Goalkeeper or shot stopper?

As you look to move on from the basics of shot stopping and evolving your game as a goalkeeper, you need to think (perhaps thinking hard and conscientiously about it, if you want to!) about how you play as a goalkeeper, and your roles and responsibilities within the team. About how you need to work to intercept and interrupt passes by the opposition to stop them from gaining a chance to score. When you consider it, a goalkeeper should be able to shut down attacks and passing opportunities, providing a presence behind their defence that is able to do their job when the defensive line is ‘caught short’. You will see goalkeepers at the elite levels who play a more proactive style, rushing out to tackle or clear away the ball, especially in the indoor game, where being active and aggressive in challenging and intercepting a pass is really important for a goalkeeper to succeed in the fast paced indoor arena.

As you look to move on from the basics of shot stopping and evolving your game as a goalkeeper, you need to think (perhaps thinking hard and conscientiously about it, if you want to!) about how you play as a goalkeeper, and your roles and responsibilities within the team. About how you need to work to intercept and interrupt passes by the opposition to stop them from gaining a chance to score. When you consider it, a goalkeeper should be able to shut down attacks and passing opportunities, providing a presence behind their defence that is able to do their job when the defensive line is ‘caught short’. You will see goalkeepers at the elite levels who play a more proactive style, rushing out to tackle or clear away the ball, especially in the indoor game, where being active and aggressive in challenging and intercepting a pass is really important for a goalkeeper to succeed in the fast paced indoor arena.

And you need to work on being confident stepping off your post or your “line”, if you are to challenge the opposition and restrict their opportunities in your D to score. Bringing in the ability to disrupt chances by coming out to tackle and so forth, you will be able to limit the opposition’s chances. Good shot stoppers are worth their weight in gold, but they also need to be able to have an important impact on their game in order to achieve success.

Pure shot stopper

All goalkeepers are shot stoppers, but some are more inclined to hope on their ability to make the save, perhaps expecting the defence to do the job of intercepting passes and for them to stay where they are. Rather than go out to challenge if needs call upon them to, unable to see past the lens of a goalkeeping simply being there to make the saves (that might have drawn them to the position in the first place) and the need to step out of goal at times to shut down a scoring chance by kicking away a loose ball or going in for a decisive tackle, for example. As a position in our sport, this is an important aspect of the way we play within the game, like football goalkeepers who need to come out and catch crosses on corners, or rush out to tackle, versus ice hockey goalies who are not going to come flying out of their zone to slide tackle a player (unless they’re Dominic Hasek!), or floorball, where it is more a case of shot stopping. And it needs recognising! For some, not others, probably though!!

In a negative way, you could consider a case example of a goalkeeper rooted to their line and fearful of coming out to tackle or intercept. But rather than coming out to challenge, in a positive light, they do themselves an injustice by staying back against the play and expecting a shot to be stoppable. Passively hoping to just have to stop shots instead of be involved in the play, even if a case of a difficult redirect is a potential possibility, say for example. Not confident in their ability to tackle, or just unable to see the point in doing so. A goalkeeper that stays where they are, on the spot, hoping that they will do ok facing a shot that might come in from the top of the D say, that doesn’t come out to tackle or chase lose rebounds, instead expecting to be able to stop all shots.

A ‘goal’ ‘keeper’

Goalkeeping is more than just being there to get behind shots and save them, unfortunately! And the way you approach goalkeeping will have a significant impact on the way you play. You can either be a goalkeeper where you expect to just be there to stop shots and end up not doing a good job of ‘owning your D’, or make sure this isn’t the case! If you take the structure of the word goalkeeper, you can literally get “goal” and “keep”; in this way of thinking, can you consider yourself a goalkeeper who ‘keeps’ their goal? Do you look after your D, or do you stay on your line and get beaten by chances that you could have stopped through coming out to challenge? Do you stop chances turning into goals by eliminating them before they happen, or do you get beaten by them?

Your job as a goalkeeper is more than just simply the saving aspect, there is also passes and potential breakaways to contend with! It’s about more than standing there and being on angle and in the right spot at the right time, all of the time. Wherein a goalkeeper needs to be able to come out and tackle or intercept and will be able to when these situations present themselves. Think about breakaways where you stand a better chance of rushing out to challenge, if you go in for that glorious slide tackle, where you will take the ball off the play and stop the shot happening in the first place. Or interceptions, where making the interception will eliminate the passing option and prevent a high risk scoring opportunity.

Goalkeeper versus shot stopper

When you think about, goalkeeping is more than just a case of shot stopping. You can’t expect to save every shot if you play like that, so making sure you actively play a part in shutting down scoring opportunities means that you can work things into your favour. As you develop and play more games and get more (as a beginner anyway!), you will soon realise and notice that it is more than just the save making that may have brought you to playing the position in the first place.

Sometimes you need to do more than just stop shots. The “sweeper keeper” idea and conceptualisation epitomises the way a goalkeeper can (attack being the best form of the defence!), with the goalkeeper making use of their aggressive abilities to shut down chances instead of having to make the potential save, acting like an extra defender in the way they are involving themselves in the game. Elite goalkeepers are more than just shot stoppers and capable of tackling and challenging appropriately, bringing an extra dimension to their game.

Take this video montage of world class Guus Vogels (who has obviously retired recently, leaving way for Stockmann to take over in his place, for Holland). Notice how amazing his shot stopping abilities are, but also how he is involving himself in the game, making important diving interceptions and challenges; diving off the post and reaching out with his stick say or  sliding out to intercept a breakaway forward:

If you think about it, you need to be able to do this as well as make saves when it is right to. Eliminating scoring chances before they happen is an important part of goalkeeping as save making is and you need to know this! It may look good if you have stats where you face a lot of shots or end up saving a lot of shots, but that could also be down to poor rebound control or allowing scoring opportunities to happen by not being proactive like this, so it is important to reflect on the way you play and how you go about the concept of ‘keeping’ goal.

