The object of any game (whether you feel that way or not or otherwise!) is to win. And as a goalkeeper we hope that we can consistently play in such a way that we can lead our team to victory time and time again. But it is not always that easy, with the elite goalkeeper able to carve out a reputation for success by rising above the challenges they face. Whilst some goalkeepers potentially get an easy ride by playing on a strong team, the great goalkeeper will be able to find ways to win even on a mediocre or poor team, aware of what they need to do during a game to secure the points. Take Julio Cesar at QPR. Yes, different sport and they haven’t won many (Green got their first win ironically!), but he is able to consistently put in mind blowing performances to keep a clean sheet and earn a draw, like the recent game against Chelsea, helping them come out on top at 1-0. What more can you do than not letting any goals in week in week out?! So in this vein, you should look to emulate this success in your own season, being able to battle through adversity to earn the points and be the hero!
Making the routine stops
Even though the art of practice and training tries to boil down the art of goalkeeping and sport in general into a series of routine actions, it is not always that simple. Get set in your stance, be on angle, react to the shot and make the stop, that kind of thing. But a lot can happen in a game and it won’t always go to plan. So it is important to be able to control the controllable. Getting the job done means being able to make the simple easy looking saves that are just as important as the spectacular, breath taking ones; make sure you are able to stop the ones coming straight you and don’t give away those ones that make you blush.
Making the big saves
The goalies who are really the crème de la crème are the ones that can make the game changing saves; they know it’s happening and they pull it off nonetheless! In other sports this may be more obvious, like ice hockey where a big save changes the whole momentum as the time rushes up the ice to counter-attack after a big save, but they can be just as game changing in our sport. Breakaways, interceptions against a forward through on goal or decisive penalty corner saves when the game is tied, that kind of thing. These kinds of saves can happen at the start of the match when the opposition could gain the lead or at the end when they could tie it up or win. You need to have the mental strength and level of concentration to be intensely aware of the need to pull this off, keeping your team in it with a chance to take the full points. The time to change the game is in your hands and the best goalkeepers will be able to do it on a consistent basis!
To win on a consistent basis it needs to become a regular habit, almost a routine. Whether or not you have little to do behind a forward pressing, attacking team, or end up facing a lot of shots behind plenty of defensive breakdowns, the best goalkeepers will find a way to win the game. All the great goalkeepers will win behind high scoring (5 to double figures) or low scoring games (1-0). This is the consistency: the ability to perform well game in game out to allow your team to win. It is the ability to win no matter how many shots you face, to be able to make the game winning save on its own, or the multiple saves that will deny the opposition a comeback. This boils down to not getting to high or low emotionally as things start to rattle your cage as you have to battle against it. Play the full 70 minutes to the best of your ability, not being mentally affected by the score line and give yourself the chance to do your best. Don’t get dismayed, just focus on shot stopping: the team is the one who wins the game, not you, by scoring (well, that’s the way I see it!)! You just have to make sure you keep it that way!
Being confident is an essential part of goalkeeping aside from the technical aspects. To win you have to believe you are good enough! Think of Roberto Mancini’s comments about wanting Hart to be cocky. To make those saves and change the game, you have to really believe in your abilities otherwise you will doubt and make mistakes that gift the opposition. Often it comes from within, whilst it may take time, encouragement and strong performances to prove it to yourself. It’s something I intend to write about: be cocky, not arrogant because if something happens you didn’t expect as you said you wouldn’t let it, then you’ll end up looking a wally and your team might doubt you or it could damage that confidence!
Confident goalkeepers believe they will win the game no matter what and make the tough saves look like no big deal. Like Patrick Roy’s brand of confidence (Google for some of his Stanley cup quotes!). They are so confident, they know they are going to stop everything, rather than just ‘can’! This confidence comes from hard work and performing well. Self belief is not about whether your coach thinks you’re good or your team does; you believe you’re good! Taking every step (mental preparation, stretching etc.) to ensure you’ll win helps this.
Being confident is great because it has a knock-on effect you might not have thought about. If you exude confidence, everyone else will play confidently as they reflect on their own ability to play well and do their best. Confidence rubs off! A team is confident when they know they don’t have to cover their eyes when a shot comes in, they know the goalkeeper is going to bail them out so they don’t worry as much! Think about being a team mate of Gomes when he was playing badly. Play well and your team will appreciate it!
Fighting for the win
Goalkeepers who don’t have to prove themselves in my opinion won’t do as well. If you’ve got something to prove, you’re going to work harder and be more competitive. If you don’t have things handed to you, then you already have motivation to outdo your competition. BUT even those that have proved themselves will continue to work hard as they push their abilities to the limits, if they are the elite, because they don’t want to just want to be good, they want to be the best! Tenaciously battling in training and more importantly in games, to play the best they can and give their team the best chance of winning is where it’s at. They’ll outwork you and fight to make sure they stay first choice, it means that much to them! Battling against the odds is a lot of fun if you want to show you’ve got it as I found in my time as you are the underdog: what do you have to lose?!
The stronger-willed goalkeeper will be the top of the pack. The goalkeeper who is determined to win and passionate about goalkeeping will be the best and their desire is noticeable and easy to spot. Taking extra shots in training, doing fitness outside of organised training, the things expected of an elite athlete anyway! Time not doing this is time wasted to them. This is an aspect of your ‘mental game’ you need to work on if you want to get up the ladder of hockey.
Do your best
It’s a hard task to win on a regular basis and takes time and effort and the passion to win to pull it off. Even if you are on a team stacked with talent, take De Gea at Manchester United, you still need to make important saves as theoretically the less chances a team has the more they will take them as they are limited by the defence (i.e. they will be of a higher quality as they can’t waste the chance on goal and aren’t merely ‘throwing’ shots on goal). And make sure you don’t have ‘a bad day at the office’ if anything else because that won’t help your team out! Be strong, be bold, believe you’ve got the ability and go out there and prove it!
Play to win!
Ultimately, you want to play to win. From the outset of a match, you should be totally focused on the game and winning and nothing else. This is the level of intense concentration of the elite goalkeeper and you have to match it if you want to win that badly! Love goalkeeping and love to win and find ways to win and you’ll be alright! Just make sure you can do it consistently!
Feel I should reference Jeff Lerg’s article for this as there is a lot of influence obvious in the article: