Should I Let My Kid Play Goalkeeper?

With the concern of injury, particularly head injuries growing amongst parents this is a topic that in my view has gained quite a bit of traction over the past few years. That’s why I want to cover it here on the blog. I’m not going to be creating an article that tries to sugarcoat and minimize the potential “dangers” of the position. I know that at the end of the day both kids and parents are going to make their own decisions on the matter. There is no one right answer to this. If there is one main thing that I would want to get across it would be this. If you’re going to put them in goal make sure to do it the right way.

I’m not even particularly talking about gear or anything like that. There is a sense though that specialized goalkeeper training is something that you should look into at a later stage in the development of a child. I would agree to the point where the kid is most likely not going to get the chance to play another position moving forward. If your kid is going to be put in goal even in pick-up games or the little league play making sure they have at least a notion of what to do is the best way to go.

You can’t say that getting hit in the face with a ball doesn’t hurt. Although if you’re 6 and you’re playing 6-year-olds the ball is probably not going to be building up enough speed to cause major head trauma. I’m not a doctor, that’s just my opinion. Again, if the child has at least a bit of an idea as to what they are doing there is a better chance that they’ll be ok. I want to answer a couple of the common questions that parents ask me and I see posted online. Here we go!

  • Is It Dangerous To Play Goalkeeper?
  • Do All Kids Need To Have A Try At Being Goalkeepers?
  • When Should They Start Training
  • Should I Pay A Specialized Trainer?
  • Give Them A Complete Notion Of The Game
  • Are There Any Setbacks To Letting Young Kids Play In Goal Really Early
  • In General What Is The Negative Part of Playing As A Goalkeeper?

Is It Dangerous To Play Goalkeeper?

As I was saying many parents are keeping their kids away from certain activities particularly in light of new information about head trauma and the lingering effects of these injuries. I totally understand why parents are keeping their kids away from American football, especially at an early age where especially the brain is developing and you don’t need trauma at these early stages. The big advantage at least in my mind that soccer has going for it at early stages is the speed at which the game is played. As I mentioned before, it’s not ideal to get hit in the face with anything, but at the speeds that the ball is usually traveling in this age group, it’s probably going to be ok.

Can you hit your head on goalposts and things of that nature? Yes, this is something that can happen and does happen. Can you limit the possibility of having this happen? That’s a yes as well for me. You can train with soft cones and plates to represent the goal. This will in turn practically eliminate the possibility of having something bad happen particularly in practice sessions. I would go a bit further here, it’s not a good idea to have training with a hard goal on the first days of their practice. As a coach, I stick to soft plates for the young ones almost exclusively.

Is there still a possibility of your kid running into other kids and getting hurt that way? Again, yes this is certainly a possibility. Then again, having kids bump into each other when they are running is a possibility for field players at this age, and in other activities. The only real way that you could keep your kid from getting hurt completely is for them to never go outside. Kids that play goalkeeper may have to dive at the feet of other kids and yes, it can get a little bit more dangerous. I keep going back to this, but the speed of the game really helps. Major injury in my experience is unlikely. Actually, at times kids who haven’t played and then try and play later on have a tougher time catching up with kids who started really young. That’s the case for most activities.

Do All Kids Need To Have A Try At Being Goalkeepers?

There are a couple of things here that I want to dissect. If your kid is playing at a recreational level and he or she wants to play in goal and the coach is not giving them a chance, that’s when you as a parent should step in to figure out what’s going on and things like that. I’m not the type of person that says you should never confront coaches, but there is a time and place where it can be correct to do so. Should, all kids get a chance? I would definitely say not if your kid doesn’t want to play in goal you should not force them to.

You get plenty of benefits with having kids playing different positions at the developmental level in many cases it can help kids understand the game and be better prepared for later in life and tougher competition. With the goalkeeper, it’s a bit different. There are kids that don’t feel comfortable having balls kick in their direction as a shot. We all know that a shot is much different than a pass. If your kid doesn’t give you any signs that indicate they want to try it out I wouldn’t see a situation where they would benefit from getting in goal.

I was the kid who always wanted to play in goal and I actually think that doing that is also bad. It’s good that you have an inclination or a clear intention that you want to play in goal. Playing on other parts of the pitch can definitely help you understand the game better. At the same time, it can help you continue to develop your game with the ball on your feet and not on your hands. The modern goalkeepers that can’t play with their feet well are going to face an uphill battle virtually at any level of competition.

When Should They Start Training

Specialization is another topic that has been trending in youth sports for some time now. There are people that are very much on board with this. You should commit to one sport, one position, and develop your game as best you can. This is an argument that works well for kids who want to make a run at the pros. Sadly, a lot of times it’s the parents that are making the decisions for them. What you can’t do is take the fun out of the game. This is going to sound contradicting, but I do think specialized training for goalkeepers is something that you should start on young.

By young, I could consider 5, 6, 7, 8, year-old kids wanting to play the game. It is certainly going to be a challenge for the coach to make sure that the kids are able to enjoy very technical training. Yet, I do recommend that you get started training early because the more you are accustomed to falling, blocking shots, and other elements of goalkeeping the safer that you are going to be. If we have kids throwing themselves on the ground without a proper notion of what they are doing it’s going to be easier for them to get hurt.

