Goalkeeper 101 - A Guide to Parenting A Youth Soccer Goalkeeper
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Goalkeeper 101 – A Guide for Parenting a Youth Soccer Goalkeeper

Being the parent of a goalkeeper brings with it some special challenges. In this interview with long-time professional goalkeeper Jon Busch, we provide parents with knowledge about glove selection, the importance of protection for injury prevention, how to best support your young goalkeeper with the mental side of the game and much more.

Jon and I first worked together at Joe Machnik’s No. 1 Camps in the 1990’s when he was a rising star for the U-17 National Team and I was playing collegiately.  Summers on the road were long and grueling, but full of great memories, lots of demonstrations, competitive staff games and impacting kids through the game.

Check out the second interview with Jon Busch in the interview section at the SoccerParentResourceCenter.com where we talk about his phenomenal player pathway. The 30 minute interview is a lesson in resilience, putting the work in, loving the game and never giving up on your dreams.

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Everything you need to help your child be inspired by the game!

TRANSCRIPT:

Skye:
Welcome to soccer parenting. I'm so excited to bring this conversation to you today. I'm calling it Goalkeeper 101, so for those parents out there who are parents of a goalkeeper, here is finally some really great information for you when it comes to two things, equipment and also sort of mentality, and who better to teach us these lessons than John Busch? John is in his 21st year as a professional goalkeeper. He's had a phenomenal career. He's MLS goalkeeper of the year. He has a national team cap. He has an amazing player pathway, so John, I'm so excited for you to be here to give parents a little bit more information about goalkeeping.

Jon:
Thank you, Skye. I appreciate you bringing me on and excited to talk with you.

Skye:
You bet. So let's jump right into equipment.

Jon:
Okay.

Skye:
What is the difference between a $35 goalkeeper glove and an $80 goalkeeper glove?

Jon:
One of the biggest differences is the foam that they use, so a less expensive glove is going to have a foam that has probably a better durability, but the grip on it isn't going to be as good as the more expensive glove. The kind of general rule thumb is the more expensive the glove, the higher end the quality of the foam is, and so you're going to get a better grip of the ball, regardless of the conditions dry or wet, but the durability's not going to last as long, especially if you're training or playing on turf fields, so that's kind of the general rule about it.

In my honest opinion, some of these companies, the prices have gotten a little bit astronomical, and that's kind of part of the reason why I started my own company was I heard so many parents just complaining about how high the prices were really going, and the more I looked into it, we can make a very cost effective glove for parents at the high end of the market. We can have the range of the beginner glove, the intermediate glove, and the advanced glove, and not kill the parents price-wise because the better goalkeepers are going through 10, 15, 20 pairs a year. I mean, I go through 30 to 35 pairs a year.

Skye:
So tell parents a little bit of the difference between the different glove designs, so we have the rolled finger, a negative cut foam. Let's really get into this.

Jon:
Let's jump in. Okay, so right here you've got what we call, it's the rolled finger where basically it's a three quarters around the finger. It gives you more surface area on the ball. It's a relatively tight fit on your hand, but as you'll see in the next glove, not as tight as the negative cut. It just gives you a little bit more surface area. This is our training glove. Simply put our blue and white glove because that's what I call it, but it's our training glove. It's the mid to high end, beginning of the high-end range for the foam. Again, the most important thing on a glove is the foam here and all different companies have different names, super grip, super blah blah blah. You're just looking for the highest latex foam that gives you the best grip. We recommend this glove, the training glove for either advanced training sessions, especially when you're on turf.

This will give you a little bit more durability, the blue ones or also high school to even college games. It's fine as a game glove. It is got good grip. Like I said, I've trained in it before, so that's our mid to the lower high end if you want, and that's a $64 glove. That's the roll cut, so now we'll slide over to the negative cut, and this is actually my personal glove that I wear. It's negative. As you can see, it's a little bit tighter on the fingers. The thing I like about it is it doesn't move around on your hand.

Skye:
Just for parents who like this is their first time looking at a glove in a store, explain what you mean by negative cut.

Jon:
Negative cut basically just means the stitching is on the inside, so you never see it. It's actually in the inside of the glove, but again, the biggest thing is it gives you such a tight fit around your hand that your glove's not moving around. Sometimes in the roll finger or the flat cuts or even the square finger cuts that that's the latest trend now they move around because there's more material. It's a bigger cut; whereas the negative, it's so tight on your fingers that it doesn't move. You get great surface contact on the ball with a nice, snug feel and you can feel the ball. That's the other thing is it is a three millimeter cut so you feel the ball.

