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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.

Goalkeeping overlooked

David James laments the lack of top-flight English goalkeepers plying their trade in England in his Guardian column. He points out a couple of reasons why, reasons that prompted me to create JB Goalkeeping in the first place:

For a start there has always been a tendency for goalkeeping to be overlooked. It is often the last thing on anyone's list. I started my coaching badges two weeks ago, and I have to say it was a fair flick through to the back of the manual before there was anything on goalkeeping. I know there is a separate qualification for goalkeeping coaches but it seems indicative, to me, of a prevailing attitude toward the role.

The frustrating paradox is that coaching goalkeeping actually requires more resources than outfield positions. Unlike David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, who can practise at targets for hours on their own, for a keeper to practise anything other than kicking or throwing he needs other players. And not just any old player, either. To practise saving free-kicks you want a great free-kick taker. It is no coincidence that my best practise session comes at the end of the week when the rest of the team have a shooting competition. That one session always gets me in tune for a match

Over the course of a season of weekly goalkeeper sessions—12 or 13 of them—I would just be able to get through all the topics I felt needed to be covered, without much repetition. James is right that the resources needed for effective keeper training and development are significant. So rather than find the time and effort to put into it, it often simply gets ignored. It's a shame.


Howard for Prez! Well, MVP, anyway.

Tim Howard should be the man, writes Ives Galarcep. I concur.


More than football

To paraphrase Phil Jackson: There's more to life than football. There's also more to football than football.

West Ham keeper Rob Green went to Africa this summer for a charity that uses football to get its message across.

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Goalkeepers are no fun any more

Former Colombia No. 1 Rene Higuita thinks that goalkeepers are no fun any more. Where are the keepers who try to dribble the entire opposition? Has anyone else ever even attempted a scorpion kick in a high-profile match?

Of course, Roger Milla has Higuita's antics to thank for this goal in the 1990 World Cup finals.


Comments by Hope Solo and David James

My thoughts on comments by Hope Solo and David James. Every goalkeeper worth their salt thinks they should have a clean sheet every match. Of course, you have to recognize you can't stop everything. But most keepers want that shutout, and often feel with a few tweaks they would have had it.

Thus, David James writes in his blog at the Guardian: "Last week's 7-4 win might have been entertaining viewing, but I never want to be involved in another game like that."

Wrote James, "I couldn't help thinking: 'Is it me?'" Most likely not, but goalkeepers think that way... or at least they should.

There was a big blowup in the Women's World Cup when US keeper Hope Solo was replaced in the semi-final versus Brazil with Brianna Scurry, a veteran who had only played sparingly in previous months. After Solo steamed on the bench during the USA's 4-0 loss to Brazil, she let rip with this: "There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves."

While perhaps it was not particularly tactful to say so at that moment, the attitude is one you definitely want in a goalkeeper: I can save that. I can save anything. Bring 'em on.


Part-time players

Women's soccer is given little notice in much of the world besides the United States. The lack of support for the women's game is particularly noticeable when it comes to goalkeeper training. David James points out how England No. 1 Rachel Brown is essentially a part-time goalkeeper.


Interviews with Solo, McLeod and LeBlanc

The October 2006 issue of Fair Game is a "Goalkeeper special", with interviews with US Women's keeper Hope Solo and Canadian Women's keepers Erin McLeod and Karina LeBlanc. A few things that jumped out at me:
What do you do to calm your nerves after you've been scored on?
[Hope Solo:] It really is just sucking it up mentally and it's gotten easier as I've gotten older. When I get scored on, I pick up a handful of grass, I throw it as hard as I can and I let all my frustrations out with that and then I just take a deep breath and settle back into the game and know that I have to be just as prepared as I was five minutes before.

Throwing the grass is a classic example of a "mistake ritual" or "failure ritual" to help get re-focused.

Do you find it more comfortable diving to one side over the other? You don't have to say which in case there are any sneaky strikers reading this!
[Hope Solo:] Yes I do for some reason and it is my left.

How do you identify and improve on those kind[sic] of weaknesses?
Oh my goodness. I have several bad days of practice but I keep trudging through them and eventually I improve.

I often hear from keeper struggling to dive to one side, so take heart that it even happens to the best. There's no magic fix, just slow, hard work.

Catch or punch?
EM: Catch!
KL: Catch!


Howard stays at Everton

Guardian: Everton hang on to Howard.


England's goalkeeping

A changing of the English goalkeeping guard? Gloves can be Foster's to keep, with a good performance against Spain. Ben Foster is scheduled to get the start over Paul Robinson.

Do you think Robinson is the best English keeper? Have your say in the Guardian's poll.


Soccer bashers?

The usual bashers of our sport:

The sport is boring. There's too much standing around and not enough sustained action. Its hard-core fans are brainwashed lemmings, and its specialized press corps a bunch of shameless advocates. Plus, why should we get excited about a sport in which U.S.-born players aren't the best in the world, and in which Team USA was a washout in the recent high-profile world tournament?

But enough about baseball.

Oh, wait. While soccer may never rival the more established sports in the USA, there's no question the professional game is rooting itself here, and even more curmudgeonly media types like Terry Frei are coming around: Beckham signing shows soccer isn't so bad.

