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