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More Than 40 Coaching Candidates Attend U.S. Soccer's Inaugural Goalkeeping License In January

CHICAGO (February 16, 2006) – For the 40 coaches taking part in U.S. Soccer’s inaugural Goalkeeping License from Jan. 5-10 in Southern California, the interaction with some of the top goalkeeping minds in the United States was a truly unique experience. The six-day course at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif, was developed by U.S. Soccer for team coaches as well as goalkeeper coaches, in order to expand their goalkeeping knowledge at the youth, collegiate, senior and professional levels.

Coaching candidates were led by U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper coach Phil Wheddon, along with former U.S. U-17 MNT and Real Salt Lake Assistant Coach Peter Mellor, Youth National Team goalkeeper coach Tim Mulqueen, and U.S. Soccer National Instructional Staff Coaches Gwynne Williams and Rob Walker.

“The course was deemed a success on many levels and we look forward to expanding on what we have started in Chula Vista,” said Wheddon, who has also worked with the U.S. Women’s National Team. “The U.S. has produced some world-class goalkeepers and, with this license and future courses to be added, we hope to develop many more.”

One team coach who attended the Goalkeeping License was Hannibal Najjar, who served twice as head coach of the Trinidad & Tobago National Team, as well as the Under-17 and Under-20 programs. Despite holding a U.S. Soccer “A” License, a “Full Badge” from the Football Association of England and a FIFA “Academy II” License, Najjar attended the U.S. Soccer Goalkeeping License in order to focus on the needs of the goalkeeper.

“As a former national team coach at the youth and senior team level, I have found an absolute need to be in synch with my goalkeeper’s needs,” said Najjar. “This (course) compares with the best that I’ve been to wherever I’ve been around the world. To think that they have assembled the best goalkeeping minds in one location was a total excitement for me.”

The coaching school included field and classroom sessions with a focus on instructing coaches how to plan and manage their goalkeeper’s development over the course of an entire season. Coaches participated in interactive field sessions that included a fitness component, as well as sessions on shot stopping, distribution and integrating the goalkeeper into the team.

“The goalkeeping license offers another learning opportunity for coaches and the chance to interact with some true professionals,” said U.S Soccer Director of Coaching Bob Jenkins. “We are certainly very pleased with the response we have received thus far and only look to improve on that.”

Among the candidates who attended the course was Goalkeeper Program Director for Starfire Sports Washington, Kelly Bendixon, who also holds a U.S. Soccer “A” Coaching License. Bendixen currently runs the goalkeeper program at the Manchester United Academy in Washington.

“As a full-time goalkeeping coach, it was so valuable,” Bendixen said. “When you do regular field licenses, there’s usually only one session dedicated to goalkeeping a week and it’s usually crosses. It was great to be inundated with goalkeeping.”

According to Bendixen, participation involved more than listening to coaches and asking questions. Candidates took part in goalkeeping drills whenever the instructors needed to demonstrate the points they were making. Candidates who where observing the drills were allowed to stand behind the goals and hear the other instructors analyze the goalkeepers’ performance.

As part of the license course, candidates had to prepare training sessions for goalkeepers based on what they were learning as well as their prior goalkeeping knowledge. Course instructors were available to look over the training sessions and offer suggestions. Bendixen was impressed with just how approachable the instructors were and how open they were to questions.

“They wanted you to go sit with them at lunch and talk about little things,” Bendixen said. “They wanted you to pick their brain. I felt that’s where I did the most learning.”

But, according to Bendixen, one of the main advantages to attending the course and being able to interact with such experienced instructors was that the information learned can be applied to all ages and skill levels.

This is particularly beneficial for Bendixen, who works with goalkeepers who range in experience from 8-year-old beginners to Hope Solo of the U.S. Women’s National Team.

“Whether it’s the highest level or beginner, all the information pertains to it,” said Bendixen. “I train the whole gamut but the information is the same. From a field coach’s standpoint, I think it does nothing but help them integrate goalkeepers into their training. I think everybody learned and every coach should go through it.”

U.S. Soccer has tentatively scheduled the next goalkeeping course for the early part of 2007. More information will be available later this year.

For more information on U.S. Soccer Coaching Schools, contact the U.S. Soccer Coaching Department at or 312-528-1218. 

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