Keeper Wars: More Than Just Fun and Games
Of all the games that goalkeepers play at camp, "Keeper Wars" is by far the most popular. It has everything we want: Competition, kicking, diving, throwing, positional play, psychology, and last but not least FUN! As a player, I have to admit, this game was one I always looked forward to playing.
As a coach, I encourage an environment with this one simple game that is both fun and competitive for the keepers at UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro. Out of these sessions, not only do I get a bet a better understanding of where each keeper is technically I also get a view of the player's competitive fire.
Here's the set up:
Two full sized goals placed facing each other 18-22 yards apart (depends on ability of keepers) A bunch of balls outside the posts of each goal Outside boundary: the edge of the six yard box
The Basic Game
The rules are as follows:
A keeper with the ball starts on his/her goal line. He/she has two steps to either kick or throw the ball into the other goal. If a goal is scored, the other keeper gets possession and repeats. If the keeper saves, he/she can throw or kick from where they caught it. If a save is made but not held, the keeper must start back on the line. If the throw or kick goes high or wide, the other keeper gets possession. Rebounds (off post, crossbar, or keeper) must be shot first time if the ball remains in bounds.
The game is played to three (Although scoring is up to you). Always compete for a winner.
In the game I described above, there are no restrictions on how the attacker/keeper can score. So if you have a keeper who can hit a lazer of a drop kick, then that player will likely dominate that particular game.
Restrictions can be placed on both the attacker (keeper with the ball) and the keeper.
All keepers have their own strength when it comes to the distribution side of the game. While it is good that they are proficient in a particular area, a coach must demand that they bring up the level in their weaker areas. At the higher levels of play, it is inevitable that weaknesses will be cruelly exposed. In these training environments, don't let your players hide their weaknesses.
Restrictions to the attack that can be added on to the the basic game.
In a game to three, player cannot score the same way all three times. The good drop kicker would have to score another way, i.e. a throw, in order to win the game Player must score a different way each time. Drop kick, javelin throw, punt. Player must score with a kick or throw from their "weak" side.
Consequences for inaccurate shooting or throwing
Each miss is a strike. Three strikes equals a goal against the attacker.
Now to the goalkeeping side. In the basic game there was no real consequence for dropped or parried balls other than the fact that they must return to the line to start.
I want my keepers to hold everything they can and not give up rebounds or corner kicks. The reward for holding the shot on the first try is that they can play it from were they caught it. If they used any angle play at all the distance to the other goal has decreased and they have an excellent chance to score.
The consequence for tipping the ball over or parrying it away is a Corner kick given to the other team. What that really means is that the other keeper gets another crack at scoring.
One of the main reasons I put this restriction on is because keepers, as a whole, are pretty smart. They figure that the key to the game is to get possession. Without the corner kick rule, any save the least bit uncomfortable will be tipped over or touched wide knowing they get the ball back.
I want the keepers going for, and holding, the uncomfortable save. Of course there are those shots that merit a tip or a deflection. But with the corner kick rule, you can be sure the keeper used that type of save only as a last resort . I have seen a significant improvement in the UNC keepers to go for and hold shots that they had traditionally thought out of their range. They are no longer willing to concede corner kicks so freely.
With more than two keepers at a training session, play so that the winners stays on. Or hold a team competition.
In the end these types of environments benefit everyone. The keepers get high repetitions of the different types of distribution and shot handling and the coach will be able to evaluate what technical aspects need more focus in future sessions.