Over the past decade, soccer in the United States has grown tremendously. Having leagues like DA, ECLN, and National League coming into existence, you can find a very competitive league to play in. But with the rise of something, there also tends to be a fall. A decade ago High School soccer is all the players had. There was no other league during that time since club soccer was active only during the months of January – June. 

THE REALITY

Today I get asked, “Should my child play high school soccer?” The question I ask every parent is this, what is the benefit of your goalkeeper playing high school soccer? Most of the responses I receive include because it’s fun, it’s not as stressful for my child, or because their teammates are all doing it. I believe there is only one reason why any goalkeeper should be playing high school soccer and that’s to get games. Across the country, there are schools that hire licensed and experienced soccer coaches. But the vast majority of the coaches are teachers who once played and aren’t invested in player development, especially not the goalkeeper development. As a parent, you by now know how your goalkeeper gets treated in a club soccer environment. The goalkeeper usually gets the least amount of focus in training because the head coach has 18+ other players to take care of. Imagine how high school soccer could be, wherethey have no goalkeeper coach on staff, there is no goalkeeper training, and there isn’t any goalkeeper warm-ups. All you get are shots on goal which do NOT help in goalkeeper development. 

THE GOOD

One thing a goalkeeper needs to do is play as many games as possible. I’m a firm believer that an elite goalkeeper should not be part of an “A-Team” at the club until their junior and senior year of high school. The goalkeeper must see as many situations as possible in order to grow which doesn’t happen often if they play on a very good team. This is where high school soccer becomes a very good thing due to having multiple games a week. All the games involve a small commute and with there being little to no interest in player development, the goalkeeper is forced to solve the puzzle of the team, where the goalkeeper will learn how to communicate with players who are 1-4 years older or younger. 

THE UPSIDE/DOWNSIDE OF PLAYING

Most goalkeepers begin to fall off the radar during their high school years. This is the second wave of the weeding out process. During this phase is where goalkeepers either grow and fully commit into the position or they get involved with the normal teenager high school life. They may continue to be exceptional goalkeepers, but not when compared to players outside their city. Remember, this country has thousands of club teams which means that on average every team has two goalkeepers. High school time is not the time where you want to slow down your development. It typically takes only two weeks for a goalkeeper to begin to lose their technique and timing. High school season usually runs from August to November. If the goalkeeper is doing goalkeeper specific training an average of two to four hours per week and has been doing this for a minimum of three years, the goalkeeper will be able to return after high school season and get their form back within two to four weeks. But in most cases, the goalkeeper doesn’t do this. Most goalkeepers train zero or one hour per week during the high school season. At this rate, the goalkeeper will not be able to regain their form for months and will depend solely on athleticism to get by during club season. Then during club season, the goalkeeper will fight an uphill battle with goalkeeper training while handling club games, team training, and traveling for tournaments. The goalkeeper falls into a cycle of playing catch up season after season until they ultimately get weeded out.

So to answer the question, the answer is yes, the goalkeeper should play high school soccer, but only if there are no other leagues available during this time. Meaning high school soccer is the only league being played in the city and also if the goalkeeper is able to make an agreement with the head coach where they will be allowed to potentially miss training in order to do specific goalkeeper training. During the development phase of a goalkeeper training, training and playing go hand in hand. Iron needs to sharpen iron.. 

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