You can actually feel the contact of it, and that's what I like about it. One of the things that does take a little bit longer if you're not used to a negative cut just to get used to it because it's a different feel. But what we've found, it's our most popular cut now, so over the last four years our sales of negative cuts has just gone up drastically because kids are getting used to it, and they're really liking that fit compared to some of the other fits. Like I said, this is actually my personal glove, the all-white glove and this is a 79.95 glove. Again, this one in other companies is in the range of 150 to 175 for most of the companies, so you can basically get two for the price of one with us.

Skye:
Fantastic.

Jon:
So that's your negative cut glove, and then the other one that's on the market now is it's just your square cut or whatever you want to call it, box cut glove. Again, it's just a different cut at the end. It's a little bit more at the top. Actually, this kind of cut was made famous by Casey back in the day, Casey Glove.

Skye:
Remember those huge kind of gloves?

Jon:
Yeah. They looked like Mickey Mouse gloves back in the day.

Skye:
I had them.

Jon:
They were like seven sizes too big. Yeah, exactly.

Skye:
Those were my gloves.

Jon:
Exactly, but Casey loved his square cut. Whatever company he went with that was his cut. He just had to make it. Again, gives you a little bit more surface area because it's a bigger cut. Again, it's not as tight as the negative cut, but it's a popular model these days, and again this is one of our other game gloves. Again, higher-end foam, a little bit better grip, a little bit less durability. The John Busch glove or this one, any of our match gloves, I would recommend for matches only or training on grass because if you're training on turf, they're going to tear up a little bit quicker, and this is the 79.95 glove, so that's basically the different models that we have.

We do have a finger save as well. You know, the finger protection. I recommend that two times. One, only for young kids if the parents feel like they need more protection for the young kid or if you're coming off some sort of broken finger or you need to protect something. I'm not a big believer in advanced goalkeepers wearing the finger protection simply because I think it takes away from the actual catching and learning how to catch with your own hands, if that makes sense.

Skye:
Yeah, for sure that does and that's good information because a lot of parents go and think, "Oh, I need to get the finger saver," but there are some negatives of that when it comes to just-

Jon:
Absolutely, yeah. It just takes away from your catching because you want to strengthen your fingers. You want to strengthen your hands. Unfortunately, and I've learned this many years ago is, and you know this as well as I do, part of unfortunately being a goalkeeper is having ugly fingers because Peter Miller used to always tell me at the end of your career, if you had straight fingers, you weren't a very good goalkeeper, so unfortunately, I'm on my way a little too well, but that that's part of being a goalkeeper is you'll break fingers. You'll jam fingers. You got ugly knuckles, but I think the only time you really need a finger saver is if you're protecting something, trying to play through a broken finger or something like that to protect.

Skye:
Okay. Let's jump to protection because something tells me that for you to have played 21 years that you probably don't train in a short-sleeve goalkeeper jersey.

Jon:
I can tell you the exact last time I trained in a t-shirt and shorts. It's a long time ago. I have this conversation with my goalkeepers I train here all the time with the clubs. The last time I actually wore a short-sleeve shirt to train in was preseason of my freshman year for about a week. That was the last time, so you're 21, 20, 24, 25 years.

Skye:
Wow.

Jon:
Every day, no matter the temperature, it's long-sleeve shirt and either long pants with full soccer socks or three-quarter pants with full soccer socks, and we do a lot of training, especially in the bad weather up here on turf fields. Always padded hip pads in my pants, and the reason being, and I explained it to my goalkeepers up here, is you do not want to pick up an injury while training that may affect not only if you do or don't play, but your effectiveness if you are playing, and all of a sudden you have a strawberry or raspberry or a bruise on your right hip, you may be tentative diving right simply because of that. That may affect the way you play.

So that was actually kind of drilled into my head by Eric Bauder back in the day at UNC Charlotte, and I remember him coming in after a week of preseason and literally with just a box of training gear and said, "You guys will never train a short-sleeve shirts or shorts again," and it was Charlotte, North Carolina in August, so it was warm, but that was since then, I always train everything long.

Skye:
Phenomenal.

