How to prepare for the position feat. Charlotte Independence goalkeeper coach Nate Walzer
Our latest blog interview features some amazing insight from a goalkeeper coach with over 10 years of experience at every level of the game. Charlotte Independent goalkeeper coach has been developing goalkeepers for over a decade now and has the experience and knowledge to answer many of the questions you may be asking yourself about youth, collegiate, and professional soccer. Read below to see all of his great insight!
1. What sparked your interest in coaching? How did you know this was the right path for you?
My path is different than most. When I was in college I initially wanted to be a physical therapist. When I finished playing and started to apply for PT programs I realized that I was short in two areas to apply for my graduate work, I needed to take organic chemistry and complete 400 hours of observations hours. My college coach offered me an opportunity to stay at school an extra semester to take the course I needed and to complete the observation hours that I needed. His offer was that I would be an assistant and work with the goalkeepers and he would pay for the organic chemistry course I needed, it was a no brainer. The next semester I took the courses, finished my hours, won the conference and made it to the national quarterfinals in my first season as a coach. I was in the process of applying to schools when the coach came to me with a proposition. He offered that I forego PT school and stay on as a graduate assistant, he would pay for my masters degree and in exchange I would be a full time assistant with the program. That's when I knew what I wanted to do. The only thing I regret was having to take organic chemistry for absolutely no reason.
2. You've worked at the youth, collegiate, and professional level. What are some of the differences in approach to individual sessions that you have to take? What about differences in long term approach?
I believe there are more differences in the long term development in each of these categories than the short term. In the short term when conducting sessions in each of these age groups the exercises can all relatively be the same. There may be small tweaks in announced/unannounced services, pace of the services, questions related to the game but the principles and methodologies remain the same through each of the sessions at each different level. Relating to the long term development of the goalkeeper, for the youth goalkeeper the periodization changes as you work through the different development phases (foundation, formation, pre profession phase) your concentrations change. In the foundation phase you are going to be more technically focused while putting players in game based scenarios. The physical and mental loads will be limited as well. As you progress into the pre-pro phase you may have a larger emphasis on game based scenarios and certainly the physical and mental demands for the game are going to be higher. In the college game during the season it is difficult due to the time restraints and game schedule during the season. During the season, you are looking to maintain the physical load to be be fresh for the next match, continue to develop the goalkeepers strengths while putting them in situations that they may see during the upcoming matches. The only real period of development in college is in the spring season and summer preparing for season where you will have more contact time, less games, and the ability to formulate a structured plan. During the season players are constantly in a state of recovery, prepping for upcoming matches, and the contact time with the goalkeepers is significantly less. In the professional game there is a process of making sure to check the boxes of the tasks that you need to compete in a week to make sure that the goalkeeper is ready for the weekend but also progress that into the following week building on the past weeks tasks.
3. As a coach, you have over 10 years of experience. How has the youth soccer landscape changed in that time? Positives and negatives?
The youth soccer landscape has changed in so many ways over the past 10 years.
-The amount of kids playing soccer has increased
-Coaching has increased dramatically (Coaching Development Priorities)
-Availability to get good coaching has increased
-Training Session Developments / Resources
-Increased SSG Games. Letting kids play initiatives
-Player Development Initiatives (Build out lines etc.)
-Availability to watch the game (EPL access on TV.)
-Too much traveling
-Too many games without appropriate recovery
-Cost to play is difficult
-Leagues and Pathways constantly changes
-Governing Body Organization
4. What are some of the major pitfalls for youth goalkeepers in terms of development? Physically and mentally.
Youth goalkeepers have more resources now than ever before. Almost all clubs have a specific goalkeeping program where they should be getting high level technical and tactical training. Many goalkeepers seek private training outside of their regular club workouts.
There are online videos, blogs, websites, interviews etc… for goalkeepers to seek out.
The physical and mental aspects of the game get the least recognition. Physically, goalkeepers need to be performing programs that aid in their ability to be good movers. Strength programs that teach them how to move their body well in different aspects. Some clubs and programs provide a strength coach who comes out weekly to do movement patterns, running technique, and speed/agility work but many do not. It is difficult for many families to be able to fit in an additional training session to go to the gym so often it gets overlooked. The mental aspect of the game often gets the least attention due to the amount of contact time many coaches have with their teams. There are a number of topics that don’t get covered in daily training sessions that need to be addressed and taught to young athletes such as:
- Can I react positively after a mistake?
- Am I working as hard as possible?
- Am I staying concentrated or focused on my tasks?
- Do I have self belief?
- Am I brave enough to try new things in training?
These are just a few questions that goalkeepers should be able to ask themselves. Then you take them into the psychological traits of a goalkeeper and make sure that they have been taught about them and how they can apply to the questions asked.
