Control your rebounds!

Rebound control is an important part of reducing the opposition’s scoring chances.

When considering shot stopping abilities, other than a pro-active style limiting chances through active interceptions, a more developed goalkeeper should think about controlling their rebounds to prevent any further chances during an opposition’s attack on goal. The less chances a goalkeeper faces, the more they are doing to reduce the rate of attacks and thus scoring rate. A goalkeeper who faces a lot of shots may do so because they lack the ability to control their rebounds, allowing the opposition more scoring opportunities by not getting rid of any further chances properly (although the shots faced could be down to a leaky defence!), so it is important to think about your rebound control and how it affects your performances.


Controlling your rebounds

Unlike other sports, a hockey goalkeeper’s kit mean they end up blocking pretty everything shot at them, making rebound control more complicated and a delicate process. Hockey is special in that rebounds cannot be ‘deadened’ or eliminated, preventing any further scoring opportunities in close because we have nothing to catch with! Whereas these goalies are predominantly more able to catch and hold on to the ball; in football they are taught to catch, in ice hockey they can catch with the glove and even in something like floor ball they can catch shots, in (field) hockey, we are unique in having to using blocking surfaces to push the rebounds away for us. As a result, you have to be more pro-active with your rebound control, thinking ahead to where you can see the space to put the ball into and striving to drive through the ball to get distance on the clearance.


Redirecting on the save

To actively control your rebounds, you should be redirecting during the save, rather than blocking a ball and letting it go back out directly in front of you, which hands the opposition a golden opportunity at goal. To actively get rid of a second chance after the save, you need to be directing it away from any close-in attackers, finding a space to put the ball to, to make the opposition’s chance to poke away or slam home a rebound, harder. This is difficult in itself, relying on you pre-scanning the space in front of you and your awareness of what is going on and who is where. Physically, you want to have active hands and legs, pushing in to the save and turning your kit as it hits you to angle it away to safety. Again, as harped on about before, driving through with an attacking motion will improve your ability to control your rebound as you work on actively pushing through the save.


A shot that hits you square will go straight back out to the shooter.
A shot that hits you square will go straight back out to the shooter.


A shot that hits an angled glove or pad or kicker, attacking the clearance, will go out with distance away from danger.
A shot that hits an angled glove or pad or kicker, attacking the clearance, will go out with distance away from danger.



In the following clip, you can see the Kamong goalie, an elite ’keeper in the Hoofdklasse level, clearing a ball through a crowd of players, which is a skill in itself!


‘Dead rebounds’ and clearing after the save

A remember that has not been sufficiently ‘killed’ and you have simply deadened the shot or not put far enough away to safety, obviously puts you in a precarious position. If this happens, then you want to react intensely with an active mindset, rushing out to reach it and kick it away. Kicking away seems the safest option; charging out to clear and attacking clearances as written about in the past will give you a better chance of getting rid of the ball. Similarly, if you do your best to make the stop but can’t get rid of the rebound, then get as close to the ball as possible and kick away with distance to stop any further scoring opportunities.


Diving as an emergency

If you don’t have time to reach the ball but it is close to you and you want to push away the ball, then diving in to clear could be used as an emergency procedure. I may be wrong to make a sweeping statement, but using the stick seems more popular in Holland and Belgium, but I have seen footage of Russ Meadows, the Australian goalie, diving away to clear a rebound off a Pakistani shot in the Azlan Shah tournament a while ago, although they did put away the rebound. It’s more of a last ditch move as you’re putting yourself out of the play by going to ground (and it will be difficult to get back to your feet quickly enough!), so should be used when you feel the chances are stacked against and unable to get your defenders help. Dive in as close as you can and then use your stick to sweep away the ball as far away as you can!


Control rebounds!

Ultimately, you want to do your best to control rebounds. It is no good simply stopping shots and blocking them, you really have to be active in getting rid of the ball! Reducing rebounds and getting them clear will reduce the chances of being scored on as you limit the shooters to a few chances, improving the way you play and increasing your chances of a clean sheet!