Be a goalkeeper!

Ultimately, you need to be more than just a shot stopper. And a goalkeeper at that! There is more of a responsibility to your team to help them out by challenging and doing the defensive work by coming out to intercept a breakaway among other roles. Therefore there are effectively two sides or parts to a goalkeeper: a shot stopper and an active ‘keeper’ of goal. And if you want to go far up the hockey ladder (or at least improve!), you need to be both! Any goalkeeper worth their weight in gold (or goalie legendary status, take the phrase as inspiration!), as already mentioned (oops with déjà vu!) is a great shot stopper but more importantly also a dominant force within the D. So, make sure you are able to do this, and be a goalkeeper and not just a save maker!

Elegant kvinnlighet spets brudklänning är 2017 bröllop inget undantag. Den känsliga spets brudklänning kan användas för att beskriva en tunn spets täcker bara bröst och skulderlinjen , skapa extraordinära skönhet, det ser mycket attraktiv.

The number one

So. You want to be the number one, right? You want to be the first choice, the one your team turns to, to play for them and get the wins? The one with the honour, the prestige and all the glory; the go-to-guy, the hero, the saviour of your team, the highlight reel shot stopper. You want to be considered the best around, maybe even the best of the best. Well, good for you. But do you know what cost it’ll come at; the blood, sweat and tears that it will take you to achieve this dream? Because, let’s face it, it’s in no way easy and takes a lot of personal sacrifice and effort. It’s going to be a hard fought, tough ride. You may even end up earning it after a battle with an incumbent (i.e. the current starter who is well respected by the team/club and been in the starting spot for a while now), but you might lose it to someone else looking to do what you’re intent to achieve.

So. You want to be the number one, right? You want to be the first choice, the one your team turns to, to play for them and get the wins? The one with the honour, the prestige and all the glory; the go-to-guy, the hero, the saviour of your team, the highlight reel shot stopper. You want to be considered the best around, maybe even the best of the best. Well, good for you. But do you know what cost it’ll come at; the blood, sweat and tears that it will take you to achieve this dream? Because, let’s face it, it’s in no way easy and takes a lot of personal sacrifice and effort. It’s going to be a hard fought, tough ride. You may even end up earning it after a battle with an incumbent (i.e. the current starter who is well respected by the team/club and been in the starting spot for a while now), but you might lose it to someone else looking to do what you’re intent to achieve.

And with that being the same case for anyone that comes after you, you’ll always have someone nipping at your heels trying to take that very same spot you had to compete for in the first place. But that should be motivation to keep onto it and beat them out from overcoming you and your spot, not to slip into lack of effort because you get down about things! Are you prepared to go the distance and go that extra mile, and always be giving all you’ve got no matter what? It’s no easy task, but someone’s got to do it; well, you’ve got to, if you want to get there! Life isn’t (always) a bed of roses, if it is, you can’t see the thorns (well, that’s not to say life isn’t enjoyable or isn’t a gift, that’s just admitting that sometimes it will be hard and hard work!). And, if you don’t have to work hard for something, especially in sport, you’re not going to be pushed to play your absolute best because you’ll always be at cruising speed (or level!). So, in a way, it’s important you have competition and really fight for your chances.


Not all goalkeepers wear the number 1 shirt, but still stake their claim on the starting position for their team or nation nonetheless.

Work ethic

How hard you apply yourself to something (whatever that may be, in life) has a big impact on things and the way people see you. Take training sessions: are you prepared to put in, even if you don’t much out of it as a goalkeeper; focusing on the basics like stance, angles and attacking shots? You get out what you put in, as they, in any aspect of life! A lot of people (maybe it’s just youngsters with the wrong attitude, or an assumption that talent means you don’t have to work that hard!), seem to think you will get by on natural talent without the need to work hard at things. Let’s just think about it for a moment. A goalkeeper with not all of the attributes of an elite goalkeeper can outdo one that does, purely based on work ethic, constantly pushing themselves to improve, and hard work. Essentially, because they are working hard, they should perform better (something I’ll try and cover more in depth later). Compare this to a naturally talented goalkeeper who is capable of really dominating, but not doing so, because they aren’t pushing themselves, in comparison to the goalkeeper edging them out because they are!

Talent doesn’t necessarily give you a one way ticket (not sure that’s the best phrase) to success. Similarly pure athleticism which hasn’t been harnessed or concreted through technical understanding (take Tim Howard in his early days) can see a goalkeeper still making the saves and getting the job done, even if it isn’t always pretty! But, coaching is helpful for refining and harnessing these attributes, so seeking out coaching help or going to summer camps should help you learn to improve and make these habits routine in the regular season. Either way, you still have to work for it! First, you need the talent, and then you need to push yourself as much as possible to keep developing and evolving up the scale of elite standard goalkeeper.

You have to work hard and you have to earn it! It doesn’t come for free! You don’t just rock up to a goalkeeper genie and say hi, I’d like to make my wish of being the world’s best hockey goalkeeper a reality. A dream come true. Humour aside, it’s a big effort and you need to graft and put in the hours to out graft and then outshine people who want that elite level starting spot just as much as you do (maybe they want it more, even!). Some people dream and some people go out and make those dreams real!! Also dieting (eating well, not slimming down!), not wasting time on things that could get in the way of sporting commitments outside of hockey, in order to be in optimum shape for games, is important. Also, staying in good athletic shape is important because you are retaining fitness levels and staying sharp.

