Why Do Goalkeepers Wear Long Sleeves? - Should You Do So As Well?

Why Do Goalkeepers Wear Long Sleeves? – Should You Do So As Well?

Plenty of us that play on less than stellar fields have a sense of envy for some of the guys that we watch on TV or even YouTube. When you see the goalkeeper come out in a short sleeve shirt, and leave the field with elbows that are as soft as a baby’s bottom. I recently made the mistake of going to a local turf field with a short sleeve shirt, and remembered perfectly the answer to why do goalkeepers wear long sleeves. It’s pretty clear why this is a common practice amongst goalkeepers at all levels of play. As a goalkeeper you have to dive on the ground, and doing so is going to cause scrapes, bumps and bruises. Here’s the kicker though, diving on the ground even when done right, and with a long sleeve shirt on can cause scrapes, bumps, and bruises.     

Should you even bother than to go out and get a long sleeve jersey as a goalkeeper? I contend that it is definitely still worth it. This is after days of bleeding all over my bedsheets as the cut reopens virtually every night. It’s a normal scrape that I’m dealing with by the way. It’s nothing really out of the ordinary. Every time I have to wash my sheets again I remember the answer to, why do goalkeepers wear long sleeves? As I mentioned though, there are times that even with long sleeves you can’t avoid the injuries. What do you do then? I want to walk you through how to know what you’re up against in a field to then choose your outfit accordingly. There’s an argument to be made that the first decision of the day for a goalkeeper is in fact choosing his or her own outfit. 

Why Do Goalkeepers Wear Long Sleeves – Tangible Benefits

Ederon after a game with Man city
ederson93/ Instagram

The obvious benefit that you’ll get with long sleeves is the added layer of protection. I know a lot of people could make the argument that you could scrape your elbows with long sleeve shirts. That is 100% true you can scrape your elbows, and your forearms, even with long sleeve shirts. Yes, your forearms could also get scrapped up, although it’s a bit less likely. This can happen when you’re diving forward to a straight low shot. Regardless of the risk that isn’t eliminated with long sleeve shirts you get an added layer of protection that you don’t have with short sleeve shirts. There’s really no way to argue this one out. 

That added layer of protection is actually not the only tangible benefit that you’re going to be able to have. Fabric usually tends to slide better on grass or whatever surface you play in than your bare arms. Does this mean that you should be looking for a goalkeeper jersey that is smooth as can be and allows you to cut through the grass as you’re diving? To be honest this is the first time that I’ve actually given this idea some thought, and it very well could be a good idea. What you want is to look for a jersey that doesn’t limit your movements, I’ll get to that in a bit here. If you could go out and wear a long sleeve shirt that allows you to really comfortably skim through the grass you’ve got it made!      

The Jersey That You Wear Does Matter 

young goalkeeper with fukk ooutfit and water bottle
Photo by Robo Michalec on Pexels.com

As a parent it could be easy to head out to the store and by whatever you can find for your child goalkeeper. Thank God for online shopping really, because a lot of us that grew up before that era had to make do with what was available at your nearest sports shop. In this day and age with online shopping you can literally skim through a billion options online. Here are some of the elements that you want to look for in a goalkeeper jersey, particularly a long sleeve one. You want to make sure that it fits just right first of all. Yes, you may want to let your kid grow into the jersey, and that’s your prerogative. Just know though, that if the jersey doesn’t fit right he or she won’t be getting any benefits from the padding on the jersey.  

This idea of getting a jersey that is made from materials that allow you to slide through the grass is kind of cool to think about. In reality what you’re going to be looking for is a jersey that doesn’t limit the movements that you can make with it. What I’m basically saying is that you don’t want to wear something that makes you feel stiff, and doesn’t allow you to move your arms properly. I’m going to give a tip out here to some of the old timers like me that are trying to get back into goalkeeping. Wear loose jerseys when you’re just getting back. Sure, you won’t be getting the best protection, but you won’t be feeling like you can’t breathe when you put it on! 

Where You Play Tends To Heavily Dictate How You Dress

Old turf soccer field

This is something that I’ve been on for a while now on this site. I have to add something to my usual rant on why do goalkeepers wear long sleeves, and specifically on turf. Turf on a hot day is just going to rip your skin off any time that you want to skim through that “grass” on a dive. What I’m adding is that you really need to be careful as you get older. You’re going to cut more easily, so you may be going into a field that you’ve played in time and time again with shorts and a T-shirt, and you were just fine. You get up there in age you start to realize that those battle scars show up more often, and you take longer to heal. 