The signing of David Beckham, while not necessarily bringing respectability to Major League Soccer in one fell swoop, certainly raises soccer's profile in the States. Are we still at a point where any publicity is good publicity? Beckham will add some star power, but can't single-handedly raise the level of play in MLS, which is something that eventually needs to happen for the league to gain that respectability. A few follow-on signings with the league's new "Beckham Rule" (rumors have Ronaldo in NY and Edgar Davids in Dallas) will help, as well as having the potential to lure younger (and cheaper) talent to MLS as well.

Will we see any major goalkeeping stars come to MLS? Probably no names like Cech or Buffon. But apparently Dutch keeper Donald Waterreus is already close to joining the Red Bulls.


Not all booze and parrot costumes

England and Portsmouth goalkeeper David James writes in his blog that "Festive football is not all booze and parrot costumes" and that the holiday season is just as hectic for professional soccer players as for anyone else. But the love of the game starts early:

"The closest I got to football on Boxing Day [as a child] was taking the plastic baubles off our tree, lobbing them against the wall and saving them from hitting the sofa. Tap tap tap. It infuriated my mum so much she went out and bought glass ones to stop me. To this day I swear all that bauble practice helped my goalkeeping skills."


All Russians want to be goalkeepers

Jonathan Wilson at The Guardian tells us why all Russians want to be goalkeepers.


Chat with Marcus Hahnemann

The Guardian's Small Talk chats with US international Marcus Hahnemann of Reading.


Solo interview

US Women's National Team goalkeeper Hope Solo pointed out in a US Soccer interview how much of a mental game goalkeeping is. You might be athletic and a good shot stopper, but that doesn't make a good goalkeeper. To watch, go to US Soccer Sights & Sounds, 2005 WNT features, select "Hope Solo on the 'Keepers Union" and press play.


Why top goalkeepers tend to be fatty folk.

To which a KeeperZone poster replied: "Excellent news! Just cancelled my gym membership and ordered a pizza! Cant think of a better way to train if Im honest!!"

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My, your balls are slimy

The World Cup is underway, and with luck we'll be treated to some spectacular goalkeeping. The irreverent ESPN.com Page 2 has a few things to say about the Cup, including this:

My, your balls are slimy.
The balls that will be used during competition at the World Cup have been widely panned by goalkeepers. They say the balls are prone to knuckling in the air and become very slick in the rain. They also think the balls should be 10 times larger, covered in a thick, sticky tar and magnetized so all shots they can't get to bang off the posts or crossbar and fly harmlessly away.

The World Cup runneth over


Small Talk with Petr Cech

The Guardian makes small talk with Chelsea's Petr Cech.


Julio Iglesias, goalkeeper

Julio Iglesias, international pop star and... Real Madrid goalkeeper?


US keepers overseas

On the other hand, there are still some fine US goalkeepers plying their trade overseas. Marcus Hahnemann has been dazzling for the English League Championship side Reading FC. From being almost an afterthought with the Colorado Rapids and then Fulham, Hahnemann has become the leading candidate to backup Kasey Keller in this summer's World Cup squad, and is leading the push to the Premiership for Reading.


US keeper quality thins

The USA once had an embarrassment of riches at goalkeeper, and MLS was as strong between the sticks as at any position. Now, says Ives Garcalep, MLS Goalkeeper quality has thinned out.


The smart one

"If defenders had even half the brainpower that we have, they would be playing in the midfield." A point-counterpoint discussion at ESPN Soccernet between Kansas City defender Jimmy Conrad and MLS goalkeepers: More important: Defender or Keeper?.


The psychological side

The Guardian just loves goalkeepers! More this time on Chelsea stopper Petr Cech, from Marcus Christenson. Another reason for Cech's success is his ability to focus for 90 minutes, despite often not having very much to do. For keepers, the psychological side of the game is as important, if not more so, than the physical one.

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Spanish goalkeeping talent

The United States was known for producing top-level goalkeepers, well before many American field players started getting jobs overseas (Tim Howard's recent spell of poor form notwithstanding). But Phil Ball on ESPNSoccernet, who apparently has a soft spot for keepers, writes about the abundances of goalkeeping talent in Spain.

One of the sleepers of La Liga is Barcelona's Victor Valdes, of whom Ball writes: "Valdés has many virtues, as Chelsea may find to their cost, chief among them being his bravery and concentration. Where Ronaldinho is all smiles, Valdés always looks as if someone has just insulted his mother."


A good goalkeeper is as important as a good striker

"Brian Clough used to say that a good goalkeeper is as important to a great team as a good striker and I agree absolutely," writes Andy Gray over at Soccer365. I have to say I concur.


Hoops and penalties

And if you didn't think that playing basketball or other ball/hand sports helps develop a better goalkeeper, then why would Manchester United call new signing Tim Howard "one of the best basketball players to be playing in the MLS."?

Oh, and getting back to penalty kicks -- I am currently 3-for-3 stopping penalties in my adult summer league this season. Two to my left, one to my right. Just luck? Hardly. You can learn to "read" penalty takers. (Although I do need to talk to my defenders about all those fouls....)

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Good American goalkeepers

Nick Webster at FOXSportsWorld.com talks about why there are so many good American goalkeepers. I've discussed the thought with people before and have come to the same conclusions. In addition, goalkeepers don't hit their prime until later in their careers -- often their mid-30's -- and so a good athlete can try goalkeeping later in life and still succeed. If they played basketball, baseball or other sports requiring good footwork and eye-hand coordination, they won't be as far behind as a goalkeeper as they would be as a field player.


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