Fighting it out

There is only one starting spot, it’s not like you’re a rolling sub for an outfield position. With one spot, you have to fight for it unlike anything else another player might have to go through in a club or team! And with the 1stXI spot, this is even more so. Sometimes, the only way in is to force yourself into the position and beat the other goalkeeper out of theirs. They may see it as a reason to ‘up’ own game, or even unfair (as they worked hard to get way they are; especially unfair if you do take hold of the spot), but you have a challenge on your hands regardless! Your attitude is everything, especially if you want to be the first choice, of a national league level club, for example! And even if you do manage to wrestle the starting spot off a team mate, the coach still has the right/chance to yank you out of a game or switch things up and drop you (back down the pile). Take Szcesny and Fabianski (who is the one actually getting the starts right now, in spite of the doubters, whilst Maonnone deputised for a string of games) at Arsenal.

If you have been the only goalkeeper around in teams/club as a youngster developing, then you may not be used to a stringent level of competition and get used to not fighting for your place. But once you climb the ladder and get to the highest rungs, you will soon realise how much of a fight you will have for the starting spot, or spots at the top levels within your club! Once you get to the elite tiers, you really are fighting for your spot.

If you have the wrong attitude and don’t want to fight for it, then you’re not going to get anyway or develop as a goalkeeper with the right skill set and right mind set! Once in the elite level, you’ll quickly realise how much you have to want that opportunity to get where you want! Otherwise you will be outworked, outrun, outgunned (in terms of save making!) even and perhaps go back down the ladder because a situation has arisen that will change circumstances for you, such as another goalkeeper joining the club who has played at a higher level previously or has more experience than you do, thus affecting your positioning in the club tiers and chance for high level games.

Fighting for your place

Without going back and saying exactly what I said, through rephrasing or just rewriting it (and rewriting the “fighter” article from a while ago), I want to allude to how good you are versus how good people think you are or rate you as. What you don’t want to do is end up “blowing your own trumpet” and thinking you’re the best around when you still haven’t proven that’s the case. And getting overly confident and full of yourself to the point it’s damaging to your game because you don’t bring your ‘A game’ because you don’t think you will have to work and be tested (not the same as being confident constructively and having buckets of self belief!). It’s easy to play well for a few games (versus a season), and end up “over rated” simply because you have played some ‘blinders’, but if you can’t play to this level consistently, that is the difference maker. In the sense that if you ended up hitting a bad patch and unable to bounce back, you may not be playing as you will get dropped for another goalkeeper that may be able to consistently play well versus ‘streaky’ wins and losses, because you’re not used to fighting for a win, or struggle to bounce back after a bad game.

Playing without an ego

This may sound odd considering what I’ve discussed when needing to be ‘cocky’ and confident. But it is still important to remember yourself and your role within the team as a goalkeeper. The goalkeeper carries their team, not the other way round, but that doesn’t mean they should get too ‘big for their boots’! The “egoless approach”, which is something ice hockey goalie analyst Justin Goldman has written about, is important very much so and equates to getting on with playing well and showing how good you are without needing commendations lauded on you. Actions speak louder than words! So show how good you are without saying so!! Something I might have missed in the ‘cocky’ goalkeeper article, but . A selfish attitude doesn’t get you far and will annoy team mates. Also blaming others if . Team mates prefer it if you are open and take responsibility on board (takes the blame off their shoulders!) and .

Always improving

Another important thing when it comes down pushing for the first team place, is how you need to be constantly evolving versus staying as is and getting complacent, which you can read about in the write-up I did previously. Joe Hart will always say that he’s “always looking to improve”. He is never stopping in the way he wants to push himself and reach new heights and always get better. Rather than being happy with how things are. So, he might not be at the top of his game right now (neither is Reina), but his attitude speaks for itself. He is always looking to get better. He is not sitting around and saying ‘I’m so great, look at me,  blah blah blah’ or listening to people saying he’s the, or one of, the world’s best, he’s going out there and working hard to make it happen. Versus not and being complacent, lazy and expecting such comments to just be given to you! Don’t be lazy, be like Hart, have the heart to improve!!

Self analytical

Being analytical of your own game means being able to analyse your weakness and look to improve them, and even to work on refining your strengths. To step outside of yourself and critically consider how well you play. To be able to identify key areas and look to improve them. You can’t improve if you don’t think you don’t have anything to work on! You can’t reach perfection if you think you’re perfect already. When you’re not! At first you may not feel comfortable to think about yourself in this way, but you need to be assured and confident enough to do so. By looking at yourself in the mirror and considering how well you play or are playing during a season, you can improve greatly as you pinpoint things that need working on. It’s not a case of being your own worst enemy, but a cool headed analytical means. This is case of personal reflection, a desire to improve and be the best player (and goalkeeper!) you can be. A positive rather than negative attitude or viewpoint. Sometimes, the only person who can analyse your performances (other than a coach or team mate or fellow goalkeeper at your club even), is yourself, especially if you don’t have a goalkeeping coach to work with. So you need to be able to do so and improve your game and your level of analysis as you do so.

Be the number one!

Ultimately, not everyone wants to be the best in the world or the best at their club, just the best player (goalkeeper!) they can be. There’s nothing wrong with that, at all, in fact, it’s better to want to be the best at everything you can be rather than for anything else. If you are talented inherently, then pushing yourself to be the best you can is going to be make you one of the best around! Even if you don’t think you can, you can still have the same mindset of that of an elite goalkeeper. Like people say and I stated, it’s your work ethic and if you work hard, then coaches will notice it and you may also outwork other goalkeepers and rise up the ranks. Want to be the first option for team selection, want to outdo everyone else and want to make that spot yours and no-one else’s! Don’t just be happy with second best. A goalkeeper who expects to win games or train or play well, without putting in the effort is not getting to get too far! So, work hard, analyse, look to improve, and you should make the number one spot yours (eventually?!)!!

