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Preparing for the transition! An insightful discussion with college goalkeeper coach Brock Duckworth

Brock Duckworth save

"I will always choose the most consistent goalkeeper"

- Brock Duckworth

Recently we had the opportunity to discuss all things goalkeeping with a former professional who is currently using his wisdom to help develop young goalkeepers at the division one collegiate level. Read more about what East Carolina women's soccer goalkeeper coach Brock Duckworth had to say about his experiences playing and how he is developing as a coach!

Tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in Dallas, TX playing any and every sport possible. I just wanted to be active and constantly playing something. At a young age I knew I wanted to be a professional athlete and I saw soccer as my best opportunity. I played club soccer for Solar SC '89. I was fortunate to play very well there and compete for the national title 5 different times while only winning once on my last trip to the national tournament. I played with our youth national team and region teams getting to travel all over the world to countries such as, Argentina, Spain, Italy, and a few more.

I made the decision to play college soccer at UNC Wilmington. I saw a young team with a lot of potential and a head coach who was experienced and was a solid keeper coach as well. Over the 4 years of playing we won the regular season twice and one conference championship. We had an amazing group of guys that worked for each other every day in training and in games. I was fortunate to have Brandon as a teammate for 3 years. It was tough at times but he always kept me on my toes and constantly challenged me in training to be better and compete at higher levels. After college, I signed a pro contract with the Wilmington Hammerheads in 2011. It was definitely a highlight of my life and a very exciting year. I remember our first game of the year was on my birthday and we won that game 1-0. It was pretty cool to make your professional debut on your birthday, get a shutout, and make team of the week. After that season I went to play for the Charleston Battery. I came in as an emergency keeper and played the first third of the season until they brought in Andrew Dykstra from D.C. United. It was a season of ups and downs for me as I went from playing to basically a practice player and keeper coach. I learned a lot about myself and what it looks like to be in a supporting role and take on a coaching role at the same time. It was still an awesome season as we went on to win the league title. I finished my professional career with the Charlotte Eagles in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Here I was able to play some games but, I took on a bigger role as a keeper coach.

When and why did you decide to transition from playing to coaching?

I actually was lucky enough to coach and play at the same time. While I was in Charlotte, I coached the Men's and Women's programs at Winthrop University. I made the permanent move to coaching in 2015. I decided if I wanted coaching to become my career I knew I needed to dive right in and focus 100% on college coaching. I love building relationships with the players and learning how to motivate and encourage each individual. I enjoy being able to help develop players and help them reach their goals on and off the field. What is your favorite aspect of being a goalkeeper coach?

My favorite part of being a keeper coach is thinking of new and creative ways to train keepers. I never like running the same session in a season. Even if the session has the same concept I might change it up by throwing down a huge tarp and soaking it with water, or do the same session in sand, or give the keepers new obstacles to see around or react to

deflections. I believe that constantly changing the way the player sees the session, not only keeps things fresh, it keeps them on their toes and learning.

What would you say is the biggest adjustment a high school goalkeeper has to make when making the transition into the college game?

The biggest adjustments coming to college soccer would be the speed of play.. Even when you come from an elite club team the speed of play is so much faster. You have to read the game faster, find the right position quicker, and react faster. Your decision making has to be that much quicker to keep up with the play. From a coaching perspective, how do you make your decision on who will be your starting goalkeeper? What aspects really set certain goalkeepers apart?

For me, I will always choose the most consistent goalkeeper. The one that is holding on to the ball, making good choices, clean distribution. All these things are important. The few things that really set a keeper apart from the rest is communicating and organizing the back-line to prevent shots, not giving up rebounds in dangerous areas, and making the right decisions whether it means coming off your line vs. holding your ground, catching vs. parrying, and the choices they make when distributing. Building off the last question, how do you keep all of your goalkeepers motivated throughout the season? For many keepers, this may be their first experience with competition and possibly not playing, how do you help your keepers deal with this?

I start the year off talking about "Keeper Island." I explain that we are a family and we are here for each other. It is a specialized position where only one can play at a time and this can be very tough mentally for the other 2 or 3 keepers that are not starting. I encourage those keepers in training by making everything competitive. I want them to battle for the number one spot so that everyone is pushing each other to be better. I also make sure to have 1 on 1 individual sessions with each keeper so that they can work on specific parts of their game that needs improvement. I like to have a lot of talks with them to see where they are at and how they are responding to different situations so that I can best prepare sessions and bring the best out of each keeper.

Who is your favorite goalkeeper of all time and why?

My favorite goalkeeper of all time is Peter Schmeichel. His passion, determination, and respect for the game is unlike anything I have seen. He was always willing to do whatever it takes to keep the ball out of the back of the net. He constantly was throwing his body on the line to come up with the big save. I also think that his personality and dedication was contagious to his teammates. He had an edge to his game where he wasn't going to let his teammates lose focus and slack off. He always expected the best out of his teammates and if he didn't like how things were going he would immediately let you know. Keepers need to have that kind of tenacity and confidence for their team. That kind of presence sets you apart from the rest.

We appreciate getting the opportunity to discuss a bit of goalkeeping with a great up-and-coming collegiate goalkeeper coach! Thank you Coach Duckworth for your time and as always feel free to like and share this interview on social media!

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