Choosing a Soccer Camp — challenges for Goalkeepers
By Eric Vaughter
Each year, right about this time, I am asked by parents whose kids play Goalkeeper, “EV, what camp should my son/daughter go to? What is your recommendation?”
And every year my answer is pretty much the same.
First: How old is your Goalkeeper? If the child is between the ages of 11 and 14, I recommend a camp that is based on teaching the basics of Goalkeeping while allowing the kids to play matches on a daily basis. Additionally, at that age, it is very important that the camp is set up so that the kids not only learn about Soccer and Goalkeeping, but that it is a fun and enjoyable experience.
Between the ages of 14 to 16, I think the important thing is that the kids learn the “work ethic” of Goalkeeping. This is vital, because regardless of how often a Goalkeeper trainer may work with your child or their Club; Goalkeeper is still a “self-taught, self-motivated” position. And due to this fact, we must teach our young GKs to be able to train themselves and correct their own mistakes. For the ages of 14 to 16, I’d highly recommend one of the many “Goalkeeper only’ camps that are available across the USA.
From age 16 through 18, I believe that it is important that Goalkeepers attend camps where they can play at least a couple of games a day, and/or camps held at colleges or universities where the GK may be a potential student athlete. By late Soph. or early Jr. year in High School, a GK should be working toward a “short list” of possible collegiate soccer programs where he/she would like to participate. By attending a soccer camp at one of those schools, the GK gets an idea of what the school/program is like and if he/she would enjoy spending at least 4 years of their life there.
Second: What is the Coaching Philosophy of the Camp Staff? This is very important—particularly with younger GKs—as the day-to-day on-field Coaching Staff will ultimately determine the amount of enjoyment and learning experience of the Goalkeeper. Things like Coach to Camper ratios; years of coaching experience by the GKing Staff; years of experience by the Camp Director—all of these aspects are extremely important in insuring the best possible experience of the child.
Third: What is the real cost of the Camp? In other words, above and beyond the camp tuition, how far does my child have to travel (airfares, gasoline, ground transportation, etc) all enter into the decision. How much spending money is advised for the camp? Water, Gatorade, pizzas, snacks, and Camp Stores are all necessities at most Camps, and need to be budgeted for. Do we need to buy new gloves, new boots, or new gear for Jr. to attend camp? All of these issues should be considered.
Fourth: How long is the camp? Are 4 or 5 days of intense GK training in hot, humid summer weather too long for my GK? The answer to this depends a lot on the GK’s age; but my experience is that usually the GK gets most of what he/she can absorb within 2 or 3 days of coaching. If the camp offers games daily, maybe the young GK can ‘hang in’ for 4 or 5 days; but more than that can sometimes be detrimental for young GKs. Remember, as the fatigue level rises, so does the injury risk factor. Also, as physical fatigue sets in, so does mental fatigue and the learning and retention rate of a young GK declines.
Fifth: What should they bring to Camp? Usually the Camp will provide on its website or upon registration a recommended list of gear and camper needs. Again, my experience is that GKs should bring 2 pairs of gloves, 2 or 3 long sleeve GK jerseys, 2 or 3 sets of compression shorts, lots of socks, shin guards, at least 1 pair of long GK training trousers, lots of T-shirts, lots of soccer shorts, a pair of soccer shoes, a pair of running flats, a pair of sandals, and ‘civilian’ clothes. Additionally, a notebook for keeping notes of what is learned daily is paramount for the serious young GK.
All of the above is involved in the decision process of Summer Camps. I would always suggest—if possible—that GKs be exposed to as many different GK coaching philosophies as possible so that the young GK can begin to understand what ‘fits’ best for him/her. Remember, it’s a self-taught position, and the more ideas, concepts, and views that your ‘Keeper can learn; the better he/she’ll be in the long run.
Eric Vaughter is currently the Goalkeeper coach at Vanderbilt University (W) as well as GK trainer at Lipscomb University (M) in Nashville, TN.
Long acknowleged as one of the top GK Coaches in the US; Vaughter has trained GKs of all levels--Youth thru Professional. EV is the President and Managing Director of The NET performance Group, LLC--a Soccer & Education firm. Vaughter works as a product design and marketing partner for reusch USA as well as heading up the reusch USA NETwork of Coaches.
EV is also Executive Director and Head Coach of the Nashville Preparatory Soccer Academy.