Playing it ‘your way’

When it comes to sport in general and goalkeeping, we are all different and unique and approach things differently. Like opinions maybe, we’ve all got our own opinion on things! Take runners, it’s a poor analogy, but Mo Farah isn’t exactly going to switch to doing sprints and Usain Bolt isn’t going to do marathons! With lightning speed versus endurance in that example. Everyone has their own strengths and qualities (in life as in goalkeeping!) and it should be realised and acknowledged, that you need to play in the way that suits you. You cannot play like someone else, unless of course of course you play in a similar way and find it useful to ‘shadow’ the way they play from game footage, highlights etc. And when it comes to being aware of kit and how affects the way you play, is a good idea to look at your own set-up and find foam and protection that suits your goalkeeping style.

When it comes to sport in general and goalkeeping, we are all different and unique and approach things differently. Like opinions maybe, we’ve all got our own opinion on things! Take runners, it’s a poor analogy, but Mo Farah isn’t exactly going to switch to doing sprints and Usain Bolt isn’t going to do marathons! With lightning speed versus endurance in that example. Everyone has their own strengths and qualities (in life as in goalkeeping!) and it should be realised and acknowledged, that you need to play in the way that suits you. You cannot play like someone else, unless of course of course you play in a similar way and find it useful to ‘shadow’ the way they play from game footage, highlights etc. And when it comes to being aware of kit and how affects the way you play, is a good idea to look at your own set-up and find foam and protection that suits your goalkeeping style.

Playing style

Your playing style is unique to you. As you start to develop as a goalkeeper and get used to the position, play up higher levels and grow into the world of goalkeeping, you will get experience of things and start to work out how you do things and approach the game. Analysing this and paying attention to what works for you and what doesn’t, is going to going to help you evolve and reach your best in the long run.

And, as you develop and move forward in your goalkeeping, you will start to recognise what works for you as your ‘style’. Rather than get comfortable and not go on, as you improve, it is important not to get locked into a certain style of play, to some degree. Take the example of David Kettle changing his kit set-up to use a more blocking rhp than the tube style, same for Leon Hayward and Nathan Burgers. Like I have written about before, you should always be looking to improve rather than just see yourself as good enough already, good just doesn’t cut it if you want to be great! So, playing style is no different really. For example, developing your athleticism as you start to face better placed drag flicks on short corners etc.

How you play is up to your strengths. As you learn and get game experience, you will start to do things routinely thanks to muscle memory. But it is still important to ‘upgrade’ your game if you are going up the levels. It is not impossible to change styles, not impossible to adapt and change. As a goalkeeper, you should be constantly looking to improve and evolve (otherwise you’re not trying or working hard enough or pushing yourself to the heights of your abilities!), so perhaps consider things in relation to whether you go down and need a glove for that, or stay up more, say. I went from a tube style glove (which I could never get on with) to an rhp with a bigger blocking surface, which suited my approach to staying up more and blocking upright, for example.

Coaching and learning

Experimenting and trying out new things is the only way to find out if another skill will work for you. The training ground is the best place to do things; you can’t really cost your team in a game! Reading up on things (there are guides around, I’ve no idea if my tips are of any use!), or getting access to a GK specific coach who can provide advice on things is going to be of great use. And when it comes to taking on board new skills, you need to be conscious of your options. Don’t dismiss things and be open-minded. See if it works; if it does great and work it in, if not, don’t! Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. Like match preparation, fail to try and you will!

Working it out

Work out what works for you is all relative. How you work out your ‘style’ relates to how you approach situations and how you like to play the scenario. For example, are you patient and wait to commit, or go early? Are you comfortable being aggressive and coming ‘off your line’? Do you prefer to attack the play and get involved in tackles or interceptions, or do you prefer to try and make the save? Do you bring your lhp (left hand protector/glove) across to make saves on your right, or do you prefer to use your rhp (right hand protector)? Do you like to use your feet in the splits to stop shots, or do you prefer to dive, on corners, say?

So on and so on. These are all things you need to take into account. When questioning how you play, you really to think about all parts of the game. Essentially your goalkeeping coach (if you’re lucky enough to have one!) should be able to analyse your style and strengths to a sufficient degree to tell you what works for you and what doesn’t. Otherwise it’s a case of self analysis or asking other goalkeepers at your club for their thoughts (if they’re happy to/know what they’re talking about!).

Style and save making

Ultimately, there will be times when the right save selection trumps ‘style’. When jumping and leaving your feet for the save is going to be better than trying to stop a flick from a standing position. When logging for a straight strike is going to be useful. When you should have committed to eliminating a pass and so on. These kinds of things will become more obvious, especially so if you get the proper coaching!

Obviously unique styles?

They are a few goalkeepers around that do play styles that are pretty much unique and hard to copy. Andrew Isaacs plays his ‘sweeper keeper’ style and gets involved in distribution. Simon Mason plays a style that is incredibly difficult to emulate, unless you’re very tall, athletic and very experienced! Essentially, they both play uniquely; they play their way and theirs only. And Oriol Fabregas (think he’s been involved in the Spanish national set-up) at RC Barcelona is supposed to play a throwback style of goalkeeping that seems to represent or be influenced by the 80s school of indoor goalkeeping; coming out to challenge, playing… etc. A lot of national league goalkeepers will play fundamentally in similar ways, but ultimately differ slightly in the way they stop shots or get involved in eliminating scoring chances. We are all different: as human beings and as goalkeepers!

Proper coaching?

