Protecting the athletes

Youth soccer players are NOT taught to avoid dangerous play. Instead, most young soccer players are pushed to win at all costs.

By Zuriel Lozano

There are many youth soccer club goalkeepers getting HURT on 1v1 or getting hurt in routine plays than ever before. Partly, due to the lack of proper training and the other due to negligence from the responsible adults such as referees, coaches and some trainers. However, this has been going on for sometime & is not stopping anytime soon.

Does this sound familiar? 

you are watching a weekend youth club soccer game. Suddenly a Forward (or any player) breaks away towards the goal and turns into a 1v1, meaning a Forward vs goalkeeper also known as 50/50 ball.  The goalkeeper comes out fast, gets to the ball FIRST, attacks the ball with his hands and controls the ball. However, the Forward knows he/she is ALREADY beat but they go in for the glory with extended leg into the goalkeepers face or head which normally ends up in a concussion or a career ending injury .

Most times when this happens is because players want to come across as “brave little souls” who want to score the winning goal in front of parents, coaches & teammates. However, this NEVER ENDS WELL.

I have personally witness youth soccer games where the field player or forward ends up with broken legs, terrible ankle injuries & TORN ACLs. There are other reports where these athletes ended up with even broken rips, arms or head lacerations. 

“Youth soccer players are not trained to detect dangerous plays. In fact, their emphasis is on winning & better records “

Every once in a while, you find a young player who understands the game well and avoid dangerous plays. However, 90% of the Young soccer players in the region keep playing with an ALL OUT win at all cost attitude and not being able to understand when to stop.

But honestly, we can’t blame young amateur athletes for these nasty accidents. We need to look at referees, coaches & in some rare cases the parents.


This is no secret, there are referees who are simply not able to make the critical calls. Most of the Refs are field players so they will let things happen more during games.  At least at the youth club level, goalkeepers are NOT PROTECTED anymore.  There are times where players simply cannot stop themselves in midair but a strong warning or a card will normally stop these actions from getting out of hand later in the game. 

There have been some nasty collisions between players and goalkeepers and hardly ever the field player gets a card nor a warning. In fact, most of the time the play continues as if nothing happened. Only when the players or goalkeepers are NOT able to get up or are in pain, that is when Referees decide to stop the game for a very quick check but by then is too late, the damage is done. 


Development should be the ONLY thing in mind of a youth soccer club coach & clubs. However, they are under pressure to perform, winning records is rewarded constantly vs the amount of well developed goalkeepers or soccer players. 

Furthermore, sometimes even coaches themselves do not truly understand the game enough to know the difference between playing aggressively vs playing dangerously or when to go for it or when to back off. Only number of VICTORIES is in their mind.

Players & parents influence

The vast majority of athletic trainers are very well educated and prepared to make the critical calls about the athlete’s health. But sometimes they can be influenced by the players, especially if players are the best player on the team. But when parents get involved trying to convince trainers to let their kids STAY “just a little longer” then a new set of problems begins.

If you have been part of ANY youth soccer tournament or regular season games as fan or parent, you probably have seen these dangerous collisions between goalkeepers and players. Obviously, things can happen in the game and some accidents are simply that, an accident, that’s part of playing sports.

But there are a number of things that coaches & clubs can teach their players to avoid dangerous plays. For example, if you are a Forward going against a goalkeeper 1v1 and the goalkeepers is there first, then JUMP OVER the goalkeeper or go around him/her. But since their focus is on WINNING at any cost then safety precautions go out the window immediately.

Next time you go to a youth soccer tournament or game watch the type of accidents or incidents that occur during these event and you will see that most of these accidents can be preventable.