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When did Tim Howard know he wanted to be a goalkeeper?

This is an excerpt from Complete Soccer Goalkeeper by Timothy Mulqueen & Michael Woitalla.

If you ask me when I really knew I wanted to be a goalkeeper, I trace it to when Tim Mulqueen started training me at a New Jersey soccer camp when I was 12 years old. He made me feel like I was doing something special.

Before that camp, I was a kid on the team with enough skill to score goals while on the field and prevent them when I took my turn in the goal. Then came the camp. Coach Mulqueen took aside the kids who volunteered for keeper training. That in itself was intriguing. We would be doing something unique, something the rest of the campers weren't doing. And Tim was enthusiastic in a way that made us feel like we were on a special mission.

When he trained us, I soon became aware that goalkeeping wasn't just about getting your body in front of the ball to block shots and catch balls. As Tim showed us the fundamental techniques and revealed that making a save required a precisely executed series of movements, the position took on a whole new meaning and became even more enjoyable.

Coach Mulqueen showed us how much skill and thought go into goalkeeping. Because of that, it became a fascinating challenge. I realized that there is an art to goalkeeping, and I was improving dramatically. It's a long road to mastering the position. But I was a better goalkeeper after each session with Coach Mulqueen.

After that first camp, I started going to Coach Mulqueen's weekly goalkeeper sessions and played for his club team. When I was selected to Olympic development program teams, there he was, ready to train the keepers. Amazingly, he would also coach me when I became a pro with Major League Soccer's Metro-Stars (now known as the New York Red Bulls) and on occasions with the U.S. national team.

Coach Mulqueen has coached keepers of all ages, from youngsters to seasoned pros. And it's remarkable how similar his methods are at each level. Of course, at the younger ages, the training isn't as vigorous. His demeanor adjusts accordingly to children, who need more patience and inspiration than pros. He knows when players are physically and mentally prepared to move on to new challenges. But goalkeeper fundamentals are the same for all ages.

Tim was more than a coach to me. He helped me mature both as a player and as a person. He showed me how to respect others and how to earn respect. He even nagged me about my studies. And now that I've spent years playing in the English Premier League, I see how his influence helped me attain that success—and how his approach provides an excellent example for other goalkeeper coaches.

So much about good goalkeeper training is the ability to teach proper technique and to run fun and productive practice sessions. But there's much more to it than setting up drills. Exceptional goalkeeper coaches build confidence, critique effectively, and help players learn how to read the game. That's why this book is more than a series of exercises: It delves into all the aspects of the position and the coach-player relationship.

However crucial good coaching is, the responsibility does ultimately rest on the player. And that's what makes this book so valuable to the future of goalkeepers—it speaks to both the player and the coach.

Tim Howard

U.S. Men's National Team

Everton FC

Tim Howard

More Excerpts From Complete Soccer Goalkeeper