There are 3 guys coming at you on a breakaway, what’s your first instinct? For a lot of regular people the first thing that they would think about doing is running straight at them. Others would want to fall back towards the net. In most cases you’ll probably be better off choosing a bit of the middle ground. Maybe come out to the edge of the small box and try to angle your position to the current player with the ball. If he makes a pass then you angle your position to the new position of the ball. What I just described is one of the most nerve-wracking moments that a goalkeeper will experience while in goal. The solution to the predicament is usually to stay level headed, first and foremost, and let your training and instincts kick in.
I could’ve also described just any shot coming towards goal and what that’s like for a goalkeeper. I always have to admit that you get like a mini-heart attack moment. Particularly when you’re dealing with the first shot of the game. Once you catch the ball and bring it into your body you’re able to exhale a bit and start your participation within the game. This idea of not participating in the game and understanding that this is life as a goalkeeper is key to remaining focused. The fact is, most of the top goalkeepers are cool headed individuals that are able to make split second decisions. How do you reach that chill vibe? The truth is a lot of us aren’t inside. The trick is to be able to still react “calmly” even when you’re losing it inside!
Experience Is The Main Thing That Keeps A Goalkeeper Calm
This may be the last thing that you want to hear if you came here looking for a quick answer that would solve your focus issues. I recently talked about experienced goalkeepers and why they tend to be better later into their careers. A lot of it comes down to allowing the game to slow down and come to you. The good thing about “experience” is that you can develop it even at a young age. What I mean by that is, play as much as you can. Train as much as you can, and that’s going to give you a better sense of self as a goalkeeper. That confidence most of the time is what’s going to allow you to stay calm.
You can become a very “experienced” goalkeeper within your age group or your competition level. I remember when I made the jump to play in open leagues after finishing off what was effectively a juniors career. Making that jump was scary especially because I was very confident playing just against people in my age group. The point I’m trying to make though is that the more you play, the more comfortable you’ll likely feel in goal. Another thing that can help is playing under the same conditions. The same field, and things like that, familiar surroundings are always going to be a good idea. Don’t think of “experience” like it’s going to take years for me to feel calm. Put in the work every day and that sense of calm is going to come by itself.
Learning To Watch The Game From The Goalkeeper Position
When it comes to staying focused on the game, learning to watch from the goalkeeper position is key. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that if you don’t learn to watch the game from the position this position just isn’t for you. There are many people out there who could’ve had the talent to be great between the sticks. The problem was they were not willing to sit back and let most of the action develop in front of them during games. In some cases wanting to intervene in the action is part of why it’s harder to stay calm. What’s tricky about this is that you’re in essence a spectator of the game, but at the same time you’re not.
One of the things that you need to do as a goalkeeper is constantly revising your position with regard to the ball and the goal. Don’t get caught just looking at the game because that can result in a goal from way out like what just happened to Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana. It’s even more important to check where you are on the field as the other team is getting closer to the box. Good positioning is going to be one of the main things that determines whether you make a save or not. Just to recap, you have to find a liking to being a bit of a spectator at times. The second thing to keep in mind to stay focused is that even if you’re not directly involved in the play, where you are on the field can impact the play.
It’s Ok To Get Fired Up Once In A While
We’re all human and there are going to be moments during a game or even practice when emotions are going to flow. I always had a coach say that he’d rather deal with a keeper that was a bit too hyped up than one that was just naturally on a low vibe. When you make a massive save that’s going to impact the final result it’s perfectly fine to show some emotion. I saw the worst of this happen to Alfredo Talavera in his debut game. He saved a penalty in the final minutes of the match keeping the game tied, but the ball went out for a corner kick. On the very next play after saving the penalty he tries to come out and cut the cross only to poorly time the ball and give the opposing team an empty net that they took advantage of.
The moral of the story is that you can get hyped up, of course! Like I said a lot of times those are natural human emotions that are going to come out. Goalkeeping a lot of times though is like playing golf, you need to regroup for the next shot. If you made the save, that’s awesome to savor that moment. When you didn’t make the save, sit with your grief a bit. Many times though, you have to process those emotions in a matter of seconds. That can be really hard to do effectively. We have to go back though to what I was talking about in regard to the experience. Talavera is still playing into his 40s. It’s safe to say he learned his lesson about controlling his emotions that day!
The Fewer Unknowns You Have The Better Off You’ll Be
One of the things that can really get you off your game as a goalkeeper is a wet or hard field. When you can’t trust the bounce that you’re going to get that can really be nerve wrecking. The good thing for goalkeepers who have the chance to play on the same field consistently is that you’ll know some of the tendencies on that field and that can give you a sense of consistency and more security. What can you do though when you arrive at a new field, and it’s wet? Here, I always like to get a sense for the bounce. You’ll want to go out in warm ups and get between the sticks. A lot of times coaches will want to warm up off to the side, I don’t recommend it when you’re trying to get a sense for the bounce.
What you want to do in those cases is mimic as many different shots from different spots that you can. Especially shots that are going to bounce right in front of your face. It’s ok if you’re having some trouble controlling the bounce at the start. You may need to put in more warm up time than you usually do. Until you get the sense that you understand how the ball is bouncing on that particular part of the field. You can mimic your warm ups for the second half in the new goal. The worst thing that you can do is just arrive and wing it on some of these tough fields. If you have these anxiety issues that you’re dealing with they are just going to get worse.
Tips To Build Confidence On The Spot
There are a couple of ways to build confidence on the spot. The good warm-up example that I was just talking about is key. The last thing that you want to do is to have a bad warm-up. When that happens you need to get out of your head quickly. Then again ideally you’ll be able to continue taking on shots until you feel confident. The last thing that you want to do is arrive late to the game and have to go in quickly. This one’s for parents as well try and make sure that you get to the game a bit earlier when you have a goalkeeper kid. Even in the pros who are the first ones to go out on the field for warm-ups? It’s goalkeepers! Why do you think that is? Well, all of these things that I’m talking about.
Another thing that can serve a bit as a token of good luck is having sticky gloves on when the game starts. I talk a lot about why you may want to have sticky gloves or not when playing goalkeeper. You never want to be fully reliant on the glove. What should give you the confidence to stand between the sticks is your training and physical skills. If you feel though that you’re losing some of that confidence, it could be a good idea to change gloves. I’ve done this a lot when I’m in a slump whether it be bad team results or just lack of confidence I’ll change the gloves in a heartbeat. It’s kind of like having a scapegoat to turn to when nothing seems to be going right.