Jon:
It just protects you, and now going into the game you, you're not banged up. You don't have cuts on your knees or your hips or whatever, and you can feel a bit more comfortable.

Skye:
No, I couldn't agree more. I'm always on kids that I'm training as well. I remember when I was playing in Italy, my goalkeeper coach literally would bring a box of saw dust from the factory around the corner-

Jon:
Really?

Skye:
... and dump it into the ground of the goalkeeper area before we would train just to protect our bodies.

Jon:
Interesting. Nice. I might have to try that one soon.

Skye:
I know, exactly. So let's move on to some advice for parents.

Jon:
Okay.

Skye:
So maybe one key-bit of advice that you could give to the parent of a young goalkeeper, just giving them some maybe insight into the position or how they can best support their child.

Jon:
I think for parents it's tough being a parent of a goalkeeper, isn't it? Because you're either the hero or you're the goat. There's no in between, and there's more and more pressure in today's world than there was when you and I both started back in the day because social media and all this stuff that's out there now. I mean, I have a game and instantaneously if I make a mistake before I even get home that night, it's all over Twitter. It's all over Instagram and people are putting their opinions out, so I think one of the things I would say is be very supportive of your kids as a goalkeeper because there is a lot of pressure on goalkeepers. On the other side of that is to be a goalkeeper, you have to have a thick skin. You have to be able to understand in the process of goalkeeping what was a mistake on my part, and what can I do better?

And sometimes a goal is a good goal, and there's nothing you can do. Goalkeepers are always very cerebral. We analyze everything. I mean, even at my age, I look at every video after a game. I'm breaking down every little thing, and sometimes it's just a good goal, and there's nothing you can do differently, and when you understand that as a goalkeeper, as you get older, you can easily say, "Okay, what I mishandled that ball or I didn't deal with that cross properly," and say, "That's on me. Oh, this one's not on me. I did what I could on that." That's one of the biggest things, I think is... and the other part is enjoy it. Right? Enjoy it. You have to love what you're doing. I mean I love training. I think I actually love training now more than I love games.

I love the process of it and every day kind of checking the box of saying, "Today I'm going to work on this. Tomorrow I'm going to work on this," and get through the week and say, "Okay, I'm ready for that weekend game." If you do your work, regardless of the score at the end of the weekend, you're going to feel success as a goalkeeper because you're going to say, "You know what? Regardless of the score, I played well, and I did the process from day one to the end of the week," if you will.

Skye:
Yeah, for sure. No, that's great advice; good little things for parents to keep in the back of their mind about the mentality that their kids really, really need to have. You and I met in the '90s. At that point, you've referred to it a couple times back in the day. It really kind of was back in the day. Well one, it was a long time ago.

Jon:
Yes it was.

Skye:
But two, there really weren't a lot of goalkeeping training opportunities for kids. We had our training at ODP, regional teams, national teams, and at Number One camps, Soccer Plus camps, the handful of camps that were around. Now, there are so many options for parents. What advice do you have for parents when they're trying to find a goalkeeping training or development environment for their child? What are some things they need to be looking for?

Jon:
Well, one, I think the landscapes changed, like you said, from when you and I started. I mean, you were lucky if there was a goalkeeper coach around your area. Up in Albany, I think the closest guy was about 35 minutes from me and it was only one guy in that whole area in Albany, New York, and now, I mean like you said, there's one on every block. It's become such a specialized position, so we would ODP and things like that. Now, the clubs are so big and the DA, and all these different initials I don't even understand anymore, but we have seven goalie coaches at our club alone over here, so the access to it is unbelievable. The camps I think have gone away compared to what we used to go to Match Nixon, and everybody used to go there because that's how they did it, and now it's almost like they don't have time for camps anymore.

So the landscape has changed. I think one of the important things is... Well, two things. One, you're going to get a variety of goalkeeper coaches now because there's so many of them. You have to have an open mind to different ones because they're all different. Some might be better than others. Some have different philosophies. You got to be able to pick and choose from each one and try different things, and if it fits into your game, use it. If it doesn't, you've tried it. Say, "Okay, maybe that one's not for me," but you have to be open-minded to listen to different options.