Take on board what coaches have to say and work their advice into the way you play as a goalkeeper. They should be able to analyse your game and see how your strengths work for you. But I think goalkeeping coaches should be wary of moulding a goalkeeper into a fit that doesn’t fit their qualities, strengths and attributes. Arguably one of the dangers of regular coaching is that you don’t play to a goalie’s natural traits. Such as cutting down their athleticism too much or attacking play and turning them into a ‘blocker’ of shots, say. The danger is that a goalkeeping coach (I honestly don’t think this happens much in hockey, but can and does in other sports i.e. Jonas Gustavsson and Francois Allaire in the NHL perhaps!) moulds the goalkeeper to play a certain style, rather than appreciating the attributes of the goalkeeper they are working with. And on the other side, there are a lot of goalkeepers who will never get elite coaching let alone goalkeeper coaching, so it is for them more case in point to work out how the best play and work to their strengths; learning from others and games as they go along.

What kit works for you?

Similarly, you should take a look at what kit works for you. Another thing you should analyse when considering kit: it relates to your playing style and it has a direct influence on the way you play and make saves. Because different pads offer different properties and styles of play, you should be aware of pads that better suit an upright style and offer more stopping surface and so on. Or gloves that offer better rebound etc. Goalkeeping kit is expensive and if you don’t have a job you need some good sponsors (not sure if parents are always up for that, giving the speed youngsters grow at)! Even if your club provides your kit, you may not be in a position to do this kind of thing, so is obviously a little complicated.

Goalkeepers mixing brands in the EHL

I don’t want to tread on anyone’s toes or annoy certain goalkeepers’ sponsors, but it’s a little obvious to us goalie geeks and kit obsessed analysts when a goalkeeper is wearing a mix of brands. It might not be obvious, but it’s totally obvious to us goalie geek types (obsessed with kit)! It is possible to get options within a brand (say tube versus blocking rhp or style of pad), but mixing brands if you are aware of their features gives further opportunities to maximise kit for your playing style.

In the England hockey league, there are a few examples of goalkeepers who mix brands for certain qualities. Tom Millington went from full Obo to a Mercian lhp (Obo gloves are made to drop the ball, whereas a ‘square’/flat face will push away the rebound with more ping *theoretically*!), but is now obviously in full Mercian and interestingly switched to a tube style rhp, for example. Chris Hibbert has switched to Mercian foam, but still uses his Obo hi rebound rhp (not sure if he struggled to get used to the Mercian rhp design) and customised Obo chest pad with added bicep protection and Obo PE helmet. Chris Rea uses an Obo hi control rhp and the rest TK foam. Maddie Hinch in the women’s league, wears a Mercian Extreme chest pad (I think!), Rob Turner at Bowdon does too (at least he has the shoulders of a Mercian chest pad!). James Bailey too wears ice hockey shoulder caps for extra protection. David Kettle uses all Obo except a TK rhp (including chest and helmet!); some goalkeepers finding the smaller profile easier for ground work (diving, tackles, where the ball is on the ground, to clear etc.) which he has cut away the wrist padding, for more wrist movement/rotation flexibility.

In the Hoofdklasse, Pirmin Blaak uses a total mix; Brabo lhp, Obo hi rebound rhp, TK Soft pads and . Jenniskens uses Brabo pads, lhp and Obo hi rebound rhp. Same for Mark Jenniskens. I haven’t really seen much of this in the AHL as much as my awareness of that league goes, although the Obo chest pad seems pretty popular with some of their notable goalkeepers and it’s notable that Bazeley is still using Mazon elbow pads.

Play it your way!

Ultimately, you need to do things your way! You are you, you can’t be anyone else (in life and goalkeeping for that matter!), and so you need to work out your strengths, work on your weaknesses and develop into a way that plays to these qualities. Sure, there are times when you need to make a certain save selection, but playing to your strengths, like a patient and reflex based yet athletic/acrobatic style is going to be useful on corners and such. For kit too, try and look at options if you can (financing goalie kit is a little tricky sometimes!), just to give yourself the best options for maximising kit to suit the way you play.

Goalkeepers ‘are like wine’

Goalkeepers are always told they will reach their peak at a later age and though some defy this expectation with their abilities, it is often safe to say the goalkeeper has a harder time of getting first eleven game action! Like wine, mature and develop as your career goes on.

Although it is not impossible for a goalkeeper to play strongly at a young age, goalkeeping isn’t exactly a ‘boy’s game’. This is in the sense that it takes a lot of talent, a mature attitude, and experience of the speed of play and scenarios at the highest level, to really make it. Whilst there are many extremely talented goalkeepers who have got their break early playing at a much younger age than a mature veteran, maintaining this level takes experience. A goalkeeper with more experience should perform better as they can work off their experiences to develop awareness and ability to deconstruct the game. If you have been ‘around the block’ more you already have a head start. Whereas climbing the ladder is based on gaining crucial experience at each stage, experience of play at the highest level is undeniably important for making the switch to elite starter.



A good metaphor for the goalkeeping journey is wine; wine gets better with age and the best wine is theorised as a mature wine. Or whiskey if that’s your tipple! This is the same with goalkeepers: goalkeeping is all about experience and the ability to know what to do when something happens in the game, so gaining that experience is all important to achieving success. Like wine, goalkeepers need time to develop; the older they get, the better they get thanks to their game experiences. Playing 2s as a reserve is not the same standard as a 1st choice premier league starter, so there is quite a jump to be made.


Experience is so important to allowing a goalkeeper to perform at their best. Whilst reaction speeds and cannot be taught, experience needs to be learnt through playing (obviously!). And thus, the more a goalkeeper plays the better they should get as they grow accustomed to the rigours and tribulations of a season at the highest levels of hockey. Whereas a forward can come on as a replacement and come off the bench to play, a goalkeeper is there for the full 70 minutes, meaning they come under a lot of pressure to perform well week in week out, relying on their previous experiences to follow onto the next.


