Why Bravery Is A Key Element To Being A Successful Goalkeeper

When people talk about the attributes that good goalkeepers have, bravery is something that’s bound to come up. Especially when we’re trying to describe some of the key intangibles that you have to have to be a good goalkeeper. Bravery is an interesting concept. At least when it comes to goalkeeping. It really doesn’t matter if you’re brave in other aspects of life. You don’t have to be a major extreme sports enthusiast to be a good goalkeeper. That’s something that a lot of people get wrong. If you grow up in the position meaning you play as a goalkeeper from a young age that sense of bravery is just something you’re going to develop. Now, being brave from the start is a good place to be. 

Another reason it benefits kids to start in the position at a young age is because you’re usually not going to be too overwhelmed by the potential consequences of a bad day between the sticks. When you’re young you’re probably not going to be too worried about scraping your knees. Then again when that first hard shot hits you right between the eyes you’re going to start realizing that there are elements to goalkeeping that are harder than they look. Why is it thought that most goalkeepers that you see on TV can take that shot to the face, spit some blood out of their mouth and keep going? I think it’s a combination of things. If you’re worried about whether you’re brave enough to play goalkeeper you’re going to want to keep reading!    

Why Goalkeepers Need To Be Brave

This one is pretty straightforward, but it’s a topic that I think we need to cover. As the saying goes, where a field player may be afraid to put his or her foot the goalkeeper has to put their face. That in my mind contextualizes everything in goalkeeping. In fact, there are going to be times when to be able to make a save you’re going to need to completely disregard your own well being. Think about a 1v1 situation with a striker in front of goal. You’re trying to get yourself as close to the shooter as you can while making yourself as big as you can. The only hope that you have is that the ball strikes you and gets deflected away from the goal.

At that point you can’t be thinking about protecting your face, your private areas or any other part of your body that may be already hurting. A lot of times in these types of situations you can also run into your defenders or the striker. It’s not just the ball that can hit you in all of those parts that I just talked about. In some situations you may need to dive head first into the post to be able to make a save. What I’m trying to get at is that goalkeepers have to make decisions that go against their own well being in order to make saves. If you want to call that bravery, stupidity, or craziness all can apply. Bravery is the term I’m sticking to for today!        

Can You Get Used To Getting Hit In The Face With A Ball?

The short answer to this one is yes. I’m not necessarily saying that it’s hurting less when you’re in these situations where you do get hurt. It does kind of become part of the deal. You do have to come to terms with that sooner rather than later. If you’re not willing to put your body in these spots that I’m talking about then it’s going to be really hard to excel at the position. What also starts to happen is that you learn how to put your body in a spot where it’s going to hurt less. Timing also plays a key role in this. You’ll start to understand that you may want to be closer to the shooter before you give your body up. This is going to help ensure that they don’t get a full kick in at times.    

It’s a weird concept to some people on the outside looking in. A lot of times if you’re closer to the shot you’re going to be in a better spot. It may be more likely that you’ll get hit. Like I said, that same proximity is not going to allow the shot to come in as hard. Another reality is that adrenaline really kicks in. That’s what most of us truly count on. Particularly when you’ve just accepted the fact that a lot of these bumps and bruises are part of the game. Even if you’ve been hit hard before you’ll be willing to go through it again. I realize I may not be making a lot of sense, but that’s goalkeeper bravery in a nutshell.  

Bravery Like Confidence Can Come And Go

I know I just talked about getting used to being hurt or whatever it may be. Another thing that I think is important to have young goalkeepers understand is that fear does come into play. You’re not always going to be the bravest person on the planet when you stand between the sticks. Usually these situations where you lose maybe some of that bravery that you had came after injuries. For example, I rather recently broke my pinky on what’s essentially a very routine play. It’s a 1v1 play where I make myself as big as I can. The shot comes in with such bad luck on my part that my finger gets jammed between the ball and the ground. I just felt it straight away that it was broken.

After that play I obviously had my doubts about going all in to save another 1v1 situation like the one where I had gotten hurt in. If you want to continue to play this process of losing and building bravery and confidence is one that you’re going to be dealing with consistently. Think about someone as great as Manuel Neuer. He may not have gotten hurt playing the game, but coming off a broken leg he probably doesn’t feel too confident to throw himself on the ground with all of his weight on that side. He’ll have to go through a process to get himself to a point where he’s comfortable again. That’s just kind of how things go in life and in goalkeeping.      

Developing Other Skills Will Allow Your Bravery To Grow

Bravery can come hand in hand with a sense of confidence. One of the best ways to develop your bravery is to become a better goalkeeper across the board. It may not make a lot of sense in theory to think that because you catch more balls cleanly at one point you’re going to be a braver goalkeeper. What you have to realize though is that you’re developing yourself as a whole. Once you feel more confident in the way that you react to the things that happen on the field you’re more likely to take a bit more risks. Oddly enough going through some rough situations on the field where you’ve been hurt can also help grow that sense of bravery.  

It doesn’t happen overnight. For example, when I bumped into one of my defenders and split my head wide open those long high balls became a big issue. The last thing that you want to do is put yourself in the same situation that you’ve been hurt in. Ultimately if you want to continue down this path of playing between the sticks it’s something that you’re going to have to do. When you get hurt though you usually try and look for ways to avoid getting hurt again. This can lead to improvements in your technique that are going to make you feel safer. When you feel safer you’re going to be able to act more bravely. You’ve gotta be torn down to get built back up sometimes.    

Thibaut Curtois in training

Can You Be A Brave Goalkeeper Who Is Scared of Other Things?

The short answer is yes, but … it does help if you’re naturally a brave person. Especially for kids that get started out in goal really young. I’m not necessarily saying this to discourage anyone from getting between the sticks. Like I said, you can develop bravery, and it’s something that can be exclusive to goalkeeping for you. What I mean by that is, you can be scared of a ton of other things. Just because you’re scared of spiders doesn’t mean that you can’t be a brave goalkeeper. I do think though that especially for kids the one that ends up standing between the sticks is going to be the one that doesn’t even look at his knees when he falls to the ground and gets scrapped up.  

If you want to test out if your kid is going to be a potential goalkeeper you have to figure out if they’re afraid of the ball. Most kids’ natural tendency is to turn away from the ball as a shot is coming in. This is just not something that you’re going to be able to do if you want to be a successful goalkeeper. In fact, you don’t want your kid turning away from the ball regardless of the position that they play. This “bad habit” is one that you have more time to weed out in field players than you do with goalkeepers. The reasons behind this are pretty obvious!  

There’s No Shame In Admitting This Isn’t The Spot For You

I know that I just said I don’t want to push anyone away from the position. At the same time, it’s healthy to realize rather early that you’re not going to be happy at the spot if you do get too nervous, or you’re just not willing to take the hits. In goalkeeping part of that sense of bravery that I’ve been discussing this whole time is understanding that your body is at the service of the team. In the sense that you’re literally going to be asked to put your face between the ball and the net. There are other parts of your body that you may have to put between the ball and the net as well. It’s ok if you’re not willing to do that. 

The reason why I didn’t lead off with this point is because really you know early on who’s going to be able to become a goalkeeper. For the most part if your kid is afraid of the ball coming towards them, they are not going to want to stand in goal. I’ve never really seen a situation where the kid’s standing there afraid for his or her life. Apart from cases where they’re being forced to play in goal. That’s something that I feel is a huge mistake. There’s no reason to put a kid in goal who doesn’t want to be there. Just because everyone has to try everything. That’s just not the case. I may agree with other positions, but since you do need to have that sense of bravery to play in goal I wouldn’t force it upon anyone.