbing of harder shots at the body to limit my number of rebounds”
The next step in goal setting is to identify a keeper’s support and feedback network. Keepers are under constant scrutiny from fans, teammates, coaches, and the opposition. Keepers should identify a support network that can help achieve their goals. Identify who amongst the network can provide constructive feedback. Obtaining feedback from others helps keepers attain a sense of accomplishment and helps keep the focus clear. Often we are our own worst critics, which is why keepers rely on others also for positive feedback. In the right mindset and at the right time self-assessment is vital to a keeper’s individual development. It too can keep the mind focused and driven.
The time for self-assessment is after practice and especially after games. Teammates feed off of a keeper's emotion as do the other team. Other than excitement a keeper should not show much emotion. If a soft goal is conceded it must be filed away in a keeper’s head for after the game. The best way to deal with the situation and the resulting emotions is to correct the mistake in their head quickly, file it away, and then begin focusing their energy on the next play. That goal is gone. To help prevent another mistake it is important to stay in the present. No need to think about the past goal or anticipate the future. After the game the keeper can sit with their support network, coaches, and reflect on the mistakes to identify development opportunities and goals before the next game.
Example Of Goal Setting
Long Term Goal: Dominate the box on crosses
By October 15th
Short Range Goal: “ I am going to attack floated crosses played in the air above my head at my highest point”
By: September 30th.
Day 1, Sept 23rd: Work on driving the appropriate knee up and landing on two feet. Attack the ball above my head at my highest point. Hand Services from shorter distance
Day 2, Sept 24th: Continue with using the appropriate knee and attacking the ball at my highest point. Introduce pressure and harder services.
This will build by day until the Sept 30th. Long term and short term goals should stay constant within a date range but the daily goals should be written down and crossed off when completed or accomplished.
Each time a keeper steps on the pitch it is a learning experience whether it be a practice or game. Goal Setting will help prepare a keeper for match play and guide their technical as tactical development. Each keeper learns and progresses differently. The introduction of goal setting techniques will help young keepers focus their energy on one technical element rather than trying to be Tim Howard after one session. The result will be a sense of accomplishment and noticeable growth. At times we are our own worst critics. As coaches, we are also responsible for providing positive feedback and managing expectations.
Each summer I make this a lecture topic for advanced keepers at Star Goalkeeper Academy. Dan Gaspar, the founder of Star Goalkeeper Academy, details many of these points in his instructional manual “The Ball Stops Here”
www.keeperstop.com is a website dedicated to goalkeepers by keepers that know the products and training needed to be game ready.
Encouraging more players to join the rotation of goalkeeper boils down to support. Athletes respond and react to non - verbal and verbal feedback. It is equally important to not only to be encouraging but also reflect that in your body language. Coaches, parents, and players alike have to participate in positive feedback not just offer criticism. More players will want to volunteer in goal if they felt like they would have fun and succeed. On top of speaking with parents about positive feedback coaches have to teach the art of goalkeeping in a fun and challenging environment.
In my experience as a team and goalkeeper coach, I have noticed the parents of goalkeepers tend to move away from other parents and are less vocal compared to the parents of field players. Goalkeeper parents tend to be observers of their keepers performance as well as other parents’ reactions. This is due to a few factors: nervousness for the their keeper and other parents criticism. Parents are brutal a times forgetting that no professional athlete is perfect let alone a youth soccer player. The goalkeeper needs to see all parents including their own cheering for every player and action; applauding not only for the diving save but every punt, kick, and catch. Find something good to cheer about. Reassurance will help build confidence in your developing keeper and athlete. During games display a calm demeanor, refrain from derogatory and critical remarks towards players and officials, and applaud the simplest of accomplishments.
As parents and coaches we have to teach our young athletes about sportsmanship and fun competition. During every opportunity we must reinforce that this is a game and it is fun. If the game of soccer is seen as a learning opportunity and a chance to enjoy fun competition with their friends the whole atmosphere will be more relaxed. I remember being so nervous in goal when I first started playing. I was worried about making a mistake or letting my team down constantly. Having to worry about making a mistake consumes a player inevitably allowing a mistake to occur because of nerves and self - imposed pressure.
There should be zero tolerance within your team and on your sidelines for derogatory comments. Drive this home early to your players and parents. Finding a way to help your players and potential keepers experience success during practice will also help build confidence in games. If more players see the goal as a fun challenging opportunity more will want to take a turn.
Giving your parents a list of positive statements and different ways to say “good job” to the keeper and all players is way to promote an encouraging environment. The positive statements are endless: nice save, good deflection, wow what a punt. If the keeper comes out of net to challenge a player, “ way to challenge the shooter”. If a goal is scored: “ You were close, You’ll get a hand on it next time, It was a good shot, not your fault, pick you head up and you’ll get the next one”. After the game have you team find the keeper and congratulate them first.
Help take the pressure off the player in net with your words and actions. Celebrate the players are having fun and learning. Set a good example for your players and parents by being positive and encouraging. Positive feedback will build confidence in your keeper to make decisions, which will aide in their learning process.
From a team development standpoint youth coaches should dedicate at least one practice to goalkeeping. Teach every player at U8 to catch, the ready position, and distribution. This will help identify potential goalkeepers to rotate in and out. A majority of the players will love this fun session since most young athletes enjoy diving all over the place and being dramatic with the game winning save. Having balls kicked and thrown at the keepers will help players develop a sense what it feels like physically and emotionally protecting the goal, being the last defender, or first attacker. Having a foundation or the basic skills to succeed will help build confidence. A swimming instructor would not throw a student in the deep end if he didn't know how to swim.?
Parents and Coaches alike should reward their player for being brave and protecting the goal. Reassure the keeper that mistakes are learning opportunities. The best professional keepers make mistakes. Even watch a keeper bloopers DVD with the team as well as great saves. Simply help them understand there will be shots that can not be saved since the goal is really big compared to the keeper and there are a lot of people trying to score.
Christian Benjamin, owner of keeperstop.com. USSF and NSCAA licenses coach specializing in goalkeeper education. Goalkeeper coach and clinician for college, ODP, high school, premiere travel, and recreational keepers and coaches.