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For the Good of the Game in Uganda

Fields of Dreams Uganda

By Jeff Oleck - November 30, 2017

For me, December has always been a month to reflect, thank, and give.  This month I will take my second trip to Africa with Fields of Dreams Uganda - a non-profit organization that seeks to provide hope to the orphaned and vulnerable children of Uganda through the vehicles of soccer and education.  I have been involved with this cause since 2012, and have served as a volunteer member of the Board of Directors since 2014.  My first trip to Uganda was in 2015 and since then I have been counting down the days until I get to return to this vibrant country.
The work of Fields of Dreams Uganda (FoDU) powerfully resonates with me as I am a firm believer in utilizing the platform I have had as a college coach and now a club director for bigger things than just teaching technique and tactics.  Sports provide an invaluable stage to learn camaraderie, teamwork, cooperation, perseverance, and hard work - to only name a few.  The children that we sponsor (over 6,000 in the Kampala and Gulu regions) live and breathe soccer.  Sport is a powerful outlet for them to escape the realities of their difficult day-to-day lives and to simply be kids!  And, they are in desperate need of structure and hope due to the devastating effects that civil war, the AIDS epidemic, and poverty have inflicted on their country.
During my 10 days in Uganda, our team will oversee the Hope Cup - a tournament sponsored by FoDU that brings in 32 teams across four age groups (U10, U12, U16, and U20) together for spirited competition.  Each age group will include one of our own FoDU teams as well as seven other clubs, academies, and orphanages who will be competing for the Hope Cup title.  Not only do we get to interact and coach these players on the field, but time off the field is even more impactful.  Engaging these young men and women in conversation about their upbringing, families (or lack thereof), challenges, and ambitions is by far the highlight of our time there.  There is so much hope and promise in these children, yet they come from so little.
Aside from the Hope Cup we will have a chance to visit several of our partner schools (we have nine total) and workshop with our Youth Council, which is a group of a dozen young men and women who have shown promise in our programs and serve as role models for our younger children.
Throughout my travels, I will be sending periodic updates and photos from Uganda in hopes to share the work being done and showcase the love of the "beautiful game" from across the globe.  If you are interested in learning more about the work that Fields of Dreams Uganda does, or how you can get involved, please visit
For the Good of the Game,
Coach O.

Nutrition for Athletes

A Guide to Off-Field Performance Influencers

By Jeff Oleck - October 10, 2017

Storm GKs & Families,

With the potential for lulls in training due to early winter weather, I wanted to share some information about how athletes can prepare even when they are AWAY from the field.  So, this blog steps away from the technical/tactical topics of the last few weeks and focus on Nutrition for Athletes.
As many of you know, prior to arriving at Storm in March 2016 I spent 10 years coaching at the collegiate level.  You cannot imagine a more challenging place to monitor and influence nutrition in an athlete.  Players are trying to juggle class, practices, social activities while living on a limited budget.  Quick, easy, and cheap were the name of the game.  Ramen noodles, mac and cheese, frozen pizzas, McDonald's breakfast, etc. etc. - the list of unhealthy choices went on and on...
The change for our college athletes began with education.  Knowing how the foods are used by their bodies, what their bodies require, and how to maintain variety and creativity with their diets so they don't get stuck eating the same things over and over was critical to their ability to make healthy, informed choices.  Many college programs are now hiring professional nutritionists and putting much more emphasis on the "fueling" component of performance because of the huge role it plays in student-athlete success.
The reality of athlete nutrition is that even though you may not be gaining or losing weight due to high metabolism at a younger age, or due to the amount of training that you do - maintaining a healthy balance of productive carbohydrates, lean proteins, colorful fruits & vegetables, dairy, and fats is essential to achieving maximal performance over time.
Additionally, when trying to reach the highest levels of sport - in our case, soccer - everyone at the top will be technically consistent, tactically savvy, mentally strong.  BUT, the physical elements of the game can be a deciding factor when differentiating between two elite level players.  Don't set yourself back due to what you eat - think of nutrition as "fuel" to power a high-performing machine (your body!).
Rather than pretending to be an expert in nutrition, I will let the professionals take it from here.  I have pasted a couple links which I have found useful when discussing nutrition with my former college student-athletes as well as attached a couple easy-to-read guides about what pre, post, and during season nutrition should look like.
"10 Nutrition Rules to Live By"
"Four Common Myths About Nutrition Among Soccer Players"

"What Every Athlete Should Know About Nutrition and Fueling Your Body"

I encourage all our Goalkeepers to be conscious of what they are using to fuel their bodies, and how their choices influence performance.  There's a bigger correlation than you may think.
Good luck in your games this weekend!
Coach O.