If you put your kid through specialized goalkeeper training that doesn’t mean that you should “condemn” them to play in goal for the rest of their days. I get that in the United States particularly goalkeeper training sessions are not cheap and a lot of times it constitutes a financial commitment from parents to get their kids in goal. That’s why I felt the need to talk about the financial burden in the next paragraph. To sum things up, though, I do feel you should start early, it contributes to safety. Plus, the more you know the more shots you’ll potentially save, and saving more shots is always going to be more fun than conceding a bunch of goals.

Should I Pay A Specialized Trainer?

My experience growing up in the US gave a perspective of this that maybe people who are reading from other parts of the world won’t understand. Here in Mexico where I’m at now and where I sort of finished my maturing process as a player you can find specialized goalkeeper training sessions in a lot of places for relatively low price tags. A lot of schools actually offer afternoon activities where goalkeeper training can be included. If you have to pay, and particularly you have to pay top dollar is it worth it?

It could be worth it or it could not be worth it. As a parent what you probably don’t want is to commit to paying for these clinics only to have your kid say they don’t like it anymore. I would argue though that this is a risk that you run with any activity. Even if it’s buying them a video game that they discard after a month or so. If you see though that your child is really into the game and wants to get better it could be something that you try out. Who knows it could be one of those things that you use to give your kids financial advice at a very young age.

If you don’t want to pay top dollar, but you do want to give your kid a good training experience you could try and learn some tricks of the trade yourself and then train them. You would need to buy maybe a couple of balls and cones and plates, but you could very well set up a couple of drills in the backyard. Of course, it’s a good idea to make sure that you copy good drills and look into good habits of keepers to pass them on. Even if you don’t know anything about goalkeeping I do think that you could learn and put on your own clinics. Especially for kids at 6, 7, 8 years old.

Give Them A Complete Notion Of The Game

When you’re a goalkeeper and you know what a striker is thinking and what he or she is seeing in front of the goal before they wind up to take the shot you’ll have a better idea of how to stop them. Does this mean that you have to play striker to be able to understand what’s going on? No, not necessarily, but it does help. You can get this notion in a variety of ways. I don’t want to get too technical here, but watching just the game in general and really looking into the nuisances of why things play out the way that they do can benefit you on the field.

If you’re a parent that’s a real junkie of the game you should tell your kids that watching helps you play. That’s not a lie just to get them to sit down and watch the game with you. Part of the notion of the game is also playing with your feet and understanding where to put the ball. A lot of coaches spend time trying to get kids to kick the ball far, that’s great, but you have to know where to put it, how to get it where you need it to. Playing other positions can help as well as again watching and understanding the game.

When your kids decided to play soccer and you don’t really understand the game it could serve you well as a parent to watch and try and learn. I know coaches don’t like meddling parents a lot of times. Kids do need a bit of guidance from their parents in certain things that maybe the coach is missing. If your kids are passionate about the game it doesn’t hurt to understand a little bit more yourself.

Are There Any Setbacks To Letting Young Kids Play In Goal Really Early

I don’t see a lot of potential setbacks and I do see a lot of benefits. Of course, people could argue differently. As I said, there is a risk of injury there is a risk of an accident of some sort happening on the field. This is something that can happen, and that nobody wishes on anybody. From my perspective there is going to be a risk in whatever it is that you have your kids do. There are always going to be injury risks involved with physical activity. I prefer to live with those risks rather than deal with weight issues, social anxiety issues, and other things that you can actually remedy in getting kids active and within a team environment at an early age.

Goalkeeper burnout can be a thing. Especially later on in life, when you see that you’ve done the same exercises for years on end. This is something that comes into play when you have a setback like getting benched or not getting into a team. Having to split time in goal with a teammate is an issue that you have to deal with in goal that you probably won’t have in another position. These are things that can happen at any point though and are not exclusive to starting early.

Some of the burnout issues can be dealt with by mixing up some of the exercises. Also spending time at another position on the pitch is a good idea. As I mentioned before this is something that can have long-term benefits. Again, you don’t want to have your kid feel like they have to force themselves to play in goal just because they’ve been doing it for a long time. Starting early on the other end of the spectrum makes the game safer as you move forward. As I said before it does make the experience more fun.

In General What Is The Negative Part of Playing As A Goalkeeper?

Playing goalkeeper does force you to deal with emotions in a more direct way than maybe any other position on the pitch. You are the one that is getting scored on and your mistakes are the most costly without a doubt. There are two ways to look at it though. You learn to deal with adversity at an early age. As a parent, it is important to keep an eye on your kid’s emotions and how that can play a role. You are alone with your thoughts in goal quite a bit. That can get rough on young ones to handle. Some of us older heads have trouble as well.

As you go through the age groups and the playing levels, you also realize that to be able to play you need to be the best one on the roster. That’s another reason to start early. If you want to play you need to show up every day. It’s a competitive spot and if you don’t perform you could get benched. To continue to advance your career even at youth levels it’s harder to do if you don’t play well. If you want to increase your abilities to reach a higher level don’t play in goal. If you do play in goal you have to deal with a lot of heartbreak.