  • Drive through the ball to get power behind the save
  • Turn your kit as you push into the save, to redirect the ball away with force
  • Pre-scan the area to look for a place to put the rebound
  • Have active hands and legs in front of your body to push away the redirect
  • Attack clearances to get rid of another chance
  • Dive to clear only in an emergency!

Experience is important!

Experience is a quintessential aspect of goalkeeping but making use of it to ‘read’ the game matters the most.

Unlike a forward or outfield player who is supposed to start young and impress early on to break into the first eleven, a goalkeeper is more of a slow burner, having to bide their time until the opportunity for such action presents itself. This reflects the nature of a goalkeeper; using their experience to analyse the game play in front of them and react accordingly to break up scoring opportunities and deny the opposition their scoring chances. As a result, it is important for a goalkeeper to make the most of their game experience going into their next game, or throughout the season, to play a more prominent role in the defence.


Experience matters

Experience is important in anything really, work, life or driving perhaps! And goalkeeping is no different and the goalkeeper’s job is driven by experience. The depth of game experience at a given level can have an important influence on your chances of developing and playing to your optimum best. Experience of games where you are up against it often helps calm the nerves in a tight game that will have a decisive impact on your team’s table positioning, or in a top of the table clash, for example. Not only does experience have an effect on how you perform mentally, but also helps you analyse games and dissect your performances in tactical awareness, so that you can breakdown a scoring opportunity firsthand in the next game; such as positioning against shots, or when to come off your line against an attack. Able to expect where a shot is headed, or where and when a player will break through onto the D and your goal, will help you make important interceptions or points winning saves.


The importance of experience
Game experience is more invaluable than any training session or coached session that you can do. You can practise and practise any given scenario, but if you cannot put it to work in a game, it hasn’t come to fruition. This is obviously often done to mental strength and personal confidence, but also an ability (or lack of) to ‘read’ the game in front of you and diagnose the potential opportunities for a scoring chance during the game. Some goalkeepers are great at performing well in training, but this does not translate to game performances. Like in life, some people are great at the theory but struggle to put it into practise in reality! To be able to develop to the highest level, you need to be pushing yourself to get this kind of experience and more so, to be able to pull it off in games.


You may be getting a lot of training and practising with a higher level squad, but you are not getting game experience. The lack of regular games can affect your chances of improving or developing as a goalkeeper, which is why goalkeepers in footie often loan out their reserve goalkeepers to a lower team for the chance for them to get game experience rather than ‘riding the pine’. This is obviously more difficult in hockey as there are no loans systems, but in a bigger club playing for the second eleven and biding your time is just as useful! This is why young goalkeepers getting high level game experience early on is so invaluable in some ways, as they are acclimatising to the elite level and exposing themselves to more testing and challenging games, rather than simply bench warming or playing down a level. A goalkeeper with more experience at this level is going to have a longer career and beat off other competition as they are already on the right track to getting a shot at the highest level. The more you test yourself during games, the more likely you are to develop more quickly, if your confidence stays intact!


Working off past experiences

The most obvious time in your playing career when you cannot rely on experience, would be when you start. In this case, you are basing your play off of each game experience, slowly but surely getting used to angles, positioning, depth, and reactive saves. But moving up the levels and playing at a higher speed and facing different shots or routines and play styles, you again build up an experience to base your play off, developing as a result. That aside, experience counts for a lot in goalkeeping, with you able to draw on previous experiences and tactical knowledge to counter attack an opposition’s assault on your D, commanding the defence to react appropriately or when to come off your line for a smart interception.


Like the wise old owl, the veteran keeper can draw on all of the games they have played to help them in their ability to dominate their D and command their defenders to increase their chances of low scoring (or conceding!) games. A younger goalkeeper might be able to get to shots more quickly than their older counterpart, but the older keeper has the advantage of countless games that offer them a wealth of experience for them to pick up the opposition in their in-game analyse of the opposition’s attacks. As they get more experience, the shot stopping abilities and athleticism start to combine with this ability to know when to do what or be where, at the right time, during a game and the goalkeeper will start to be more of an incredibly dominant force in the games they play. Kind of why a goalkeeper takes time to mature and peak later on in life!


