To catch a keeper

The WA amateur soccer season starts this Easter Monday, but teams are struggling to find players to occupy the space between the sticks.

The race to secure a goalkeeper for the season has led some clubs to offer extra incentives to lure players into the nets.

Curtin University Football Club is one of many teams who advertised vacant keeper spots on a Facebook group page offering coaching, free kits, gloves, banter and reduced playing fees. 

Curtin University FC went to great lengths to find a goalkeeper for the season. Screenshot: WA Sunday Leagues Facebook group.

Perth-based goalkeeping coach Dave Whalley says there are many reasons why clubs often struggle to find keepers for the season.

He says one of the big issues starts at the grassroots level when development occurs.

Dave Whalley explains the issues with encouraging young players to explore goalkeeping. Audio: Jack Stirling, Photo: Brett Kuzlic, Inglewood United Football Club.

Mr Whalley says there’s not enough goalkeepers in the game because not many players start in the game. 

“Obviously we are in Australia so there’s a bit of competition there with the AFL, cricket, surfing lifestyle as well,” he says, 

“There’s a lot of competition for different sports over here in Perth.”

Another aspect of goalkeeping which could deter people from pursuing the role is the mental pressure behind the position itself.

Dave Whalley and Alex Dunn on goalkeeper coaches. Video: Jack Stirling.

Inglewood United NPL goalkeeper Alex Dunn says when he was younger he struggled with the psychological side of being the shot-stopper.

“I took every goal that was conceded personally. I struggled and thought about it and dwelled on it,” he says.

“Even if it was an unstoppable goal I would go through that thought process. Even worse if I did make mistakes I struggled to move that aside.

“You’re standing there by yourself with your thoughts trying to stay switched on for the whole 90 minutes. Your head can play tricks on you at times.’’

Alex Dunn (wearing number 1) in action for Inglewood United. Photo: Alex Dunn, Inglewood United FC.

He says an analogy from Arsenal and Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan has helped him with keeping focus.

“He actually physically looks for a bin in the stadium, and he sees the bin and goes ‘alright, that mistake is in the bin’ and that’s how he moves on.”

The mental support for goalkeepers is important, and Mr Dunn says Mr Whalley helps him reflect on his performances after the game.

For others, he says addressing mistakes may not be the case at some clubs because it may be considered taboo.

“Everyone kind of ignores the elephant in the room,” Mr Dunn says.

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