Wine gets better with age


Experience is like the maturing stage of wine in this metaphor. Goalkeepers are players that need experience and wisdom, so that they can make the timely save and play with consistency. Without it, they cannot succeed: they will not be able to know how to react to a bad game and end up letting their team down. Like wine, goalkeepers need time to get to their best. Outfield players are expected to have more of an immediate impact at a younger age breaking into a 1st XI, but goalkeepers often have to wait their turn.


The best goalkeepers are theoretically the older goalkeepers: they know what’s coming and they know how to react to it and deal with the play. They know how to get the job done and they know what it takes to compete. With all their experience, they can put it to work during the game when it becomes a tough match. Once goalkeepers reach their peak they will potentially be unstoppable, even if it will only be short lived; everything else up to that point is the work done to reach that level. Michael Mahood from Canada, considered one of the world’s best, was 36 or so before he retired. Of course, eventually reaction times will wane and you can become more prone to injury as you age.


If you look at the average age of most national league and international goalkeepers, you will see a common trend of older aged goalkeepers. As in older than 20 at least, but generally are nearer mid-20s and older! At home in England, Simon Mason (who was obviously GB’s no.1 for a long time) is currently playing National League at an old age; that says something about his ability to read the play and dominate the game. Chris Hibbert is going strong in his late thirties at Southgate and Simon Mason is nearing the big 4-0. If you take the National Premier League in England, 3 starters are 21 or younger, whereas the youngest in the conferences is about 23 (Phil Carr or Tommy Alexander), although Andrew Miller is 22 and Chris Rea 21; Old Loughtonians’ Chris Naven 22, whilst George Ratcliffe (21) is benching at Doncaster, though given a chance in indoor, as far as I know, but could be wrong about the general age range!


Reaching your peak

Goalkeepers aren’t really expected to hit their prime until their late 20s now, although the early 30s is what it is generally considered to be the time for that. Repetition of actions makes decision making easier as the goalkeeper should know exactly what to do for specific situations as a result of their experience. Positional awareness comes from the experience of being in the right position on multiple plays over time, so being on angle all the time and knowing where to be when at the right time is also a bi-product of game experience. Consistency develops as the goalkeeper gets used to playing at the highest level on a regular basis. Mistakes are made and you can learn from them to improve.


With confidence being the most important skill bar the technical side of things, a young goalkeeper tested too early can have their confidence crushed after a few shaky performances and may struggle to refind the form that got them to that position. 24 seems to be the bar that is being set for goalkeepers to be old enough to stand the rigours of being the starter, the age where they can be expected to take the reins. David Kettle for example is settling into a starting role at Surbiton and I don’t think Potton started as the first choice for EG until he was about that age. John Ruddy and Joe Hart in football really started to become elite goalkeepers at this age (Hart having a crucial season at Birmingham). So whilst I think there is a lowering of the age for a starter, they will still potentially and theoretically still hit their prime in their late twenties or early thirties as a result of game experience and improved ability to ‘read’ the play and what is about to or going to happen in front of them. Which is a good thing as they aren’t playing to their best just yet!


It is a good point to know that goalkeepers theoretically won’t peak and play at their best until they are about 33 years old; that seems like a long time if you’ve been playing in goal since you were 12 or so! Take Vogels for example; if you saw him before he retired, playing internationally, he played like a wise veteran and arguably the world’s best, whereas Stockmann was struggling a bit against teams internationally as he took over but has been recently finding great form and playing up to expectations as of late, to dramatic effect. Not that he isn’t any good but it was his first real experience of taking the starting spot at international level and experiencing the struggles of competing against the world’s best, like Nathan Burgers in his early days. Without sounding overly critical (they are the world’s elite after all!).


The exception to the rule

It’s not uncommon for a prodigal goalkeeper to be able to play at the elite level from a much younger age. Obviously it is important to get noticed early and prove you have talent, because making attempts at a later date to jump to the top is obviously much more difficult! Technique can be taught and experience can be gained but god given talent is not. A young goalkeeper with exceptional athletic ability and composure within their D is a rarity and yet not impossible. Like Niklas Sakowsky at Crefelder HTC, Antoni Kindler for Canada or Pirmin Blaak at Rotterdam. But everyone is unique and develops at different stages and times. The reasoning for getting recognised early is that coaching has developed enough for goalkeepers to get good access to developing their skills to the highest levels. Diccon Stubbings, Harry Martin and James Bailey are the latest crop of mercurial youngsters, with Patrick Smith waiting in the wings at Cannock, in England, for example


If elite athletes get the right coaching and are pushed properly they can quickly ascend the ladder rapidly if given the chance to shine, with the experience of higher level hockey increasing this development significantly. However, with the pressure to perform consistently and to a high level, the goalkeeper has to be incredibly mentally strong. Young people are often overly confident, so maturity and composure at a young age and not getting carried away with your own success is as true of goalkeeping as it is anything in life. A young goalkeeper with the correct level of mental strength and ‘cockiness’ and the play to back it up will go further than if they begin to self doubt. And good performances can be the assurance for psychological benefits.


Maturing like wine

Ultimately, your best goalkeeping years will be later on in your playing career, even if you show promise early on. Hard work, dedication and commitment will pay off eventually. If you have your heart set on playing the best you can (whether that be internationally, in national league or whatever else), be prepared to have to wait and be patient but retain that edge and drive to be able to get the chance and run away with it when it comes. Goalkeeping is something you need to work at it and learn from your experiences. Don’t think that you will suddenly become amazing, but be accepting that you will need to work for your opportunities and give it your best, so that one day you will be unstoppable! It is human to want everything now and be impatient, but you need to wait your turn. Like wine, let yourself develop with time and then grasp the starting job with all your might when you get the chance.

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.

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.

Solid foundations

Having a solid grasp of the basics and fundamentals will help you to play well as you move up the levels and improve as a goalkeeper.

