“I like to think that every goalkeeper has their place in the game. My job is to help them to be the best that they can be.”

Specialist goalkeeper coaching is something that is not always readily available for youngsters involved at a grassroots level. The extent of most young keepers’ goalkeeper training is having balls pelted at them by their teammates at the start of a session. More finely tuned coaching is too often reserved for those in academies or centres of excellence, where more expert and specialist coaches are accessible.

Leeds based coach and Kitlocker.com customer Carl Kennedy wants to provide young goalkeepers at a grassroots level with a better standard of coaching and help push them to be the best they can be, but most importantly grow to love the art of keeping.

We spoke to Carl about his background, why he set up CK Goalkeeping, the evolution of the position and much more…

Becoming a Coach

As a player I was involved mostly at grassroots level with my friends at a local side where I grew up in Standish near Wigan. I spent time at Wigan Athletic at various age groups but I was released ultimately due to my height. I travelled to Manchester from Wigan every Saturday to get two hour GK specific sessions coached by Ron (who passed away last year) and Scott Healey. They were a father and son who ran a coaching school in Sale, still running as J4K Manchester. They were amazing with the energy they put into their sessions and how much they loved to see you develop. I think that they’re the reason I went down the path of coaching.

healey goalkeeping coaches

As a Coach I started helping out Scott & Ron at their sessions before I moved to Leeds Met University. I began to work on my badges whilst studying the BSc Sports Coaching degree. I have since successfully completed my UEFA B Licence, FA Youth Award & FA Goalkeeping B Licence. I’m looking forward to applying for the GK A Licence by 2020.

I graduated from Uni in 2012, during which time I also coached the goalkeepers at Leeds City Juniors, a local side I still have great ties with. Once interest grew I launched CK Goalkeeping and took on more goalkeepers from grassroots sides around Leeds and even as far afield as Huddersfield and Sheffield.

Coaching Style

Over time I have learned and understood the demands of the game more and more and how they’re ever changing and unpredictable. That is what I try to get across to my goalkeepers with session design and practice. There is a time and place for all types of sessions but I like to think I have a good idea of when and where to use each session to benefit the needs of my keepers.

I think what may make me different to other coaches is my grassroots upbringing and the ways in which I have been coached. I feel the fact that I’m not some 15 year ex-professional who has been in academies with great facilities all their life makes me more relatable to the kids. I like to think that every goalkeeper has their place in the game and my job is to help them to be the best that they can be. As long as they enjoy the journey and I help to inspire them then I feel that’s my job done.

Biggest Inspiration

My biggest inspirations, as I’ve already mentioned were my former coaches Ron and Scott Healey. But in terms of a particular player who inspired me, it has to be Shay Given. As a lifelong Newcastle United fan I just thought he was amazing. I felt I could relate to him as he wasn’t the tallest, nor the quickest but he was an incredible shot stopper and so passionate about what he did. I’ve got one of his shirts from a Champions League game at my Mum’s house and it still has the sweat and mud stains on it!

Shay Given goalkeeping

The Modern Keeper

Goalkeeping is a very different position now to when I played only 10 years ago as a kid. I’d say it started with Barca and Guardiola as well as Neuer at Bayern, but the past 5 years has taken it to a whole new level. The need for effective and quality distributors as goalkeepers is sought after at clubs even in the lower leagues and non-league. Who would have thought that a few years back!?!

I’m sure it’ll continue to change and grow even more, which is why especially as GK coaches we need to be so much more adaptable than in the past. We need to be able to coach, not just the Saving and Diving side of the game, but also understanding the hows, wheres and whys of playing out from the back.

In terms of the best keepers currently playing, I think Ederson is unreal in terms of changing the game with his confidence under pressure and with his distribution. I also love Dubravka of NUFC. He came in at a tough time and nobody really knew anything about him but he has made such a difference to the defence. Even though he’s had his moments, he has been consistently great on the whole. Ben Foster is also just a really solid top drawer keeper!