Getting experience

The simplest and most obvious way to get game experience is to just get out there and play! Even if it as a lower level than you want or expect, you are still getting chances to build your experience and confidence in your abilities. Summer hockey in the off-season over in the UK is great for this, where there is an opportunity to get starts when other goalkeepers may be relaxing or off on holiday and such, and you can also prove yourself to other members of the club who might play for a higher team. ‘Doubling up’, often more possible when playing for a larger club who are without regular goalkeepers, is another way of doing this, playing more than once at a weekend.


Use your experience!

Ultimately, the crux of experience is how you make use of it when it comes to game time. By being able to ‘read’ the game better, you can have a greater impact on the games that you play. Make use of your experiences to think through how you should have reacted better when you allowed such and such a goal, so that you don’t make the same mistake twice or in the next game! You can be the most athletic and acrobatic awesome goal defying shot stopper, but if you don’t have a good, grounded level experience to base your understanding of how plays work or develop as you ‘read’ the opposition, then you are consequently going to make timely saves or interceptions.

Playing yourself out of a ‘slump’

‘Slumps’ can derail a season but going but to basics and working on your mental strength should work wonders!

At some point in everyone’s playing time, there will be a time where they struggle to make saves or deny the opposition, maybe even feeling like a ‘polo’ or leaking goals like a sieve as outfielders often call it! The elite goalkeepers have elite skills as well as an overpowering mental fortitude that ensures that they happen very rarely rather than perhaps more so, for the case of us mere mortal goalkeepers! But it’s no good falling into the trap of feeling the ‘slump’ is unstoppable, it takes guts to realise you can halt it and overcome it, but it’s doable! To beat the ‘slump’, the simplest way is to go back to basics, to relearn things and focus on the ball and compete and go through things with a purpose. You need to realise that you are capable of being a great goalkeeper and need a bit of work to remember that!


The dreaded ‘slump’

Ah, the dreaded ‘slump’. When you’re playing as if the ball is more like a golf ball than the basketball it used to seem when you were seeing everything and stopping it all. When your confidence is shot to pieces and you can’t seem to be doing anything right, letting in weak goals and making mistakes left, right, and centre, that would otherwise not be happening. Every goalkeeper will go through them at some point in their playing career, but the key here is to reduce its effect on your overall performance within the season! The more it drags on, the more it will affect your ‘mental game’ and have a knock-on effect on your overall team performance as they can’t do much in front of what used to be the rock in the team defence.


What is it?

In some ways, by definition, it’s a psychological thing. You’re not confident in your abilities, put off by niggling worries or nervous that you’re going to get scored on by an own goal or made to look silly somehow, that prevent you from performing to the best of your ability, which your team obviously needs you to be doing, so that they have the best chance of winning! You need to work on building your confidence back up again so that you can play as well as (or better than!) you were before. You may be struggling with some of the basics and working on these should make moving around the D and positioning against shots more manageable as you work to improve your rate of saves made.


What to do

The ‘slump’ could often be the result of forgetting the basics or struggling with a certain aspect of them. Going back to basics is the best way to deal with anything, helping you find the area you are having trouble with and working to improve hard to improve on it. Every save is the result of good angle work, strong positioning and challenging depth, and then the correct save motion to block the ball appropriately.


Use training as a chance to immediately go back to basics and you should be able to isolate the flaw or error in your technical game. Something has probably gone wrong and become part of your goalkeeping make up. Work on getting centred on angles for each shot, movement, basic positioning and getting ‘square’ and the right depth. Without a goalie specific coach this is obviously harder as you may not be able to analyse the root of the problem that you are specifically struggling with, but in training, you can use the opportunity to go through the motion of the basics against every shot. Maybe even ask for another goalie at your club to see if they notice anything when you’re ‘taking’ shots.