Goalkeeper Mentality

The Role of the Goalkeeper and How to Manage Mistakes

By Jeff Oleck - September 26, 2017

In order to be a goalkeeper at an elite level - whether that is at the club, high school, college, or professional level - you have to have an elite mentality.  That is easier said than done, as goalkeepers often shoulder the burden of the result of the game and their mistakes are often singled out in the event of a bad result.  Goalkeepers can be the hero, or the goat, but are often remembered more for mistakes they make than saves they perform.  

Striking a delicate balance between self-criticism and having a short memory, goalkeepers must absorb and learn from mistakes while also turning their focus to the next task or next action which requires their full attention.

This short video produced by Manchester City provides a glimpse of how their Elite Development Squad (EDS) goalkeepers are taught to embrace their challenging role, manage mistakes, and take on a mentality that both criqitues and forgives.

I encourage all our goalkeepers to be aware of how they process mistakes, what their "triggers" are, and go into their next match with a conscious awareness of how their performance (good, bad, or otherwise) affects their state of mind.

I look forwad to seeing you all out on the training ground!

Coach O.


GK Technique Review: Diving

By Jeff Oleck - September 19, 2017

This article focuses on the Technical and Tactical considerations of Diving

Not the "I got kicked on my shoelace and now I will roll on the ground screaming in agony hoping to get a foul call" diving...but Goalkeeper Diving!  What I'm talking about is the "sometimes acrobatic, often last resort, keep the ball out of the net, save the game, keep a clean sheet" kind of diving.
A firm understanding of good diving technique is crucial for any high level goalkeeper and needs to be part of his/her tool kit in order to be successful in this position.
First, I will cover some basic principles of diving.  Then provide more detail on two types of diving techniques: Collapse and Extension dives.
Basic Principles of Diving:
  • Get into a good position for the shot using shuffle steps or crossover steps.  You always want to place yourself on the Ball Line (imaginary line that runs from the ball to the center of the goal), cutting the distance between the near and far post.  The goalkeeper should also consider the Angle Arc which is a semi-circle extending from post to post and stretching 3-4 yards off goal line.
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  • Maintain your Set Position! Keep your weight forward and on the front studs of your cleats.  Keep your hands in front of your body, shoulders rounded, and knees slightly bent.  A forward body shape will help keep balance and generate power when you need to step for your dive
Inline image 3
  • When diving, take a positive (forward) angle to the ball.  When stepping to your dive, the step with the near foot should be slightly diagonal in the direction of the path of the ball (think geometry, it should be a 30-45 degree angle).  This helps guide deflections away from the goal and also allows the goalkeeper to make a shorter, rather than longer, dive.
As you can see from the image below, the goalkeeper who takes a forward approach to the ball will have a shorter dive to make, and will be sure to deflect any rebounds out of the goal area.  This requires quick reactions and decision making.
Inline image 2
  • ​When diving or "falling", you must keep your shoulders square (facing) the ball.  If you roll on your back or your belly, you will turn your hands away from the ball and therefore have less surface to grab and hold the ball.  Diving on the back or stomach can also cause injury based on the lack of control of the landing.
  • When catching, keep your hands in a good "W" or contour shape - trying to put as much of your hands around the ball as possible.  Extending the hands to the ball will help cushion the catch and absorb the pace of the shot.  Try to avoid hard, flat hands.​
  • As you land, make sure your hands and elbows stay in front of your body and not underneath your torso.  Landing on your hands or elbows can cause serious injury and lessen your ability to hold the ball as you land.  When catching a ball in the air, you can use the ball as a cushion to absorb the fall.
​Collapse Dive Considerations:
Collapse dives are used when the ball is coming within approximately two yards away from the GKS body.  Picture yourself laying on your side - if you can reach the ball in that position, then a collapse is appropriate.  This save is used when the ball is just far enough, or fast enough, that you cannot move your feet to scoop it up and you MUST get your body behind the ball by "falling".​
  • Maintain your set position until the ball is struck.  
  • As it travels to you, you will want to "sweep" or "erase" the leg nearest the ball (if the ball is struck to your Right side, the Right leg will sweep out - and vice versa).
  • As you sweep your leg out from underneath your body, gravity kicks in.  You will fall to your side quickly, but will need to maintain good hand and arm positioning in front of your body.
  • Make sure the near hand (hand closest to the ball) gets behind the traveling ball.  The far hand (hand furthest from the ball) will come on top of the traveling ball.
Inline image 4
  • ​When​ the ball is struck in the air, the same basic principles apply.  However, in this situation you will want to take a small step towards the ball (diagonal, away from the body) to get your body behind the ball as it travels.  
  • Cushion the catch by extending your hands away from your body, maintaining good hand shape.  When you catch the ball, collapse softly to the ground with the ball touching the ground first.  Fall onto your side, landing on the hip and shoulder, and pinning the ball to the ground.
Inline image 7
Extension Dive Considerations:
Extension dives are used when the ball is traveling outside of the goalkeeper's "collapse" range.  Again, picture yourself laying on your side in a diving position - if the ball is beyond your fingertips, you will need to utilize an extension dive.  This simple means that we extend our range of diving with a "power step" in order to get our body or hands behind the ball.  Extension dives can be done to stop a ball traveling on the ground or in the air.
  • Footwork remains the same - get to the ball line (or as close as possible) before the ball is struck.  Keep good body shape, forward on the balls of the feet and hands in front of the body.
  • Once you are able to read the flight of the ball, and you see that you are not able to scoop or collapse to make the save, you must use a "power step" to push yourself towards the ball.
Inline image 9
  • This "power step" is out at a 30-45 degree angle, toe turned slightly out towards the path of the ball, and loads energy into the near leg (the leg closest to the traveling ball).  As the leg steps, the arms and hands must also drive towards the path of the ball so that the entire body is moving in the same direction.
  • Drive the opposite knee across your body to generate power.  Leaving that leg dragging will reduce the distance you can cover with your dive.
  • Take a direct path to the ball with your dive.  If it's a low shot, drive low to the ball - don't jump up in the air, it will waste time and the ball may go underneath you.  The dive should make you almost parallel with the ball.
Inline image 8
  • Keep your eyes on the ball and watch it into your hands.  If you cannot catch it, you should make every effort to "parry" or tip the ball wide of the goal and out of a dangerous area.
  • As you land, try to let the ball cushion the fall (like a mid height collapse dive) but make sure you secure the ball!  The impact of an aerial extension dive can sometime jostle the ball out of the hands...hold on tight!
As you continue to get more and more comfortable with basic diving and collapse diving, your muscle memory will prepare you for the demands of an aerial extension dive.  Work your way up, from simple to complex, in order to gain confidence.
Remember, diving is a last resort.  Good goalkeepers minimize the amount of diving they do with good footwork, starting position, and catching reflexes.  Of course, the better opposition you play against the more accurate they are with their shooting - so diving will be a necessary part of being a high level goalkeeper.
In closing, here's a quick video of the England national team GKs doing some diving work.  Watch their feet, legs, body, and hands as they are put through a high level diving session.

