Saturday, October 20, 2007

monkey keeper

Warning: gratuitous soccer post, coaching and talking shit on poor, wee widdle kids (not really, the last part at least)

One of the concerns I had going into this season was goal keepers. AYSO U8 keepers don't use their hands, not at all sure why, but in U10 they do. Not only was this my first season coaching this age, but many of my players were new to this level as well. I'm also not a keeper in any way, so I was worried that I wouldn't be able to help my keepers do their job well.

What I didn't expect was for nearly every single kid to express an interest in the position when I asked them all that very first practice. Through the first few practices and even the first two games I rotated most of the kids through the goal. I could tell a few that didn't flinch and seemed able to catch a ball, and the two kids who came to take most of the weight of the position really stood out.

In the end, a drill that occurred to me randomly one night was what came to fix the problem. Even as late as a couple of games into the season, I still had more wannabe keepers than I really wanted. Enter Monkey in the Middle: Keeper Edition.

Even assuming most people know what monkey in the middle is, I'll explain it here to be sure. One kid is designated The Monkey. The rest of the team forms a rough circle around the monkey, hopefully at a comfortable passing distance between players across the circle from each other. The object is for the players making up the circle is to pass the ball across the circle to each other while successfully avoiding giving control of the ball to the monkey. The monkey remains inside the circle until he is able to gain control of the ball at which point he and the last person to touch the ball exchange places. You're not supposed to want to be the monkey, but for some reason I always get the kids that do in fact want to be the monkey.

Monkey in the Middle: Keeper Edition is simple. Using cones, make a circle spacing the cones the width of the goal. You should now have basically created a circle of goals. Into each goal insert one possible potential keeper. Into the middle of the circle place one coach and as many soccer balls as you have. Previous to this you've covered what the keeper is allowed and what is expected of him. Now take turns chipping shots at the kids. Actually take shots at the goal, but place them around the keeper and make them work for the ball. If they stop the ball they give it back. If not they get to run and chase it while you take aim at the next poor, wee widdle player.

This drill, if you have enough kids clamoring for a chance in the goal, gives them all some practice. It could really be a decent drill, and I'm sure someone has already thought of it and uses it quite a bit in keeper clinics. It wouldn't be the first time I thought I'd thought of something that someone else had thought of long before me. What it did for me, in the end, was help me narrow down my list of keepers to two and forced its own demise. I don't get enough time during the week for practice to focus too much on the keepers, so I make sure to come up with games and drills where they can take shots from their teammates. But I'm keeping this drill around for the next time I have more keepers than I need and need a good way to nudge the kids in other directions.

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