Tennessee Soccer Club has a history of producing college-level players, but one thing that sets it apart is the unique attention its goalkeepers receive. Beginning in 2015, TSC’s goalkeeper program began a period of development that led to it becoming the specialized system for prospective collegiate goalkeepers that it is today. Having a program unique for keepers is crucial for setting players up for success at the next level and helps set TSC apart from the competition.
As part of the program, goalkeepers receive specialized training sessions four nights a week, in addition to regular team training. The program trains goalkeepers of all ages, from those under 11 to players in high school. Emphasis is placed on both physical and mental aspects of the game that are unique to goalkeepers, such as crucial decision making, reading the game, and having short memories.
“It’s definitely nice to be able to work specifically on what you need to do as a goalkeeper,” said current player Kate Devine, “I definitely wouldn’t have been as prepared for college without the program.” Devine is currently a junior in high school and is committed to play at Vanderbilt University. She attributes part of her success to being able to work with program director Eric Vaughter, who worked for 40 years as a goalkeeper specialist.
Vaughter is widely regarded as one of the top goalkeeper trainers in the United States and has a history of working for organizations that produce college level players. Being a former professional player himself, Vaughter’s coaching philosophy focuses on preparing players for the next level, wherever that may be.
“If you work hard enough and you’re committed, goalkeeping is one of the few positions in sports where you can be self-made, but you’ve got to have fun doing it,” said Vaughter. In order to maintain that fun throughout the strenuous, specialized work of goalkeeping, training sessions involve extensive hands-on work with partners or in groups of players, and can be personalized for individual players’ needs.
One often overlooked aspect of goalkeeping Vaughter tries to focus on in training sessions is the use of feet. Assistant coach Rebecca Wynne echoed this, saying, “Our biggest goal is to create goalkeepers who are as good with their feet as they are with their hands.” Vaughter says focus on this part of keeping is imperative, and that commitment to every aspect of the position helps to make TSC’s keeper program unique.
Additionally, the program is largely tailored to each individual player and what they need to focus on most. Vaughter says that players of any skill or commitment level are welcome, regardless of whether they plan to play at a level beyond TSC, and that he will help them wherever they most need improvement. “Having him know what I need to work on to be ready for college has really been a big development for me,” said Devine. Wynne also says that having Vaughter at its head is crucial to the success of the program. “As a coach, I could ask him a question and he could give me five different ways to teach it depending on the player, having him there is really just a huge resource,” she said.
TSC’s goalkeeping program has a history of preparing players for the next level, from Sydney Malham at Ohio University; to Kate Devine, the soon-to-be Vanderbilt player; to Jake Severino, who is currently being scouted by colleges. The program undoubtedly succeeds at what it does: teaching players the specifics of goalkeeping while ensuring they have a great time doing so. And with an elite coach like Vaughter in charge, it doesn’t seem like TSC’s goalkeeping success is stopping anytime soon.
Learn more about Tennessee Soccer Club at tennesseesoccerclub.org.