As the director of goalkeeping for Real Salt Lake in the MLS, Todd Hoffard has worked with some of the best goalkeepers the United States has to offer. Todd has also been running his own goalkeeper school, One on One Soccer for the pas 25 years. One on One offers day and overnight camps, private lessons and winter training. In addition to goalkeeper training, One on One offers field player training. Go to oneononesoccer.com to see what they have to offer!
KeeperSpace: How would you describe your pre-professional career?
Todd: I actually came from an environment where I only played soccer for 3 months of the year. The rest of the year I played baseball, basketball or whatever other sport I could play. To this day, I truly believe that my passion for sports and the variety of sports that I played, are what carried me through my career. Occasionally, according to the level of the team that I was on, I was placed in situations that goalkeepers on better teams were not. Again, this really helped me as I am a firm believer that goalkeepers should not seek to be on the best teams all the time because you may not progress as rapidly as an individual due to the lack of required decision-making situations that you are placed into during matches. Early on my personal goalkeeper-specific coaching was quite limited, but during the later years of high school, I was very fortunate to have a goalkeeper coach/mentor that saw something in me and pushed me to try for college. He encouraged me to look at Hartwick College in New York who at the time was a perennial Division I Top 20 program. If not for Daryl Groff, I would not be where I am today as I would have likely chosen a path in baseball. After walking on, I earned a college scholarship and became a 3-year starter. At the conclusion of my career I was drafted to play pro indoor soccer for the Harrisburg Heat. At the time, the pro game consisted of playing indoor in the winter months and then signing for an outdoor pro team which I did for almost 9 years. I was offered opportunities in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Albany and Charleston, SC during this time.
KeeperSpace: What made you decide to get into coaching?
Todd: During my college and pro career, I got really interested in coaching through the many camps/clinics that I was asked to do during my down times and summer months. Since I never had too much goalkeeper coaching when I was young, I was committed to not allowing that to happen to other young aspiring goalkeepers. I wanted to be that mentor or person to teach them and give them opportunities that I was never presented with at their ages. Working with kids at various camps allowed me to figure out that I wanted to do this on a full-time scale. Therefore, I created my own soccer business (ONE on ONE Soccer) in 1993. It began very small where I was just doing a summer soccer camp in my hometown; it then grew to the point where we were doing 8-10 camps across the country every summer. At one point, we even conducted programs in Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, New Zealand and Australia too!
KeeperSpace: What are your thoughts on the current state of goalkeeping for US Soccer?
Todd: For many years, we had a long history of goalkeepers coming through the US system that did extremely well at the International level. I firmly believe that because of that, we did not take the appropriate steps to truly further the development within our younger goalkeepers. The reason? We were too complacent with the fact that we are already a nation of good goalkeepers. This in my opinion was our biggest mistake. We currently do not have a Director of Goalkeeping for our National Teams and therefore no Goalkeeper Curriculum. To me, this is extremely disconcerting and really just unacceptable. Because right now, we have an extreme shortage of high level goalkeepers in the country. When recruiting goalkeepers, we look too much at size and athleticism. At the moment we have a lot of big, strong athletic goalkeepers, but have limited or zero technical ability. This stems from two things: 1) Picking goalkeepers for size only and 2) Not focusing the coaching on the technical aspects at the younger ages. Technique is everything. Especially when you get to the professional game where the game moves so fast. If you are not extremely technically sound at these higher levels, you will be exposed a lot. Lack of this technical foundation can potentially be a career-ending situation. We all would like a 6’5” quick as a cat goalkeeper who has all the top attributes that you could dream of…but, what if you have a smaller goalkeeper that plays like they are 6’5” and reads the game really well and has incredible attributes as well?? I see all too often that those types of goalkeepers are getting overlooked by “taller” goalkeepers with limited agility, etc. The really crazy thing is that I have actually seen in writing are size “minimums” for goalkeepers?! I truly cannot believe that we have done that…what is next, putting a size minimum on a center forward? A midfielder? Totally ridiculous and it limits the pool of goalkeepers that we have to choose from at the national team levels. It is a real shame that we are putting so much emphasis on size and athleticism in this country. For me, I would rather have a goalkeeper that is truly technically sound, reads the game extremely well and plays bigger than they are, than a goalkeeper that is big, but is limited in all other areas.