Have a purpose!

The more in tune you are with the game, the better you will perform. Focus is key; be alert and have your head on a swivel and know where your team mates are and what’s going on around you. Always watch the ball, even pretend that you are a camera man filming the game; that’s how focused on the game you should be! I’ll continue to harp on about the importance of focusing on the ball throughout, into the save, as I’ve written about previously. You can focus on making the save properly on every single save to push yourself to get it right, whether in practise or in an actual game.


Have self belief!

The more you think about the slump, the worse it can get. So don’t! Sometimes it’s best just to ‘call it a day’ and put it beyond you and move on and focus on the next game at hand. As it can be a struggle with the psychological aspects of the sport, think of how you can overcome things mentally. Self talk is what they call it: tell yourself you’re unstoppable, you’re amazing, you’re unbeatable and as a result, you may just go out there and prove it to everyone else! It sounds a little trite and obvious, but have belief in your abilities, be confident that you can and more importantly will stop the ball! The more saves you get and the more in tune with the game you feel, you’ll get into the swing of things and start playing well again.


Keep going!

Even if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again! Keep at it! Persevere and eventually you’ll succeed. Keep plugging away with your efforts and you’ll be able to be in a better position to reap the benefits. By working hard and putting the effort in, you should be ‘up’ for games and ready and raring to do your best in the next game.


Get out of it!

Ultimately, you want to make sure you do your best to get out of a slump, whether it be short term within a game as your confidence starts to crumble, or if it something more long term that could derail a season. It may take time, so be patient with yourself and don’t beat yourself up about things even if that sounds obvious and a little patronising! If you struggle, just go back to basics and think about what’s going wrong. Focus on the ball and be alert in matches and you should be on the road to recovery ok!

Intense goalkeeping

Playing with an intensity and determination to battle will help you to perform to your best.

With the goalkeeper having little to do behind a strong, coherent defence, the battle there is more about being able to stay mentally aware and keep a high level of concentration to make that important save that could mean the difference between winning and losing easy points as your team dominate. It could be said that here the goalkeeper exerts all of their energies in the mental battle of keeping alert. But with little physical activity, the goalkeeper theoretically has more energy in reserve to call upon when the opposition gets opportunities to break through and on and into the D. And as a result, the goalkeeper should always combine this mentally ‘switched on’ approach with the ability to battle no matter the easiness of a win.


Intensity in goalkeeping

It is my thinking and theory, that a goalkeeper should be intense in their concentration as much as with their physical actions. Rather than be passive and ‘react’ to the game as it happens, an intense approach will looking to take charge of all situations, as with attacking the ball and controlling your zone through voice and action, I feel a goalkeeper should actively involve themselves in the game through an energetic approach. By reacting to the game with intensity, the goalkeeper is more likely to pounce on rebounds or deal with scrambles and secondary scoring chances than otherwise, if more passive with their goalkeeping.


Excuse the examples of different sport (ice hockey), but they are very capable of illustrating and demonstrating this form of an almost ‘hyperactive’ goalie! Dominik Hasek was seen as the pinnacle of recent years, whilst Tim Thomas, whilst seemingly lacking in technique, is just as erratic at times. In the following clip, you can see a more active goalie, in the form of Pekka Rinne. Here, Rinne really pushes into shots and is active with positioning and challenging. Even in warm-ups, his movements are sharp and hands and legs aggressive in his shot stopping. You can see that this is the difference maker in a hard working and active goalie:


High energy shot stopping

But more than that, a ‘high energy’ style of goalkeeping will see the goalkeeper react instantly to a shot, with them prepared to fully extend or dive out for example, to reach into the shot as it comes at the. And afterwards, recovering straight back up to get to the next shot, once the save is made or the ball has hit the ‘woodwork’! Intensive shot stopping combines acrobatics and athleticism: getting up as soon as physically possible to deal with the rebound or secondary chance on goal. This style mixes acrobatics and athleticism, combined with a desire to stop the ball (or whatever else it is!) no matter what; a determination to never be beaten and the athleticism and alertness to be able to pull off those world-class, unbelievable saves that only the elite can achieve. If you are beaten, then you are ready to react, because it may hit the post or woodwork. The following example shows this approach of Lloris at Tottenham (in football this time!), who will extend as far as possible to try and get a fingertip save on a shot, whilst ready to get up again for the next shot on goal. Although Lloris is beaten by the rebound chance, he first extends to attempt the (which is more than amazing!) and then recovers instantaneously to try and stop the second, which he is unfortunately beaten on.


Hyper intensity

If you are intent on an energetic style, then you call almost end up in a hyper intense state. Rinne as , is often called a hyper intensive goalkeeper, making movements that can use up energy and may not always be required of him to make. Jonathon Quick also plays like this, but a Stanley cup ring proves its importance! This style of goalkeeping will require a strong stamina to be able to go the full seventy minutes (in field hockey’s case) without pause, as it puts a strong on your body and mind, requiring you to eat well and have a strong pre-season and continued approach to fitness. If the goalkeeper is facing a lot of shots (this could be in the range of 50-80 in a sport like ice hockey, but in hockey, may be up to thirty perhaps), the goalkeeper is in danger of burning out and ending up giving away goals through loss of energy, unable to keep up with the pace of the game and therefore slipping away in their battle to keep the score line down.



Other than battling to keep or earn your position in a squad (as I have written about before), the battle within the game is with stopping every shot. Here, you do whatever it takes to see and read the ball and then make the remarkable save at the end of the sequence. You have to want it, to really want to win, competitively desiring never to be beaten! In comparison, if playing behind a weak team and getting ‘shelled’ a lot, you may lose confidence in your team and your desire to win. Here, a true battler with a strong ‘mental game’, will illustrate and demonstrate the difference between looking good and playing good, with an unbeatable desire to stop every shot! In ice hockey, they call it fighting for the puck, with the goalkeeper often literally fighting through traffic to get to a shot stopping position, just like a football has to fight opposition players in his box to come and collect a cross. In screens, the goalkeeper battles to find eye contact with the puck (or ball in this case!) to set themselves up for a strong save.


Mental determination

The ability to battle with in a game often coincides with the mental approach to goalkeeping. Rather than being defeatist and letting a goal hamper your confidence, the mentally strong battler approaches the game with an optimistic viewpoint, content to carry on regardless, to give their all no matter the score line. Here, the goalkeeper continues to fight in spite of the score to keep their team in with a chance of scoring more goals and reducing the deficit or bringing the game to a tie. In my opinion goalkeepers are the difference maker, but the goalkeeper who battles to stop every shot is far better than the one who has little work to do and doesn’t do it well. Just my thoughts though!


Bringing intensity to your game

Intensity does not include over exaggerating movements or diving for the sake of it, it is about being proactive and aggressive with your movements; challenging with positioning and challenging shots with an attacking saving motion and such. To do this, you have to mentally ‘fire’ yourself up, motivating yourself with a desire to win and play the best you can. Spending time before a game to psych yourself up and mentally prepare yourself, along with positive self talk as they can it to build self confidence and put away self doubt about not performing well will be the difference maker as you push yourself to play at your best.

The following clip shows a goalkeeper that ‘fights’ for every shot and really battles, getting a lot of clean sheets as a result!


Be intense!

Ultimately, it is good to be intensity into your goalkeeping. Attacking the ball and challenging the opposition shooters confidently is going to improve your goalkeeping efforts. Tied in with commanding your area and making a dominant presence, you need to ready for those second chances on goal, to leap up onto your feet to try and get something on it to deny the opposition! With little work to do in an ‘easy’ game, you should be prepared to make up for it by involving yourself in the play and game like this that shows your desire to win.