Gwinnett's 'train as you play' method works well as Pym shows signs of real progress
Matt Grimes may be the latest player to emerge from the Exeter City youth academy, after he made a starring debut against AFC Wimbledon last weekend, but many more are set to follow.
The gifted midfield playmaker caught the eye in the Grecians’ 2-0 win against the Dons, but, to those that had seen him play pre-season, it was no great surprise.
Now the likelihood is that many more will follow, including young goalkeeper Christy Pym, whose development at City continues to impress goalkeeping coach Mel Gwinnett.
“I’m pleased with Christy,” Gwinnett told the Western Morning News. “He has been working with me for a while now.
“The goalkeepers are very fortunate in that they are able to work with the first-team players and from the age of 16, Christy has worked with Artur [Krysiak] and me twice a week for an hour and a half per session. He is progressing nicely, he is a good lad with some very good attributes and he has pleased me.
“The balance for me is to continue his development, but he is going to be sat on the bench a lot this year, so it is a balancing act between getting him games and making sure he plays enough football, working him in the training sessions and being able to back up Artur.
“He is a bit old-school and a bit like I used to be in that he thinks he’s a midfield player with gloves on! He is a very good kicker, a very good distributor of the ball, he is calm with the ball at his feet and that is important.
“You may have three or four shots to save, but 70-80% of the game is dealing with the ball at your feet, so it is a massively important part of the game and he is very good at that.
“There is still room for improvement, we are still working on him, but he is certainly one that will be better.”
However, there is a lot more to educating a goalkeeper than teaching them the fundamental basics of catching, throwing and kicking a ball.
Krysiak, like Paul Jones before him, has made mistakes and has had his critics, meaning Gwinnett spends a lot of time helping the mental side of a ’keeper’s development.
“It is massively challenging. One of the biggest things we work on in training are mental attributes,” Gwinnett added, giving a good insight into his world.
“I won’t name names, but going back a few years now, one of my goalkeepers was having a particularly bad session with one of the drills we were doing. He let in two or three and dropped two or three and he said to me: ‘I need to stop. Just give me five minutes and I will come back.’
“I said to him: ‘OK, that’s great, but if you make a mistake on Saturday, what are you going to do? Are you going to come and sit with me for five minutes? And then come back on?’
“You train as you play. Whatever you need to get yourself right for the next ball, get yourself right because it’s the next thing that matters. Don’t let one mistake become two, three or four, so that is one of the things on which we work very hard.”
Gwinnett added: “I have worked hard on it with Artur, we are working on it with young Christy – it is about that mental approach when you make a mistake. It can be as simple as shanking a kick out of play, but, when you have made a mistake, make sure you don’t make another.
“None of my goalkeepers ever walk off, none of my goalkeepers are allowed to make two mistakes in a row and whatever it takes to get the next thing right, that’s what they have to work on in training.”
Getting a player to improve physical and technical aspects is done through practice, and playing games. But that is not the case when it comes to working on a sportsman’s mentality.
“It’s vocal, it’s talking to them and making it difficult for them, it’s reminding them when they do make a mistake that you aren’t happy with it and if they have three left to do, you do not make another mistake,” Gwinnett explained.
“For example, we do a really physical drill and at the end of the drill, they have to stand there and catch ten close range volleys. If they drop one, they have to do the drill again.
“But then, the person feeding them, if they hit a bad feed, they have to do the drill as well, so it lets the team-mate down, it lets you down and what it does is put pressure on both, it focuses the mind, trusts the technique, trusts what they have been taught, and improves your mental approach.”