KeeperSpace: What makes your school, One on One Goalkeeping different from other goalkeeping camps or trainers?
Todd: I built my programs on two things: 1). Developing technically sound goalkeepers. 2). Teach them the work ethic that is needed to compete and excel at the higher levels. It is about inspiring them to reach for their dreams. One thing that I always say at our programs, “Someone is going to wear that #1 National Team Jersey or at Manchester United, Real Madrid, etc…Why can’t it be you?” Repetition is key in every exercise at our programs to develop “muscle-memory.” Plus, we do not stress diving so much. Diving is an area that I think too many places put too much stress on. I typically ask goalkeepers how much diving they are doing in their goalkeeper training…if the answer is “a lot” then that should be a BIG red flag. Why dive for balls that we don’t need to? What about moving our feet and getting our hands to the ball? This is something that we stress most. If you look at statistics, the amount of diving saves a goalkeeper makes is a small percentage, while playing the ball with our feet, making simple saves is at a very high percentage. And yet most people still want to train the flare aspect of goalkeeping – diving. Our programs obviously works on diving, but it is an appropriate amount and we stress the reasons why. Another area that we are proud of is that we are constantly asking the goalkeepers questions. We want to make them students of the game and truly learn about the position, so they can essentially be their own coach.
KeeperSpace: What is your strategy for training goalkeepers?
Todd: My strategy is pretty easy. Make training as simple as possible and give the goalkeeper confidence to deal with numerous types of situations. At the pro level, it is not as much “teaching” as it is maintaining and keeping them sharp. So, every goalkeeper is a little bit different and needs to be dealt with a little differently. At Real Salt Lake, we have Nick Rimando who holds every goalkeeper record in MLS. He is truly not your prototypical goalkeeper, but he has had a fantastic career and has a few more to go!! My job is to make sure that he is prepared for all facets of the game. So, it is critical to work on things that not only make him confident but also prepare him to play at a high level on the weekend. Nick is a tempo type of guy who thrives on 2-3 quick/sharp reps of exercises. He constantly wants to be making quick movements of various activities. He is a reaction type of goalkeeper and it is my job to make sure that I incorporate exercises that boost his confidence and agility. Plus, he is an experienced goalkeeper, so that plays into everything as well. This type of scenario has me “managing the player” more than a younger goalkeeper. There is a lot of communication between the two of us on a daily basis discussing the physical load on his body and what we will be doing in training and our tactical plan for the match. So, each goalkeeper I work with is going to be treated a little bit differently. It is not always just about catching balls, etc…but about managing people and getting the most out of them!
KeeperSpace: If you had to name one thing that most goalkeepers currently struggle with, what would it be?
Todd: Without a doubt, it is catching the ball. From the youth national teams all the way down to the beginning goalkeeper, catching the ball is becoming a lost art. In the modern game, there has been a lot of emphasis into “Futsal-Style” goalkeeping and just blocking the ball. Although I do totally agree that there is a time and place for this type of save, it has become more important to just “block” the ball and not catching it. I see too many situations at all levels of the game where goalkeepers can cleanly catch the ball and they instead decide to block. Or they stop short and block a breakaway save when they could have gone down low through the ball and won the ball. It has become too easy for the goalkeeper to just be a “shot-stopper.” Yes, that is an important attribute of a goalkeeper. But to become a well-rounded goalkeeper, you need to have safe, soft hands. My motto is quite simple for goalkeepers: “Eliminate opportunities BEFORE they ever become them!” In other words, if you just block a ball, you likely give the opposition another opportunity on goal…if you catch it, opportunities are eliminated. The top-level goalkeeper often faces fewer of these shots because they consistently communicate and organize their team in a way that thwarts chances on goal. That is goalkeeping.
KeeperSpace: If you could give a piece of advice to a young player looking to continue their career past high school or college, what would it be?
Todd: I would say: Work on the simple things all the time. Constantly work on your craft. Take pride in your training and dream big. If someone says you don’t fit the profile of a “typical” goalkeeper, use that as your fuel to prove them wrong.