They say you need to possess a unique character to be a soccer goalkeeper.
For starters, you must love pressure, enjoy yelling at your team mates and be the owner of a very short memory.
And that comes from one of their own, Nick Karaffa, who has just been taken on by Southern Indiana United as a specialized coach for those between the posts.
“I do personally feel it takes a special person to want to play goal,” Karaffa said. “There’s a saying that you can’t do anything about the last goal or save, so just focus on the next one. You also have to be able to ‘see’ the game, understand what is going on, who needs to be where, how things are developing and what’s the best way to prevent a goal scoring opportunity.”
Karaffa, a four year starter with both New Albany High School and Transylvania University, said he began playing in goals as a youngster because no one else wanted to do it.
“It’s funny, you can ask a group of kids if anyone wants to hop in goal and the majority will give you a look of disinterest,” he said. “But there are always a few that want to try it and those are the ones I like working with.”
SIU recognized a need to concentrate more on improving its goalkeepers, so he was approached last summer by director of coaching Dutch Vigar and vice president select soccer, Debbie Webb.
“I had moved home to study for the bar exam and hadn’t given coaching much thought at the time,” he said. “After talking with them, I thought it sounded like a good way to help some local kids learn about the most important position on the field. I think through their experience, they knew that unless a goalkeeper is getting special work, a normal practice won’t be as beneficial for them as it is the field players.”
The 1983 Indiana ODP team member said you can equate a goalkeeper to a pitcher in baseball.
“Taking infield practice won’t do them much good, so they have special coaches that can design training for them to work on position specific drills,” he said. “That’s what SIU realized and brought me in to help with that specialized training.”
Karaffa starts with the basics, like catching and positioning. When a decent foundation is in place, he tries to build the more challenging aspects like diving, handling crosses and organizing the defense.
“We use a lot of repetition in drills for muscle memory purposes,” he said. “It prevents injury and makes the kids get comfortable with what they’re doing so when they need to react in a game, they won’t have to think and instead react naturally with the proper form.”
So if you see some increasingly good saves on the fields of southern Indiana this spring, mixed with the odd constructive yell or two, don’t be too surprised.