Whilst it sounds harsh, it’s no good going through the motions and being happy with poor performances. So you may not want to play competitive or high level hockey (that’s not to say you can’t be competitive at lower levels; a game is what you make it!) because you feel it’s not your thing, but that doesn’t stop looking to improve yourself and be the best goalkeeper you can be. If you can bothered to turn up to every training session and play through rain and snow, then why not be bothered to look to improve your technique and overall game?
A goalkeeper who wants to play to their best of their ability will always be looking to improve. It is no good getting comfortable with dominating at a step level, if you really want to show how good you are, then you have to test yourself against better shooters! An easy example is the cream of the crop; the international level goalkeeper. Sure, they will be good and if playing at the top level are arguably great at what they do, but to be excellent, to be a cut above the rest and be the best in the world, they really have to push themselves to the limits to play to their best.
The key to improvement is to constantly look to improve. The stated example required a lot of improvement to even get to the stage of being their country’s number one. They will have had to go through hoops and moved up levels at important stages in their playing career, where the jump between levels may have been considerable and required a lot of work. If you are a youngster looking to follow the same path, aside from the level of commitment needed, you will need to be looking to improve all the time. Once you get good at one standard of play it won’t be long until you push yourself to have a go at the next! This constant transition will require you to be pushing yourself to consistently give your all whilst looking to improve and refine your technique as you develop your goalkeeping abilities.
Goalkeeper specific coaches (if you are lucky enough to have one at your club!) should obviously be able to help analyse your game from watching you train and help provide useful feedback, but even if you have access to such support, you should still be prepared to analyse your own game. By being self critical and analysing you will learn more about the game and in turn help develop as a goalkeeper. If you are without regular specific goalkeeper training to help you out, you are going to have to do a bit of independent learning (as they call it in schools these days!).
Keeping a diary of the goals you were scored on, noting what caused them, where and how they were scored will help you learn from your mistakes and hopefully not make the same mistake twice. Similarly, you can use training to work out where you’re going wrong and how you’re getting beaten and then work to improve in these areas (such as getting your balance right during a save attempt, or getting your angles spot on to make the save). In the short term you can look to do better than you did in your last game, whilst over the long term of a season and more, you can try to be able to find overall improvement in your performances.
In contrast, if you think you are good and have proven it, then think again! A good life tip I got taught by one of my lecturers when at university is to “never get comfortable”. If you’re sitting pretty admiring your good work, then the chances are you’re not going to be better than other goalkeepers who are you are going to compete for a spot for (such as county or national trials, or moving clubs and trying to take the starting spot, or stepping up a level) because you aren’t working as hard as you can. Whilst it’s essential to have self belief to play well as a goalkeeper, what I’m trying to get at is the need to do better than you’re already doing. It’s no good sitting on your laurels; you need to get out there and work on your technique so you can beat out the competition and be the unrivalled number one.
Only as good as your last game
A useful phrase that is used by ice hockey and football (soccer) goalies alike, is “you’re only as good as your last game”. This attitude makes you realise that no matter what league you play in or how good you are, your ability can only be analysed by your last performance. In essence, it will push you to improve, making sure you develop your ability to play well consistently. This way of thinking keeps you grounded and will help you analyse your performance, taking into consideration how well you played and the need to do as well or better in your next game.
Not reaching your peak
In my opinion, goalkeepers who do not look to continue their development will stagnate. In essence they will fail to reach their potential simply because they aren’t looking to do even better. Ok, so they are critically and analytically good (if taking high level goalkeepers as an example), but they can be even better. They (and you possibly!) are letting themselves down by not giving it your all and trying to do better than you are currently. Again, it’s all about the desire to play your best. If you want to be the best around, then you need to really be looking to improve at every given opportunity, even if you don’t think you need improving! Nobody’s totally perfect and there’s got to be something goalkeeping wise they can work on!
Go out and improve!
Aside from the level of technique required for stepping up a level, even if you don’t wish to play at higher levels, you can still be looking to improve. At the end of the day if you love goalkeeping that much and love making saves, you can’t deny you want to play your best (even if you are playing for the sake of enjoyment) and working on improving means you have a greater chance of doing that. So, ultimately, it’s a win win situation: the more you improve the better you’ll get and the more saves you’ll make!