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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

If you have a question, comment or rebuttal you'd like to see addressed here, send me email. I will post your mail to the blog at my discretion unless you specify otherwise.

Accept the things you cannot change

There was a KeeperZone thread a while back titled, "I had a crap game", which really is a complaint about the referee, with several followups complaining more about referees. All of which has nothing to do with how the goalkeeper played.

No matter what position you're playing, you have to let go of things you can't control and focus on things you can. There's no use getting upset at a referee any more than getting upset at rain, howling wind, sun in your eyes or a lumpy field. Referees are considered part of the playing conditions, and players need to learn to treat them as such. Make your adjustments and move on. It's like the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." The only things you can change are your play, your effort and your attitude.

Are there horrible referees? Of course. I am a referee, and although I always try my best and like to think I usually do a good job, I've had games where I didn't do so well. Referees make mistakes just like players. But I've also officiated games where the teams seemed determined to blame me, no matter what else happened. Just remember that the referee didn't let that ball slip through their hands, sky the shot over the bar with an empty net, or turn the ball over in the penalty area. If your focus is on your own play, what you can control, you will always be better off.


Crazy? No more injury-prone than anyone else

Everyone thinks you have to be a little crazy to be a goalkeeper. They see keepers going for a cross in traffic, or diving at the feet of an onrushing attacker, and figure it must be more dangerous than being a field player. I disagree. In my opinion, goalkeepers are no more prone to being injured than anyone else on the soccer field.

My personal experience bears this out. I have been injured just as much playing the field as when playing goal. My most serious soccer injury ever (concussion and broken wrist) came as a field player. And considering the number of minutes I've played keeper over playing field, the comparison isn't even close.

Why would this be so, when goalkeeping is seen as such a hazardous position? A few reasons. Number one, only two players on the soccer field are goalkeepers, versus 20 field players. And the number of times a goalkeeper handles the ball during a game is far less than a field player. So statistically, goalkeepers have many fewer chances to be injured. Number two, goalkeepers are not subject to many types of dangerous challenges, especially tackles from behind, that occur on the field.

But the most important, I think, is that dangerous-looking challenges are not really so hazardous... for a keeper with proper technique. This is key! Goalkeeping technique is designed to keep the goalkeeper safe, as well as keep the ball out of the net. A technically sound keeper not only will make more saves, but has less likelihood of being injured. This is why I wince when I watch many untrained youth goalkeepers. Not only do they fail to save goals, but they put themselves in harm's way and risk being seriously injured.

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Fresh, clean scent

On the equipment page I talk about the importance of keeping your gloves clean: they will smell less and perform better.

Reusch is now selling a special glove wash for goalkeeping gloves. I'm sure it does an excellent job, but a bit of mild soap probably does the job just as well for a lot less money.

If you're really concerned about babying your gloves, check the soap label. At least in the United States, it will clearly state whether the soap has any phosphates or bleach in it. These days, most do not.


What game are you watching?

There are a lot of things going on in a soccer match. When you see a game, whether at home or on the television, what game are you watching?.

You can watch as a fan, living and dying with every brilliant play and horrible blunder by your team. You can watch as a player, picking up new moves, fakes and runs to try out on the pitch. You can watch as a coach, analyzing patterns, strengths and weaknesses. You can even watch as a referee, looking for mechanics, presence and game control. In each case, you are looking for different things... in effect, watching a completely different game.

As a goalkeeper, the game you need to watch is closest to that of the coach, with your focus on the other team's attack and your defense. Every clue you can get can help you keep your defense organized and protect your goal. How many attackers do your opponents use? What are their strengths--dribbling, winning balls in the air, short combination play? Do they play to the flank and cross, or try to work through the middle? Long balls from the back? Do the midfielders make runs from deep? Does their attack favor one side or the other? Are certain players dangerous from long range? Do certain attackers have strengths you need to guard against, or weaknesses you can exploit? If you have played a team before, or have access to scouting reports, it makes this job easier. But you ought to be able to learn a lot in the first 15-20 minutes of a soccer match.

For example, if a team likes to send long balls over the top to speedy players, you might make sure your midfielders step up to the ball sooner to prevent service. You might do the same with your outside backs to pressure flank service if the attackers are good in the air. Against a team that likes to play combinations through the middle, you need to keep your defenders compact. Another example is when you are up against a player who is strongly one-footed. Getting your defenders to simply shepherd him to the weak foot can effectively take such a player out of the game.

An effective goalkeeper is a leader and coach out on the field. The more you can watch soccer games with your coaches hat on and learn, the better you'll be.



Nutmegged. If letting the ball get poked between your legs is embarrassing for a field player, getting megged is tragic for a goalkeeper. But it does happen.

In fact, it's happened twice recently to Poland and Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek. The first was last week, when DaMarcus Beasley scored the only goal in the USA's 1-0 victory over Poland. The second happened today, when Thierry Henry put one through Dudek in Arsenal's 4-2 win against Liverpool. Both goals looked similar: a through ball on the left side of the box, a player coming in alone, and a left-footed side-foot push on the ground into the net.

Good strikers wait for the goalkeeper to make a move, since they know that the keeper is vulnerable when not set. If the keeper compounds that by having a poor stance (Dudek was leaning back precariously on both goals) the attacker's job is that much easier.

So how do you prevent the meg? When approaching a player who is in the clear (essentially a breakaway situation), keep your weight forward in a good stance. Then, to prevent the gap between your legs, narrow your stance a bit and straddle your feet more front-to-back, with one foot ahead of the other, rather than wide side-to-side. A front-to-back stance will allow you to stay balanced and on your toes while preventing the 5-hole (as it's known in ice hockey) from opening up.

You can also use your hands. As you stalk the attacker, put your trailing hand in between your legs. Your leading hand stays wide and low in the direction the attacker is going.

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