Science within sport has seen a significant growth in its influence on the footballing community over years, a trend which still has a long way to go but has absolutely started within the goalkeeping community as well. We caught up with Andy Elleray, youth goalkeeper coach at Birmingham City WFC and author of ‘Scientific Approaches to Goalkeeping in Football’ (the second edition of which launched in June), to speak about the interaction in goalkeeping between science and development, as well as how he became involved with this growing academic field.
Andy completed a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Sports Science before moving onto a Masters in Sports Coaching, which he completed parallel with work at various clubs such as Chelsea and Liverpool. For the last six years, he has been working at Birmingham City and the FA at several levels within both male and female teams, as well as with the coach education pathway.
Upon its release, the book brought something different to the goalkeeping community, beyond ‘drills’, offering advice and research on the physical, psychological, social, technical and tactical influences on the game, demonstrated with case studies and real-world examples.
We spoke to Andy about his influences behind writing the book, his own experiences that shaped the career he has had in the game so far and his own goalkeeping philosophy.
When it came to research, most of it coincided with his university studies and the work that he came into contact with at the club environments he was surrounded by at the time.
In terms of the content within the book, Andy especially highlighted the section that covers games-based practices. In youth football, goalkeeping needs to be fun and varied allowing young players to be constantly involved, making mistakes and attempting new techniques.
“The worst sight for me is lines of goalkeepers waiting for a go or not involved for a few minutes. You want lots of energy and enthusiasm in the sessions and structured mini games working on different attributes are fantastic for many reasons”, adds Andy.
Since the publication of the first version of his book, Andy identifies two major evolutions within the game that have occurred. Primarily, technology and its impact on the sport. The way technology can allow for further detail in analysis and research in goalkeeping has proved pivotal in improving the quality we see at the highest levels. The second was the significant upsurge in the social side of sport and its role in football as a whole. Social interaction with players has reached a completely new level to that of six years ago as so much concentration goes into allowing a player to develop their own social qualities that have a great impact on their overall growth. Adding to his comments on the social side of football, Andy emphasises the importance of a community within goalkeeping and the improvements it can bring to its advancing position in the game.
Andy also went on to mention how surprised he was at the lack of academic research within goalkeeping back when he was putting together his project. As he looked into the many sides to goalkeeping development – science, pedagogy, analysis etc. – he was able to understand the way goalkeeping can be heavily improved with greater focus on these areas. Andy told us about the importance that knowledge from other domains can have in this kind of development.
An example he offered was when he researched the number of times goalkeepers distribute the ball and the information he gathered from the ISPAS conference, as he drew comparisons between that in training to the actions completed by goalkeepers in a match.
Finally, we asked Andy what he hopes were some of the key messages that people take away from the book:
“The overall emphasis from both versions is that when working with any GK, you need to know them as a person, as a player and build a programme relevant to them in order to bring the best out of them on the pitch.”
As a goalkeeper coach, a wide-ranging understanding of the different relationships and personalities - as well as how to develop them - is as important in the grassroots game as in the professional sphere. Having a large toolbox from which you can develop relevant goalkeeping programmes may help to develop this, and Andy's work provides an excellent platform from which to develop these competencies.
More details of his collection of published work is available from Bennion Kearny .