Ten Years of BIG CAT GOALKEEPING
We gladly invite you to join us in our Celebration of 10 Years of BIG CAT GOALKEEPING. That's right....ten years.
In 2011, it started with a "GOAL." That goal started with Neil Thompson. His vision was to bring his Goalkeeping experience and learnings from his playing days in England and share it with the future Goalkeepers of tomorrow.
Neil learned first hand the lessons, proven development, disciplined training and competitive drive at the age of 16, where he joined the professional soccer system in England.
His hard work led him to the next level, playing professionally with Carlisle United, Barnet and Hull City in England.
Why stop there? Neil traveled across the pond and was determined to build a nationwide brand that delivered premier coaching, instruction, development and products to all goalkeepers. From the elite and experienced goalkeeper to the beginning youth and future great goalkeepers, BIG CAT GOALKEEPING was founded on the joy and uniqueness of this position that few get to enjoy.
It has been a journey. Join us in 2021 as we will be posting stories and moments from Neil "BIG CAT" Thompson and others on the history of BIG CAT GOALKEEPING.
WHAT DOES BIG CAT GOALKEEPING MEAN TO YOU?
IAN JINDRICH (COACH) : Big Cat means a lot to me. It was the first real program that I came across as a player that seemed to take development and culture seriously for the goalkeeping position. I was trained by Neil and saw massive improvements in my own game in an extremely short amount of time, something I hadn't experienced with other goalkeeper coaches before. I thoroughly believe I wouldn't have made it to the collegiate level without those developmental steps with Big Cat.
WHAT SPECIAL MEMORIES DO YOU HAVE NEIL AND BIG CAT GOALKEEPING?
IAN JINDRICH : Probably the late night sessions and banter back when I was still playing. We trained in some of the dodgiest facilities you could imagine, but we didn't care - we got our work in and we had a great time doing it. Something that was especially memorable were the small talks we would have while he had me carry gear back to his car after training. It seems like a small thing, but those conversations help develop meaningful relationships with the players outside of the standard training environment. It was once again something that a coach had never done for me before.
BRIAN SCHWAKE : In early 2016, Neil’s friend from England, Ben Benson, at that time the Blackburn Rovers’ head academy goalkeeping coach, invited Neil to bring ten keepers to training with Blackburn on our spring break in 2017. It was eye opening to see how the club system in England works, and I felt like I had a shot. During that trip, Ben invited me to return to Blackburn. I traveled there three more times, which was instrumental in preparing me for my future pro career.
The other special memory is visiting Sporting Lisbon. I learned an unbelievable amount and it just fueled my ambitions to keep pushing for a pro career.
UPON REFLECTION, WHAT JOYS DO YOU HAVE OF BEING PART OF BIG CAT GOALKEEPING?
IAN JINDRICH : The people. Players, staff, presenters, everyone. Anyone who helps make it a special environment are the same ones that make it a joy to be a part of. I think we have a special group of individuals who not only want to be a part of the game and position but want to constantly improve themselves and push themselves to their maximum.
BRIAN SCHWAKE : In terms of the joys of Big Cat, I love being around players and coaches who love goalkeeping as much as I do. We all want to push ourselves to see how much we can achieve. We all try our hardest and support each other through the intense highs and lows.
I met Neil Thompson in May of 2014, when I was 12 years old and trying out for a local club. I learned several new GK techniques just in that first try out. At training and at Camp React, I noticed that when the sessions wound down, I’d feel a bit sad that it was ending. I was learning a ton and making what I now know are lifelong friendships.
Also, meeting so many intelligent and helpful coaches - like Miguel, Hugo, Ben Benson, Tony Caig and so many others - was very important to me.
IS THERE ONE STORY THAT STANDS OUT TO YOU OVER THE PAST TEN YEARS?
IAN JINDRICH : There are too many to count to be honest, but I would say the trip to Lisbon, Portugal was something that had a huge impact on me as both a person and a coach. I had the pleasure of traveling with Neil and a select group of Big Cat keepers to the Sporting Lisbon Academy to be a part of some seminars and sessions that were run by Miguel Miranda. Seeing a foreign country and how they handled themselves with professional and youth development was so eye-opening in many different ways: how the players and coaches conduct themselves, how they interact, what the facilities look like, how they prepare. There are so many things that seem like small parts but truly contribute to a meaningful development of players, and it also reaffirmed how important my job was as a coach to getting our players at Big Cat to that standard.
BRIAN SCHWAKE : I’d say a story that stands out is when we took the Big Cat trip to Portugal. When we all landed we were super jet lagged but instead of getting time to nap or relax, we were all up going out on trials and training with different teams. It was tough at the time but it is also part of an athlete’s lifestyle. Looking back, it was a very eye opening experience and I got a great sleep that night.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE WHO HASN'T PARTICIPATED A BIG CAT GOALKEEPING EVENT OR PURCHASED ONE OF OUR GLOVES?
But Neil wants you to go for it. He’ll help you to the best of his ability, or he will find someone who can help you. He’s constantly learning and meeting people to learn from, so he can share that with his players. He’ll prepare you for the hard work ahead.
For the younger Big Cats, I’d like them to know that while it is absolutely a tough road to chase your dreams, it is completely worth it and also much closer than you think. I’m very excited to see how much the next generation can achieve in the next ten years.