Obviously, a GK has to be skilled, in order to play for college but what personal qualities do you look for in a youth player when recruiting?
When I walk up to a field to evaluate a goalkeeper, I like to get there early to watch the player warm up. What I see in their game preparation will tell me volumes about who they are as a goalkeeper and how seriously they take the position.
Initially, I am looking at their technical handling skills. If the player or coach shooting the ball at her is hitting them at a game like pace and she is catching a high percentage of the shots cleanly that is a good start. I may be intrigued enough to move on to watching her in the game.
Too many times however, I see goalkeepers warming up with unrealistically weak service that will never happen in a game or they are dropping things that should be caught. That tells me immediately that they have not been prepared properly and at that point, I doubt if I waste any more time at that field.
Once the game starts, I look at a variety of factors that will help me determine if I will be recruiting that player in the future.
The thing that stands out to me immediately as the game starts is the goalkeeper’s PRESENCE. Where she positions herself when the ball is in different parts of the field gives me an idea if she is and aggressive goalkeeper or a passive/timid one. I prefer an aggressive goalkeeper since I have found it is easier to reign in that type of mentality that trying to get an inherently passive one to add aggression to her game.
If she moves around the goal box with confidence, has a confident posture and communicates with her teammates in a tone that is decisive and appropriate for the situation, that is a big plus.
I love a goalkeeper who catches crosses. To me this is a sign of confidence. This is such a weakness in the women’s game so if I see a young girl get out in a crowd, read the flight of the ball, time her jump and actually catch it under pressure, I will be impressed.
Kicking is a major component in modern goalkeeping. A goalkeeper who does not take her own goal kicks or kicks them weakly when she does is not spending enough time on that skill and she can only hurt her team in the long run.
One last thing I wanted to touch on that will give me an insight into how mentally tough and confident a young goalkeeper is occurs when she has some sort of failure during the game. For example, suppose the other team played a ball into the box and the goalkeeper decided to try to win it when it was clear the striker would get their first. If this decision leads to a goal, obviously I make note of that decision and the consequence, but while everyone else is watching the celebration, I am looking at the goalkeeper to see how she reacts to the goal. If she keeps her head down, punches the post, kicks the ground or screams at her teammates I know that she will be mentally out of if for a while and that could lead to another goal. No goalkeeper likes to be scored on but even the best make mistakes. It is how that player deals with the mistake and moves on gives me an insight as to the mental and competitive maturity of that goalkeeper.
In conclusion, college coaches are looking for goalkeepers who are technically prepared, have solid positioning and decision making abilites, are tough and courageous, have good presence and leadership qualities and are able to evaluate mistakes and move on to the next situation.