5. Over that same 10 year period, the art of goalkeeping has developed tremendously. How have any shifts in goalkeeping affected your coaching style? What are some of the main things you've learned in that time.
The game has changed so much in the past 10 years and my coaching style has changed dramatically as well. I look back at some of the sessions that I did when I was just starting and I cant believe the GKs made it through the sessions alive. In my journey, I have always believed in being a technically sound coach and making sure that all the goalkeepers that I work with are proficient. In the past 6-7 years in my coaching journey I have had to learn about structuring sessions and making sessions game realistic in training. It's important that goalkeepers have to deal with game based scenarios so they can have the muscle memory and confidence to pull off these saves in matches. As a goalkeeper, every situation is slightly different so I always think about putting goalkeepers in as many situations and positions as possible so that you are never surprised during a match. Another area that I have evolved as a coach is the physical periodization of the goalkeeper. It's important to push and train hard when needed but there are also days in the week where we have to make sure we are not overloading the goalkeepers so that they can be fresh for the weekend/matches. Understanding which days of the week where we can overload, underlay, and what the appropriate rep ranges are for each of these days. Lastly, one of the biggest points I've learned is to listen to the goalkeepers in what they want/need. The same as people, it is incredibly important to listen and have a good relationship with the goalkeepers that I work with. I don’t think a goalkeeper will ever get better if they don’t have trust and understand that I want to do everything I can to possibly help you become a better goalkeeper. That means at times listening what the GKs like to do at certain points in the weeks or things that they feel they need to be comfortable and confident.
6. As an NCAA Division 1 coach with NC State, in a highly competitive ACC, what were some of the challenges you saw for young goalkeepers making the transition from youth soccer to the collegiate level?
In my opinion some of the biggest factors I saw for youth goalkeepers making the jump to collegiate soccer were:
- The adjustment to the level (speed of play & decision making)
- Ability to cope with being away from family/comfortable environment
- Transitioning into the new environment (socially adjusting to new teammates, coaches, friends, etc.)
- Handling the pressure that a new coach can put on you
- Coming from being at the top of your past environment, to potentially having to fight for a position
- How you deal with adversity when it hits
- Separating school, soccer, social life
7. Many parents often question the best ways to get their goalkeepers noticed by college coaches. Emails, highlight videos, etc. As a former college coach, what would be your advice to these parents and their young goalkeepers?
College coaches want to find the next best players for their programs and if they are good ones they will turn every stone. The best thing a player can do is advocate for themselves, and send a mixture of different mediums to the coaching staffs. An introductory email is always great with information that introduces yourself highlighting some things that coaches may look for that apply to their specific programs. Class, (GPA, SAT, Accolades both academic and athletic). Make sure in the letter to write something specific to the university and the program so coaches know that you are genuinely interested in that program and not mass blasting 60 programs to see who is interested. A video is great to send along with a letter highlighting some of the main points of your game. Make sure to keep the video under 5 min and organize it by category. In Possession - Building, Breaking Lines, Balls into 2nd level, long balls, goal kicks, Punts etc.. then Out of possession - Dealing with space in behind, Crossing, Shot Stopping, 1v1s etc..
If a coach is interested in the short video they will likely ask for more tape or schedule an opportunity to see you play. Continue to stay in contact with coaches. Don’t put everything into 1 school. Ask the Honest questions, and expect honest answers. Don’t let your parents do they communicating for you. Advocate for yourself, as uncomfortable as that may be.
8. There have been significant changes to the youth soccer landscape over the past few weeks. What impact do you think this will have on youth soccer players and how can they adjust to make sure they are putting themselves in the best position for success?
Tough question: to be successful as goalkeepers they need to make sure they are aligning themselves with clubs that have a high level of goalkeeper training first and foremost. They need to play with teams that have a coaching staff that will teach them all aspects of the game through on field coaching, off field video analysis, and other learning modules. MLS and USL academies are certainly going to have the most streamlined pathway to pro and may have more exposure to colleges. Coaches are still going to go see the top leagues and make it to the events where they get exposed to a high number of teams. Successful is different for every player, its important that GKs are taught lessons on and off the field that give them the ability to play and get exposure at the highest level that is right for them.
9. What advice do you have for young goalkeepers aspiring to reach the next level? Whether it be college soccer or professional soccer.
Enjoy the game, remember why you became a goalkeeper. Remember how fun it is to jump, fly around, and make saves in the mud. Play as much as possible - guest play, get extra games, play with friends. Be a field player at times, either in training or playing with friends. Understand and realize the importance of training and training at a high tempo. Be a perfectionist. Be competitive. Be obsessed. Be a student of the game; watch as much footy as possible. Learn how to cope with mistakes; life lessons both on and off the field.
10. What is your favorite coaching memory and why?
By far the most difficult question on here. Not sure I could name only one to be honest
My first season of coaching is probably my most memorable for a number of reasons.