First Gloves

It feels like a long time ago but I think they were Sondicos. Back when they weren’t a cheap Sports Direct knock off, they were a great brand! I think my favourites were the classic Adidas gloves though, as Shay wore them too! I had the Adidas Fingertips and Fingersaves. They were the best gloves ever and made me feel invincible!

CK Goalkeeping Success Stories

A good few of our GK’s have had trials at Leeds United, Bradford City, Huddersfield Town etc. and we always wish them the greatest of luck. Our biggest success is a boy called Harry who worked with us for 2-3 years. He joined Huddersfield at U13’s and I think he was offered a 4 year scholarship the season after! Huddersfield then unfortunately closed their academy shortly afterwards but I believe he is now at Barnsley. Definitely one to look out for in the future!

We also have a girl named Anna, who I coached in her last two seasons at Leeds United RTC. She has gone on to sign for Huddersfield Town Ladies and has been involved with England U17’s camps this season. She made her international debut in the second half against the USA a few weeks ago. After drawing 2-2, Anna saved a penalty in the shootout for England to win 5-4. She continues to have 1 to 1 sessions when she has the time and I believe that she will go on to big things in the women’s game!

But success all depends on how you measure it. One of our first GK’s has gone on to help open a business with his brother. Another has gone onto a scholarship and apprenticeship programme with a club known as UFCA. We have a few young GK’s involved at Guiseley, Leeds & Barnsley at the moment too.

ck goalkeeping group 2

How to ‘Stand out From the Crowd’

Brilliant Basics. That’s what I call them. Everyone has their own terms in no particular order, handling, footwork, positioning, distribution. A young keeper should look to find a good balance between them all. You can be the best distributor in the world but if you can’t keep the ball out of the net then you’re no good to anybody!

Good hands are what make most of your saves, good footwork gets you there, great positioning makes it easy and good distribution makes life easy for your team.

Does Size Matter?

Depends what you’re looking for? I assume most clubs still determine size to be key in taking on a goalkeeper or not. But I have seen my fair share of 6ft4 keepers who can’t move or kick, and 5ft10 keepers who can do both much better, yet I still know the 5ft10 one likely won’t get a look in. I’m afraid it’s just how the game is…

However, as mentioned earlier, there is a level for everybody. You might be 17 and 5ft10 with great attributes but no academy wants to take you on. My advice would be to look at alternatives like lower leagues or scholar’s programmes elsewhere. Work hard at your game and be consistent. You might then one day be 21 years old and 6ft5, playing week in week out at a good non-league level and get picked up by somebody.

CK Goalkeeping Goes International…

Last summer I took part in a Goalkeeping camp supported by Leeds United Foundation for players based on the outskirts of Rome. There was a big range of age groups, from the ‘Bambinis’ at 5-6, all the way up to their ‘scholars’ at age 17-18. It was fascinating to see the differences and detail in the way they coach, very high repetitions and very technical actions. I put on a couple of practices that we do with our GK’s and at first it was challenging due to the language barrier and also because my practices were decision making based. It was interesting to see their GK’s adapt to the challenges I set but they did well and I was impressed with the standards that they held.

Italy goalkeeping camp

The Future of CK Goalkeeping

I want to continue to inspire. I’d like to help grow the girl’s game a bit more. It is growing incredibly quickly but good/interested female GK’s are hard to come by at younger ages. As intimidating as it may be to play/train with boys, the development that girl’s gain from it is very noticeable. We are currently looking into setting up some girls only sessions.

I just want CK Goalkeeping to be recognised as an honest and hard working setup, with the interests of its Goalkeepers as its main point. Whether that is the girls at Leeds United RTC, the FA, the boys at UFCA or any of the goalkeepers involved at CK Goalkeeping. Long term, I just want to provide as much opportunity for these Goalkeepers to learn and improve as possible. And live the dream by trying to become the best.

Get Involved

Our sessions run on a great set of playing fields just north of Leeds. We currently have two groups running which are split between the ages but we also have options for 1 to 1 sessions or club visits. Anybody looking to get involved should contact via email to [email protected] to see if we have space for you.

You can also follow us on Twitter to keep up with everything we’ve got going on @CKGoalkeeping

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