Good luck to all our Storm GKs in League, DA, ECNL, State Cup & President's Cup this weekend!
Coach O.

Deliberate Practice in Goalkeeping

By Jeff Oleck - September 5, 2017

This blog will be focused on the idea of deliberate practice.

​In an article published on the website,​ author Corbett Barr describes in great detail the importance of deliberate practice and how this method can be used to improve performance in a variety of fields (i.e. music, academics, sports, etc.).  
Inline image 1

He writes, "To learn any new skill or gain expertise you need to practice, practice, practice. There isn’t much debate about that.  
But here’s what you might not know: scientific research shows that the quality of your practice is just as important as the quantity.

And, more interestingly, these scientists also believe that expert-level performance is primarily the result of expert-level practice NOT due to innate talent.

This concept is known as deliberate practice, and it’s incredibly powerful."

​In goalkeeping, we value repetitions.  The more reps we get, the more work we feel we have accomplished.  We often brag about the number of reps..."I must have ​made 28 dives today!"  Reps are valuable, yes.  But, as we are starting to understand, the quality of those repetitions is extremely valuable.  The common pitfalls of "going through the motions" or "letting your mind wander" while performing specific technical tasks will be counterproductive to your development.
It's OUR job as coaches to provide a structured, productive, and fun environment to train these skills, while giving you feedback and constructive criticism.  It's YOUR job to bring the focus, energy, and a growth mindset.
One area where I believe we can continue to improve as a goalkeeping program is our ability with our feet and building a "relationship" with the ball.  As you have certainly gathered from my previous Tech Tuesday emails, the goalkeeping role is evolving into more than just a shot stopping position.  The take-home message that our GKs are getting is, "we have to get better at this"...AND, "you need to do some of this work on your own".
Spending time with the ball, in deliberate practice, is essential.  Reps are crucial, but quality reps are the foundation.  
Below you will find several videos which give you some at-home exercises to build ball mastery.  Some of these are very simple, some are more complex.  But, if you have ever said "I need to get better with my feet", you must take the time to deliberately improve that area of your game.
Inline image 2
​Ball Mastery Warm Up, Part 1: 
Ball Mastery Warm Up, Part 2:
First Touch Drills (partner needed):
Passing Drills (partner needed):
There are plenty of other great resources available via FourFourTwo Performance and their YouTube channel.  Find the drills you like, perform them deliberately, and repeat!​
As always, let me know if you have any questions.
Good luck in your games this weekend!
Coach O.