Next generation goalkeeping

Guide 12 - 16 17 - 21 21+

FA head of goalkeeping, Tim Dittmer, explains how young English goalkeepers are getting a chance at the top level and the work going on behind the scenes to help them get there.
When Tim Dittmer, FA head of goalkeeping, showed a PowerPoint slide at the start of a recent England goalkeeping camp at St. George’s Park, he realised the narrative of the intended story had changed. On the slide were images of England’s U19s winning the European Championships and the U17s and U20s winning the World Cup.

The purpose was to motivate and inspire the group of U15-U19 goalkeepers in the room, showing that they too could experience success with England.

A PowerPoint presentation slide showing four England youth teams winning international trophies, which was shown to players on a goalkeeping camp.
The PowerPoint slide shown to an England goalkeeping camp.

However, Dittmer realised that the images had taken on a new story.

“When we looked at the slide this time, we realised that two of the goalkeepers had since gone on to play in the Premier League, one is playing in the Championship and one of them is in the England senior team.

“With Jordan Pickford [who wasn’t pictured] being young as well, we actually realised it was only two years ago that the goalkeepers in the images were sat at a goalkeeping camp [for youth players] at St. George’s Park and now they’re playing senior football or in the England senior team.”

The progress of Dean Henderson, Freddie Woodman, Aaron Ramsdale, as well as Pickford and others, is testament to the work Dittmer and the goalkeeping department have done – as well as the quality of input from professional clubs and at grassroots level.

Sheffield United goalkeeper, Dean Henderson, makes a flying save to his left to deny Arsenal a goal.
Henderson was part of the England squad that won the 2017 U20 FIFA World Cup and has since gone on to help Sheffield United get back into the Premier League. Image: Ryan Browne/BPI/REX.

But more than anything the message to the latest crop of young English goalkeeping talent was that opportunities at the highest level are there if they grasp them.

“It was good for the lads in the room to think ‘senior football is within touching distance’ and then for them to ask themselves: ‘am I doing everything I can every day to make the most of that?’” added Dittmer.

An alternative story - one of perseverance and resilience - was provided by Aston Villa and England senior team goalkeeper, Tom Heaton, who shared details of his career and breaking into the England squad in his late twenties.

Encouraging ownership of their own personal journey is a key message Dittmer aims to get across to young keepers during their time with the England youth squads at St. George’s Park. The coaching methodology used by the FA’s head of goalkeeping and his staff aims to align with this.

“We’ve got a real broad spectrum of experience and coaching styles on the goalkeeping staff, but we all try and coach towards the same outcome.

“There are four areas we try to get from a session: one is the performance and development side, one is the emotional outcome of the session, another is the practice spectrum and we also think about the three R’s [repetition, realism and relevance].

“We ask the coaches to be clear on which one of those aspects they’re dialling up and dialling down, so on any given session different areas will be dialled up and dialled down depending on what you’re trying to get out of it.

“For example, if we do want the players to be leaders and effective communicators, we have to empower them to do this.
“That probably means as coaches we need to keep our mouths shut for longer periods during the drills. At the same time, we need to provide sessions which demand the goalkeepers to solve problems in variable and random scenarios.”

England's head of goalkeeping, Tim Dittmer, and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, watch 'keeper Nathan Trott dive to make a save in training.
Dittmer (pictured) and the England goalkeeping staff provide opportunities for the players to make their own decisions.

Having a clear way of coaching has been one of Dittmer’s key pieces of work since joining the Football Association six years ago.

During that time the England DNA for goalkeeping has been developed, England goalkeeping camps have evolved, and positive steps have been made in bringing teams and coach education closer together.

“I’ve been in the building now 6 and a half years - which has flown by. It was great to come into the organisation with such good people in Martin Thomas [FA coach educator] and Simon Smith [former FA national goalkeeping coach] and join in with the work they had already done and started.

“As an association we’ve evolved and have invested more resources in coaching and coach education, so that has meant that we’ve created an England goalkeeping DNA.

“We’ve now got a vision around what we want to achieve when we get out of bed every morning.

“We’ve got together as a group of coaches – past and present - and put together the elements of how we want our goalkeepers to play, the characteristics that they need to have and how we want to coach and support them.

“I think it has helped us stay on the same path and drive the bits that are most important for international football and for goalkeeping development. I hope it’s having an impact on the goalkeepers and how they play and the coaches and how they coach.”

Freddie Woodman of Swansea City shouts instructions to his teammates during their game with Hull City.
Woodman, a key figure in the 2017 U20 FIFA World Cup success, is now experiencing life in the Championship on loan at Swansea City. Image: Kieran McManus/BPI/REX.

Dittmer is a keen advocate of sharing knowledge with the wider game and recently invited candidates on the UEFA A Licence for goalkeepers to attend the England goalkeeper camp.

“We recently invited the goalkeeping A licence candidates in to see the England goalkeepers work.

“Instead of just watching, the candidates were given tasks and specific areas to observe.

“We gave out background information on the goalkeepers linked to their experience, number of games played and the other sports they had played in their adolescent years. The coaches were then trying to marry up some of the behaviours on the pitch with the players’ experience and background.”

Following the session, candidates and staff went through a feedback and discussion session.

“I think it’s so important that as national staff we are walking the talk and living what we say we do,” explained Dittmer.

“The candidates were able to see current England players and coaches who have got specific objectives to go after linked to our vision for England goalkeepers. So, it was good to hold ourselves up against these things and say: ‘are we doing it?’

“As England staff we have to have the confidence to critique each other and have feedback from the game.

“There was a real benefit for the people on the course as well as our national goalkeeping staff. It was good for us to get some feedback.”

England Goalkeeping DNA

To find similar content, including sessions that you can use with your players, head to our goalkeeping playlist.

Leave Feedback

I found this:
Leave Feedback. I found this: