EL PASO, Texas – When arriving at an El Paso Locomotive FC training, one will be quick to notice the number of goalkeepers engaged in the practice drills. The number ranges from day to day but the two professional goalkeepers rarely train by themselves.
They will often work together alongside several young goalies, both male and female, from Locomotive’s Academy and Club teams, under the leadership of First Team Goalkeeper Coach JC Garzon and Academy, Club Goalkeeper Coach Ivan Meza.
When it was announced in 2020 that the club would establish an Academy to help bring in and develop local talent, Garzon knew he had a chance to create something special, something truly unique to El Paso.
With approval from General Manager, Business and Technical Operations Andrew Forrest and former Head Coach and Technical Director John Hutchinson, Garzon got to work.
After much research and many conversations with goalkeeper coaches across the country, Garzon would design what is now the club’s training curriculum for goalkeepers throughout the organization. Implemented into the curriculum were occasions for young goalkeepers to come train with the senior team, to observe and learn what it is like to practice as a professional.
“What we’re doing here is special and I’m very proud of the work we do to make the young goalkeepers feel included,” Garzon said. “We are allowed to create memorable opportunities for all our goalkeepers to participate and learn, which is something many soccer clubs in this country aren’t able to do.”
When it comes to player positions in soccer, none are as unique as the goalkeeper. They play the game differently than their outfield teammates and require different training regimens, which provided goalkeeping coaches like Garzon with the chance to implement this unique curriculum into senior team training.
In addition to inviting young goalkeepers to learn from the pros, the curriculum presents senior team goalkeepers like Benny Diaz and Javier Garcia to take up a mentorship role within the organization, to pass down their knowledge and experience to El Paso’s next goalkeeping generation.
“It is an incredible learning experience for both players and coaches, and it is one that is difficult to find anywhere else,” Meza said, who joined the organization in 2021 to assist in the wider implementation of Garzon’s curriculum.
Now with the continued support from Locomotive’s new Head Coach and Technical Director Brian Clarhaut, Garzon and Meza work together to expand efforts in youth goalkeeper development at the club and across the local community, no matter if the goalkeepers are or are not involved with Locomotive.
Meza’s role in this process is an incredibly important one, as he helps connect that bridge for goalies who come from the local community and surrounding region or from Locomotive Youth Soccer to the first team.
Both coaches make sure to get in touch with each other once a week to evaluate the athletic development and progress of the goalkeepers involved at training. They also make time to sit down with the players to connect with them in a way that transcends the field, to help them work through their everyday struggles.
For Garzon and Meza, it is important for them to be positive role models for the goalkeepers in El Paso and help them gain confidence for the day they’re called upon to step up, wherever that may be.
Both coaches agree in their hopes to one day see a local product take the field as a starting goalkeeper. They believe by continuing to create the memorable and beneficial experiences they have, that dream will one day come into fruition.
For now, it is all about leaving a goalkeeping legacy behind in El Paso.