There are still going to be fields where you’re going to be able to work out in shorts and a T-shirt, and be just fine. In other spots you’re going to need leggings, not even pants, and a long sleeve shirt, you’re still going to be scratched up. If you have a choice on where you can train as a goalkeeper do look for a field that you feel comfortable in. Those scrapes, and those bumps and bruises do add up particularly if you play or train regularly. What makes a lot of goalkeepers leave the game is precisely those accumulated hits, and the fact that you don’t heal as quickly anymore. A long sleeve shirt is the first step towards limiting the damage that you take. 

Can You Add Elbow Pads To The Outfit? 

Scracthed Up Elbow

The one thing that I want to point out about elbow pads is that even with these you won’t be guaranteed no scrapes. This is because you’ll typically want to wear soft elbow pads. You won’t want to be wearing the hard ones that you’d wear when you’re skateboarding, bike riding or anything like that. There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want to wear those in soccer. Number one is the fact that they limit your joint movements. You’re going to be ok with that when you’re bike riding, but not necessarily when you’re playing goalkeeper. Also, a good ref will probably not allow you to play with those in an actual game. 

We don’t want anyone with hard plastic on their elbows to be able to injure someone out there. You could make the argument that metal cleats are way more dangerous than elbow pads. I would actually agree, in fact taking a bare elbow to the face could be more dangerous than taking a hard plastic elbow pad to the face. In any case, for the most part hard plastic elements are banned in soccer. That’s why you have for example those soft helmets that they wear in Rugby sometimes as well instead of something made of hard plastic. Also, if you have a fracture in your hand as a field player you can play, but not with a cast on you’d need to remove the cast and wear a soft bandage element.  

How Much Movement Are You Giving Up?

Goalkeeper with full body protections

One of the concerns that some goalkeepers voice as their reason to not wear extra padding or even long sleeve shirts for that matter is that they’re losing mobility. I talked about this when referencing hard plastic elbow pads. I think that the reason why we see more elbow pads, and knee pads on pro goalkeepers than potentially ever before is because the materials that they are currently made from don’t limit your movements at least as much as what we saw in the old days. You can get good extra protection without losing a lot of movement with modern equipment. What I always recommend when it comes to using extra padding or equipment, whatever it may be, is that you practice like you play. That means that if you’re going to commit to wearing elbow pads, knee pads, whatever you do so in practice and in games.

What you see with some pro goalkeepers is that they’ll bust out the extra padding when they’re going to be playing on harder surfaces. Usually for pros that’s turf fields or in Europe whenever they’re going to go play on frozen ground. In those cases what you can do is get some practice reps in with the extra gear on before you hit the field. What you’re trying to do is make sure that you’re able to mimic the same movements that you make without all that gear on. You give up some movement with gear, with long sleeves that’s not necessarily the case. It may be worth it in some cases though.    

Training With Long Sleeves Is Something That I Would Recommend 

Thibaut Courtois training with Real Madrid

If you’ve come this far you probably have a pretty good idea why I say that training with long sleeves is a good idea. In training your body will usually take more of a beating than it will during a game. So even on softer surfaces if you keep skimming your elbows against the ground you’re going to get some scrapes and bumps and bruises. You can mitigate that at least somewhat with longer sleeves. If you want to add more padding to that, that’s something that you could be looking into as well. 

One of the things that I love about long sleeves is that they give me something to pull on when I’m feeling nervous. So what I do is pull my sleeves up at different parts of the game only to pull them back down again. If it gets too hot then you can just roll them up and leave them there. I loved the trend of wearing ¾ sleeves with goalkeeper jerseys. That was kind of a quick fad though that fell out of favor with jersey manufacturers. In any case, long sleeve jerseys up, short sleeve jerseys down in my book!   

Why Do Goalkeepers Wear Long Sleeves? – Conclusion 

At this point I’ve provided reasons why goalkeepers wear long sleeves, and even things that you can do when they get uncomfortable, or you get nervous. In simple terms you can always roll up long sleeves, but if you’re going with short sleeves you’re kind of stuck. In all seriousness your body can take a real beating in training. In fact, I want to do an article on the actual beating that your body takes after goalkeeper training. I’m not sure that people are aware of how hard it can be. Long sleeves are your ally. 

Why is it that there are a ton of kids on YouTube wearing short sleeves on their goalkeeper training videos? The first reason is that they are usually playing on very good fields. Number 2 is that they are kids! As you get older you’re going to appreciate anything that helps you limit the bumps and bruises because you don’t heal as easily as used to. That’s an adjustment all in itself, and potentially a topic for another article! Anyway, I’ll say it again: long sleeves up, short sleeves down! Protect yourself when you’re between the sticks.