Over the past decade its become very clear that there are many generic aspects of the game that all  coaches value and want to see on the field — but there’s also specific attributes that  are favored by academy Scouts. When it comes down to the Goalkeeper, you have to be a very focused scout to ensure that the pick you make is the final best choice. Remember that some attributes aren’t easy to see from training exercises which are, essentially very repetitive, the focus must be set mainly on Gameday, but even there it can’t be (in some cases) not enough Fruit-On-The-Plate to identify the future professional that all clubs are seeking.

Let’s focus on the perfect example that I witnessed in person during a 5 day Academy ID Clinic and the two goalkeepers present, both seeking a spot on the academy team for the next season:

Goalkeeper #1:
Born in early 2010
5.7ft tall
Hit puberty 12 months ago (early)
Very fit
Mother is 5.1ft tall, Father is 5.6ft tall
Has difficulty arresting the ball on all side shots
Slaps the ball placing it back into play
Has very noticeable difficulty dealing with high balls
Breaks down emotionally after being scored  on.
Needs to communicate more with his team
All other aspects noticed during the game are sufficiently noted

Goalkeeper #2
Born in Late 2010
5.7tf tall
Yet to hit puberty
Slightly over weight
Father 6.5ft tall, Mother 5.11tf tall
Very good at arresting the ball on all side shots
Meets the ball with confidence placing the ball on angled shots to the side or even out
Has confidence dealing with high balls
Very brave on breakaways.
Great communication during the game
Great anticipation on coming out (very brave)
Needs to work on all footwork aspects.

Goalkeeper #1 was chosen by the soccer club academy. Now let’s cover the massive mistakes the scouting team made.

1st (Mistake)
Having leadership and a heap load of confidence: This is an aspect of Goalkeeping that’s difficult to practice or identify in training sessions. Confidence and leadership will come more naturally to some Keepers than others. Goalkeeper #2 is very confident and very hard to break down, on the other end Goalkeeper #1 is very fragile in this area! Some Scouts have openly stated that they want to see a GK that commands their defense. This means giving clear and assertive instructions to the line in front of him and for all types of situations that happen during the 90 minutes of play (building walls correctly and fast, clearances both feet and fists, marking spare players and everything that comes with it.), and also having the confidence and bravery to claim the ball to diffuse dangerous situations and to initiate a possible counterattack. A Goalkeeper that’s able to command the respect of teammates goes a long way to building a stable defense. Hence why “Most Scouts” value leadership so much.

2nd (Mistake)
Goalkeeper #1 has close to no shot stopping ability and feeds the ball back inside the penalty box on most shots.
As the goalkeeper is already 13 years of age it will take a lot more time/training to repair the flaw, so this goalkeeper will need more special training than the rest of the academy goalkeepers in order to close the gap.
Same with vertical dynamics and high over the head shots. The goalkeeper has shown he can’t deal with a ball that is heading over his head. This flaw is a lot more evident than the ball stopping issue and will require a serious amount of training to fix (if it can be fixed).

3rd (Mistake)
Goalkeeper #1 was born 8 months before Goalkeeper #2.
Goalkeeper #1 hit puberty 12 months ago and is close to his final height considering that he is a lot taller than his mother and an inch taller than his father. On the other-hand you have Goalkeeper #2 that is not as fit as Goalkeeper #1 (but has not yet hit puberty), his father is a giant and his mother is way above average height for a female. Looking closer down the generic tree Goalkeeper #2’s grand parents are very tall (both grandfathers are 6ft+). So the chances of Goalkeeper#2 hitting the minimum required of 6.2ft is within the 95% window.

In this case what did the scout do?
He picked the goalkeeper that looked slender and fast but didn’t pay any attention to the very evident flaws Goalkeeper #1 had shown during the tryout sessions. The biggest mistake is the height. The chances of Goalkeeper #1 hitting 6ft in height are close to nothing and is called a “Long Term Bad Investment”.
When conversating with a top talent identification specialist at the Welsh Football Association, the scout personally told me that the first thing they dig into is the possible/future height of the goalkeeper. Any indication that leads to him not being 6.2ft at full growth is considered a no-go! The keeper no matter how good he is with making saves is ditched!

As I witnessed, the scout and his team of academy coaches/assistants did not pay particular attention to the goalkeeper that the club finally picked (the scout and assistants were very focused on field players). I also doubt that the scout took a look at the game videos, otherwise he would have seen these very evident flaws.

In conclusion the goalkeeper picked will not get past the Academy U17’s and most certainly will be let go. The club at this point invested in a goalkeeper that from day 1 had no chance of following a true pathway to professionalism and several tens of thousands of dollars have been wasted in the scouts bad choices, not to mention the crushed dreams of the goalkeeper!