In order to provide consistent performances for your team, you need to be proficient college paper writing service in your technique. That is to say you need a strong technique to base your save making from. For example, if you have weak positioning, then being caught out of position, shots are more likely to sneak by you, or you will have to dive or desperately over extend at every given opportunity. If you have a poor imbalanced ready stance, then it will be difficult to control rebounds on the save or will end up on your backside flailing around against a secondary shot! The more you work on improving technique and developed a strong core foundation to make saves from, the better your match performances will be.


Ensuring you have strong foundations

The key to strong performances as a goalkeeper, other than a confident mindset, is obviously down to technique. The stronger your technique, the better placed you are to make first and then secondary saves, to break down scoring attacks through rebound control and aggressive interceptions and so on. But your application of technique filters down to a strong foundation, which is a good ready stance, positioning and understanding of angles. The better your foundational technique, the better equipped you are to stop everything that comes your way. You don’t build a house on sand, unless you want it to slip away! Like the metaphor, you need to work on having solid foundations so you don’t have a poor season (one excellent game does not a good goalkeeper make!).


Of course, unless you have the privilege of having a goalkeeper specific coach to work with, or the help of a more experienced goalkeeper (who actually knows what they’re talking about!), it’s going to be difficult to work on improving your technique. However, there are some things you can work on without a coach, like positioning and your ready stance, making a self enforced effort to practise it in training. There are also useful guides like Kathleen Partridge’s goalkeeping manual (http://www.kathleenpartridge.com/book.aspx) or you can learn something watching high level games in person or on sites like youtube.


Identifying weak traits

If you have the ambition and desire to play at the highest levels, then you need to be able to filter out poor technique and work to develop solid save technique. In order to play to the highest level, you need to have well defined basic technique. If you don’t and you get the chance to play at a higher level, then this will quickly be exposed and you will be torn to shreds! For example, poor rebound control, by not turning the shot away, can lead to another unnecessarily allowed shot on goal by redirecting it to a free attacker. Scrambling around unnecessarily, or ending up on your backside from a save are sure signs of poor positioning and poor balance. As much as those laudable amazing saves are fun to do, you need to .


Over used ‘flashy’ saves

Aside from obvious weaknesses in technique, there is also the danger of being too or over athletic. That’s not to say you won’t be required to pull off those spectacular, mind boggling saves every so often to keep your team in it! Of course as goalkeepers we need to be very agile and athletic, but being so when it is not necessary is not needed. Rather, I’ve heard stories of goalies that changed the way they played to try and get noticed when looking to play national league, making those dramatic saves to try and get the attention of the coaching staff. By changing the way they played and looking to make the amazing saves rather than focusing on basic technique, they hampered their ability to perform consistently well. Of course unfortunately some coaches are privy to selecting such a goalkeeper but it is better to be known for providing a strong, consistent performance with no mistakes. Think of Gomes at Tottenham; do you want to be known for your awe inspiring saves and then inability to make the basic ones or string of mistakes? Playing at the top level is obviously a mix of the high end and basic saves, but ensuring you don’t make easy mistakes and let easy ones through you is more important than stopping than unstoppable in most cases.


Let the difficult saves take care of themselves   

A good football (soccer) saying is “take care of the easy saves and the difficult ones will take care of themselves”. Whilst making those amazing saves is great fun, if every save is overdone, such as having to dive around unnecessarily (that is to say diving at every shot because you are not set on angle or out of position) due to being off angle, then you probably need to rethink the way you are playing. That’s not to say these saves aren’t important, but there’s a time and place for them. Those “flashy” looking saves actually come from good initial positioning and then good footwork and agility to get behind the shot and then strong athleticism to reach the ball. In truth, you’re only really going to be diving against short corners, deflections, or a secondary shot where you are at the other side of goal and have to scramble across to block. Once you have got strong technique, the intangibles of reaction speeds, athleticism and mental strength come into play. You can’t really know how you will perform at a higher level, which is why building strong foundations will help your development and enable you to play to the best of your ability. It is the faster speed and better plays that will draw out these qualities (or not as the case may be!).


Strong technique

A strong technique is based around strong understanding of angles and positioning and a good ready stance. The natural ability of reactions and reflexes then come into play, as do athleticism and agility. However, without the ground works, you cannot expect to make quality saves against difficult shots. The following are a few possibilities of areas that you demonstrate good basic technique:


  • Strong ready stance applied throughout the course of the game, from which the goalkeeper is able to react
  • Strong awareness of angles and positioning
  • Obvious first save reactions, but also the ability to control rebounds
  • Good foot work to move into position for the save
  • Strong centre of core balance to help control the save and rebound
  • Good recovery and agility to get back into place for the second save
  • Patience in reacting (i.e. not going down too early)
  • Ability to ‘read’ the play and strong decision making


The following is a good example of a goalkeeper with a strong ready stance and positioning making well executed saves:



Strong foundations lead to success

Ultimately, for you to have a strong season in between the sticks, you need to have solid foundations within your technique. It is obviously difficult to work on improving technique without the assistance of a goalkeeper coach, but focusing on the basics like positioning, angles, ready stance, balance and focusing on the ball and reading the play will help lead to greater success. Remember that it is more important to get behind the shot and stop it, than it is to have to dramatically dive in extension to reach the ball even if at times you might have to!

Mistake making

Making sure you don’t make regular mistakes and are able to bounce back from them is important for consistently good goalkeeping.

Making mistakes as a goalkeeper is quite an important issue to deal with. With the prospect of upsetting your whole team by a bit of mess up can make the experience of playing in goal a whole lot more traumatising. As they say, sport is 10 skill and 90 psychological, so being able to overcome a significant blip in form is incredibly important in providing your team with confidence in your ability and chance to backstop them to victory. How you deal with mistakes and bounce back from them you illustrate how well you handle adversity and compose yourself.


