Just as with field players, it is critical that goalkeepers work out on their own outside of training. There is far too much to learn and one cannot expect to learn it all in a few hours of training a week. There are many different activities (some posted on this site) that will help young goalkeepers advance faster than their peers. However, keepers need to understand WHY they are doing different activities. At the end of the day, goalkeeping is more than just shot-stopping, so when you do activities on your own, in training, and even when you are playing in a match, you should be aware of and focused on how you are improving in the following areas. These are known as the four major pillars of goalkeeping.
Read more about each of these after the jump…
First, let’s start with the technical aspects.
Distribution: Throws/Rolls/Punts/Goal Kicks
As you train and play, you need to be asking yourself if your technique is correct on all of these points. Don’t be satisfied with poor hand position on catches. Don’t be happy that you kept a ball out with a sloppy foot-save when you could have easily gone down and handled it with good diving technique. Don’t give away your responsibility on a cross to your defenders; if you can come get the cross, do it – command your 6 yard box.
Being a strong tactical keeper is something that is really built during game situations. It is just a fact of life that the goalkeeper who may be technically skilled but is rarely used (maybe because he/she is also a strong field player) will not be strong tactically. You can’t learn this stuff without being in the heat of the the match.
Making good Decisions – Anticipating the Play
Angle Play and Positioning
Initiating Attacks with Distribution
Being a Sweeper-Keeper
Reading your Opponent’s Attack
Young goalkeepers will improve faster if they try to remain focused on these things throughout the match. Is your defensive shape good? What method/placement of my distribution will help launch an attack? Could I play further off my line when my team is attacking so as to permit my backs to play a higher line? Am I correcting my positioning every time the ball is moved in my defensive third? These questions, and many others, need to be asked throughout the match.
The mental part is very often the hardest part for young goalkeepers. It is a stressful position, so let’s look at the different parts of the mental game.
Being Positive on the Pitch
Maturity & Poise
The goalkeeper needs to be the leader, and must therefore be extremely confident – projecting that confidence to your teammates is crucial, as well. Training ethics means that you train responsibly – don’t slack off – bad training is a waste of time. Keepers need to learn to handle the pressure of a game, and to quickly forget errors, goals, and questionable decisions. Move on – there is lots of time to redeem yourself, why not make that time the very next save? A mentally strong goalkeeper has a huge advantage – work on making sure you have the strongest mind on the pitch and you will make a huge leap forward.
The physical aspects of the position are in many ways common to all athletic pursuits. Physical fitness, strength, and agility are crucial to success and to avoiding injury in what is a very demanding position.
Flexibility & Coordination
Strength & Agility
Footwork & Mobility
For me, it all starts at the top. Nutrition is absolutely key – if you put garbage like processed carbs, sugar, processed fats, and mystery meats in your body, you will not be fit enough to play the position at the highest level. A diet high in quality protein, low in trans-fats, low in processed grains, and high in whole (not processed) veggies will serve you well. After that, you need to warm up properly. There is nothing to be gained if you injure a young player who has not warmed up properly, or who is forced to train at a level beyond their current skill. If as a keeper, however, you focus on being fit, flexible, and strong, the training session will help you become more coordinated, agile, mobile, and powerful.
So, next time you show up for training, be ready to COMPETE! The match starts now…not when the ref blows the whistle.