That makes you into your own personal goalkeeper if you do that, if you try different techniques and different situations that they talk about. The other thing I always tell parents about when they ask about college camps and things like this is, first and foremost, obviously find out who's running it. Find out their credentials, where they've been, that kind of thing. But also, find out the ratio of goalkeepers to staff member if you will because sometimes a lot of these camps and things like that, they're all moneymakers. Right? A lot of kids in a short amount of time, "Hey, you know what? I can supersize my dinner tonight," kind of thing. Where, as the kid, you're not getting enough one-on-one attention in that situation.

It needs to be smaller groups, and you might pay a little bit more for that personal attention, but you're going to get more out of that session than you would in bigger numbers, and that's just something I always like to tell parents is see what the numbers are, make sure your kid is learning and developing during that session and not just another number to help pay the bills of the goalie coach. I think that's very important.

Skye:
Yeah, for sure. You alluded to something that I want to dig into just a little bit with you is what you've learned through your process and having so many different coaches. I love the concept that you brought forward of you take this from that one, this from that one and create your own. So many kids these days are growing up, and like you alluded to, in the DA where they have their trainer and that's all they have is that one experience for three, four, five years. How valuable were the different coaches to you do you think to your development?

Jon:
I think immensely because if you get stuck in one goalkeeper coach, it could be good, but also it could be a little bit of a negative in the fact that whatever their philosophies are, that's the way they're going to train you, and sometimes that might work out okay, and sometimes it might not. At the end of the day, you keep the ball out of net however you can, and sometimes it might be very technical and sometimes it might hit off your butt and stay out somehow and you're like, "Hey, it didn't go in. That's good. I don't know how I did it." It is. You need to try different things because every goalkeeper's different. The three we have here is a perfect example. I'm the old guy and 5' 10" supposedly, and then I've got my backup who's 6' 4" and then my third string just came out of IU this past year and he's shorter than I am.

So I've got a variety, and not just size wise, but I've also got a variety of experience wise, and so we have to train each one of us different. I can't train my backup and my third string the same way I would train myself, and vice versa because we're all a little bit different. You can add ideas and thoughts, but every goalkeeper is different. It's funny. Everybody says nowadays, "Oh, I want to play like Manuel Neuer because he's the best in the world. Well, no offense. There's no other Manuel Neuer in the world, and there won't be for another probably 30 or 40 or 50 years. He is a special freak of nature one-time-only kind of deal. So that thought process of everybody has to be the next Manuel Neuer it's not going to happen.

That's what people need to, in my opinion anyway, understand. You can try to emulate some of the stuff he does, but let's look at the MLS. When was the last time you saw any goalkeeper in the MLS slide tackling at midfield? It doesn't happen, so we can't get carried away with things like that. You know?

Skye:
Yeah.

Jon:
So I think it's just more about, again, taking different pieces from... It's a jigsaw puzzle. You're putting your own personal goalkeeper jigsaw puzzle. Oh, I like that. How to deal with a cross or something or I like that, how to deal with a breakaway from this guy over here. Do I stand up? Do I drop the knee like de Gea does? You know, that kind of thing, the blocking save if you want to call it that now. It's just bits and pieces that you take from each goalkeeper coach, but I think that makes you a melting pot of you can't just be, "Oh, this guy trains me and I only listen to him in his philosophies because that's all I know." I think that will limit you.

Skye:
Yeah. Fantastic. John, thank you so much you for providing parents-

Jon:
You're welcome.

Skye:
... with just this sort of overview for youth goalkeeping, everything from the gear to diving a little bit into the mentality and the philosophy, so thanks for joining us at Soccer Parenting.

Jon:
Thanks for having me.

About the Author Skye Eddy

Founder, SoccerParenting.com Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF “B” License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

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  • Jason says:

    Aye Skye,
    First off, love the idea of the site. Great resource and outlet for all diff types of info.
    As a fellow GK, it was great to have those interviews from Jon Busch

    Maybe you might have some insight as to how come the USSF now longer seems to have a GK specific course available?
    I noticed they had it before but you had to be at a B license level in order to attain it which seems a bit much maybe
    Have you heard any updates about any developments in this area??

    Thanks

    • Hi Jason – I am interviewing Frank Tschan with U.S. Soccer on June 8 via MySoccerParenting.com and I will ask him about this. I know they were revamping the course and looking for a director of GK for the Federation, but not sure where they are with it right now….There is a GK portion in each of the individual (D, C, B, A…) courses. The NSCAA GK courses are really well organized and have a solid structure – in case you are looking for some education in the short term.

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