making a ‘keeper

What makes for a great goalkeeper?  There are a number of factors: athleticism, technique, and reflexes are all huge parts of the position.  However, perhaps the biggest factor is mentality.  Let’s think about some of the mental aspects of the game after the jump…

  • The keeper has to WANT to make a save more than anything.  Strikers want to score more than anything, so the keeper simply needs to want it more.  This means doing whatever it takes, even at the risk of getting a little banged up, to keep the ball out of the net.  If the other team senses that you are not totally invested in making stops, they will exploit that weakness – don’t let them take advantage of you.
  • The keeper has to have a VERY SHORT MEMORY.  As a keeper, YOU WILL GET SCORED ON!  Forget about the last goal and move on.  Remember – a good defense shouldn’t let the other team shoot anyway, so the burden of being scored upon is the team’s burden – not the keeper’s.
  • The keeper needs to maintain FOCUS.  If you play for a good team, you may go through periods of boredom.  Focus on the game, pay attention to your positioning no matter where the ball is on the pitch. Also, keep close tabs on your defenders’ positioning.  Remember, you are in charge of organizing the defense, so there should not be any time when you aren’t focused on the game.  Shot stopping is a small part of your job.
  • When it does come time to make a stop, FOCUS on your positioning, body shape, and footwork.  If any of these are poorly done, you are putting yourself at an immediate disadvantage.
  • CONFIDENCE is key.  The confident keeper will always have more success.  It is a mentally challenging position, so having a positive outlook will help tremendously, while a negative attitude will crush you.

With all that being said, it is hard to coach mentality.  With youth players, I tend to focus on technique for three main reasons:

Bad Habits are Bad. With a youth player, a coach has the unique opportunity to correct bad habits quickly, and to avoid those habits from ever being formed.

Injuries. Many of the techniques of goalkeeping are not just there for shot stopping. They are there for SAFE shot stopping.  The well-trained goalkeeper will stay healthy.

Confidence. If you are well trained, you will be confident and you won’t have to think about what you are doing – it will just happen.

Now, for a little morning inspiration, how about some Edwin van der Sar. This Dutch keeper just recently retired at the age of 40, and even in his last year with Manchester United, he was off the charts good.  Many people don’t remember, however, that when he moved from Ajax to Juventus early in his career, he went through a very tough time. The Italian fans were merciless whenever he made a mistake. But his tough mentality (and a pitstop at Fulham) kept him in the game, and now many people recognize him as being one of the most complete keepers to ever play .  A sampling of his skills:

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