uhlsport USA
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—Ottawa Internationals S.C. web site, Ottawa, Canada

Goalkeeping Tips, Tidbits and Random Thoughts

An athlete talking to themsleves during competition is hardly a new phenomenon.... The talk does not have to be vocal. By merely thinking you are talking to yourself and sending a message.
   -- Tony DiCicco, Goalkeeper Soccer Training Manual

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Make all the saves you should

Fall soccer, at least in the northern hemisphere, is well underway -- I hope everyone is having a great season so far. My men's team opened our league title defense today. We had a first week bye, so the guys were understandably a bit rusty against a team playing their second game. We were under some pressure the first half, but I managed to make the saves I needed to make to keep our opponents off the score sheet until we got our legs, and we went on for a 3-0 victory.

After that first 20 minutes or so I really didn't see much action, but if we had gone down a goal or two early, it would have been a very different game. I was reminded of another one of my favorite sayings for goalkeepers: "Make all of the saves you should... and a few of the ones you shouldn't."

First and foremost, make the easy stops. Nothing saps the confidence of a team more than for the keeper to let in a soft goal, especially early. Keep it simple, keep it safe. Then if you can leap to tip one over the crossbar, or dive to push one wide, it's a bonus.

Oh, and I started the season with new goalkeeping gloves... here's a hint when buying gloves: make sure you get a pair with lots of saves in them.


Credit the goalkeeper for forcing the miss

Whenever an attacker is in alone on the goalkeeper, or has an apparently unchallenged shot, and misses the net or shoots right into the keeper, what does everyone think? "How could they miss that?! Right at the keeper again! What lousy finishing!" Very few people think to credit the goalkeeper for forcing the miss.

I worked with U12-U14 goalkeepers today on breakaways -- coming out hard, staying on the feet, getting low and slow when close to the shooter, sliding and smothering the ball on a bad touch, and all that. Yet a lot of the "saves" involved an attacker who tried to round the keeper but ended up shooting wide, or shots right into the keeper. The fault of the shooter? Not necessarily. A goalkeeper who comes off the line and plays "big" will force a lot of mistakes, and often the shooter will have nowhere else to put the ball but right at the keeper or outside the frame. I mention it on the breakaway page, but I repeat it here. Give the keeper credit where credit is due!


Hands to the ball first

Well, Tim Howard made a bit of a mistake in Manchester United's recent match against Southampton, and it turned out to be costly as United's attack went missing. He still seems to have the support of manager Alex Ferguson, though.

After watching (from my position as assistant referee) several girl's State Cup matches this weekend, I find myself repeating my mantra of hands to the ball first!. We got a lot of rain, 3+ inches of it, on Friday and Saturday and the fields were wet and muddy for the games that did get played. Numerous goalkeepers came out sliding to challenge for balls on the ground, but failed to hang on to the ball and almost gave up dangerous chances, though none were burned by it. The slide technique was fine, but they just got their bodies behind the ball and failed to really focus on getting their hands to it and hanging on. Now, as I said, conditions were wet and muddy and I didn't actually get to ask the keepers what happened after the game, but often failing to hang onto the ball is a simple matter of losing focus -- worrying about the slide, the oncoming attacker, the mud in your face, whatever, instead of concentrating on the ball into your hands.

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