uhlsport USA
"Outstanding keeper instruction. This is a must for goalkeepers and coaches."
—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

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.

Protective gear

I've put up a few more items on the recommended gear page (just in time for your holiday shopping!). You'll notice that a couple of them are "protective" items; long keeper pants and "Skidz" compression shorts. Both items have some padding.

I don't care for knee or elbow pads, but the padding in items like long pants or the slider shorts isn't what I'm talking about. Of course a goalkeeper will need some protection from scrapes and bruises if they're on a very hard, rocky field or indoors on Astroturf. I won't play at OD's Sports, one of our local indoor soccer arenas, without full pants and sleeves—the slightest brush of that turf and you're bloodied. And outdoors I always wear slider shorts (although not padded).

What I don't like are the large, thick volleyball-style knee and elbow pads that make it possible for a keeper with poor technique to constantly land on their knees and elbows and get away with it.

A little protection is invaluable under the right circumstances, but like goalkeeping gloves, a keeper's equipment shouldn't substitute for good technique.


"If you can't catch, it doesn't matter"

Words of wisdom from paulee, who had to play a game after losing his glove bag and borrow a pair of cheap gloves:

"Was reflecting on my experience of last night. Despite the fact I wore a crappy pair of Nike Krakens, I held everything that came my way. During the warm up, my buddy kept blasting shots right at me, talking smack. He just kept on me, trying to get me focused on the match, and not worrying about my gloves. Yeah, I would have prefered my Sells, and I'm not about to go play with a $20 pair of whatevers, but gloves are just an aid for us. A tremendous one, no doubt, but it's our hands that are important. For those of you who coach keepers, don't ever let them forget that, because too often, we get caught up in the mistake of putting equipment before good technique. I don't care what you wear on your hands, if you can't catch, it doesn't matter."

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The Mitake Ritual and dealing with failure

Goalkeepers have to be able to deal with failure. Often. It comes with the position, and not everyone is up to the demand. But even mentally tough goalkeepers sometimes need a way to shake off disappointing mistakes. Using a Mistake Ritual can help a player refocus after a difficult error.

A Mistake Ritual is a physical act that acknowledges the mistake, but reminds the player that it's okay to make mistakes, and the next course of action is to fix the error and then get on with focus on the game. Such rituals have been used by many teams, but the concept has been codified by the Positive Coaching Alliance, and is outlined in founder Jim Thompson's book The Double-Goal Coach : Positive Coaching Tools for Honoring the Game and Developing Winners in Sports and Life. It serves as a metaphor for getting rid of the mistake and moving on. Examples of Mistake Rituals are "Flush it!", with a symbolic hand gesture of flushing a toilet; "Wave it Goodbye" with a symbolic wave of the hand, and "No Sweat" with a symbolic wiping of the brow. Be creative and have your player or team come up with their own Mistake Ritual. A Mistake Ritual can be initiated by either the player or the coach, but both parties should acknowledge the process.

The Mistake Ritual is accompanied by this thought process: "Fudge! Fix it. Re-Focus." "Fudge!" is the acknowledgement of the mistake. The player needs to ventólet it happen. Once that happens, the player or coach can determine what needs to be fixed so the mistake won't happen again. (This step can also be "File it"; if the player or coach doesn't have a solution at that moment, file it away for re-examination later.) Finally, the physical Mistake Ritual reminds the player that the mistake is over (flushed, thrown or wiped away) and they need to re-focus on the task at hand.

A Mistake Ritual can be a powerful psychological tool, especially for goalkeepers who deal with catastrophic failure more often than other players. But if you coach a team, don't hesitate to use this technique with all your players. Make it a part of your team culture and watch how it helps your team.


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