Oops! The sight of the repercussions of a goalkeeper ‘fail’.


Making mistakes

Starting out as a goalkeeper, it can be easier to make mistakes more readily because of inexperience and lack of training and confidence. But as you develop, you want to be providing solid goalkeeping for your team, with them expecting a good, consistent level of goalkeeping where you make the important stops and more importantly don’t give away easy, avoidable goals. As you look to provide consistency within a season to help your team push for a league topping performance, you also need to work on your consistency within games, making sure you don’t slip up and give away a goal because of poor decision making or the ball squeezing through you. Well executed, practically unstoppable goals are forgivable, whereas your team won’t take kindly to a goal effectively caused by you.


Types of mistake

Allowing shots through you is a good example of a mistake made in field hockey. James Bailey let in such a goal between the legs against the KHC Dragons in the recent Euro Hockey League games and is the kind of example of where you don’t want to be allowing goals through you. Shots wide of you are more forgivable, but through you, which are just as difficult to stop, your team mates don’t want to see, whilst this is down to good footwork and balance. Other mistakes can be caused by wrong decision making; rushing out at the wrong time to tackle or going down too early on a 1-on-1 for example. Coming out for an interception and missing, leaving the post at the right time or messing up a rebound and sending it out to another to attack to drill it home are others.



A simple explanation for regular occurrences of mistakes is a lack of mental strength. As soon as you make one big mistake, your whole game can fall apart leaving you wondering why you got out of bed to play the match! A mental collapse in confidence often leads to further goals as you question and doubt your shot stopping abilities and needs to be readdressed, so you need refocus and forget about the goal, moving forward and making sure you do your best not to concede in a similar way. Similarly, over thinking and over analysing can lead to mistakes as you are unsure what to do, like De Gea’s run last season at Manchester United. Instead, going with your goalie heart and reacting to events rather than trying to hard will make up for this. Wrong decision making can equally be caused by lack of understanding of how to deal with a situation, which requires experience and also awareness of what a goalkeeper should do in a certain situation, so asking coaches and team members advice, as well as looking for information on what to do should help you out.



Howlers and bloopers: the ones where goalkeepers are humiliated for a pretty awful slip-up, compiled for video and internet viewing; the types of goals that are every goalkeeper’s living nightmare and which cannot be easily erased. Ones like football’s Rob Green letting the ball squeeze through him against USA, a similar gaffe by Scott Carson, Paul Robinson’s miskick and the list goes on! Some goalkeepers, like Manuel Neuer (one of the world’s best right now in soccer) are amazing shot stoppers and make few mistakes, but the ones they do, are pretty catastrophic. I guess in some cases it’s better to make as few as possible, even if they are more worse when they happen!


Of course these are football related, and in terms of hockey, there aren’t many I can think of that come to mind, but Max Weinhold’s goals through him at the Olympics stand out the most. But because a goalkeeper makes the occasional ‘blooper’, if they can make the important saves to keep the score close and win the game, does that mean they shouldn’t be playing? ‘Bloopers’ can ruin a career, with people remembering them more than good performances and can be a goalkeeper’s downfall, so it is best to make sure they never happen!


The following clip, whilst of football, shows considerable errors such as this:



Eliminating mistakes

Making mistakes as said earlier can often be a mental (psychological) game problem as much as it is a technical one. Not getting too weighed down with the pressures of goalkeeping and learning to play ‘in the zone’ should help, whilst ironing out technical errors through practise and training should translate to performing well during games. Sometimes training well does not translate to good games, but working hard will pay dividends eventually. The need to iron out making mistakes is important for regular success as a goalkeeper. If mistakes are all too common and a regular occurrence, then something needs sorting out! To be considered an elite goalkeeper (at whatever competitive level), you need to give away mistakes which are few and far between because your team relies on you to not give away easy goals that considerably affect their chances of winning.


Being reliable

In football, they call it being a ‘safe pair of hands’ i.e. you’re not going to cause a calamity when you go out to catch a cross or a save, safely collecting or catching the ball instead. You may be able to make outstanding, spectacular saves to deny the opposition, but it is also the goalkeeper’s job to not mess up and give away a terribly easily ‘giveaway’ to the opposition. Gomes in his early days at Tottenham is an obvious example: a goalkeeper who can make the amazing, unbelievable saves, but is prone to letting in howlers like in the Champions league game later in his career (which decided his fate, with Friedel coming in as a replacement). Being an elite goalkeeper is a mix of the incredible and the mundane; you need to be able to do the basics well and also make the cracking saves your team don’t expect you to make!


Avoid mistakes!

Ultimately, you want to do your best to avoid making mistakes that could cost your team and gift the opposition a win. Working on technique and getting strong mentally, playing confidently even if such a goal is scored, is definitely important to being consistent throughout a match and the total season. Not over thinking and being able to bounce back from such a goal will ensure that you provide good goalkeeping for your team.

Learning from the ‘sweeper keeper’ myth?

Looking ‘outside the box’, I think something can be learnt about goalkeeping from the soccer ‘sweeper keeper’ myth.

The mythological concept of the ‘sweeper keeper’ comes from football (or soccer to those outside the influence of the British Isles!) where playing a more attacking and fluid passing style means the goalkeeper has to be more active in their defensive role. As last line of defence, they become more essential to ‘sweeping up’ (I don’t think that’s what it’s meant to mean, but I feel it’s appropriate to the explanation!) back passes and start outlet passes via strong distribution to set up attacks on the opposition’s goal. Whilst it may not be the idealised version of a goalkeeper you would expect in (field) hockey, I believe something can be gleaned from the methodology and applied to the way we ‘keep’ our goals.

Stuart Hendy comes out to intercept a pass.


The theory

The myth and theory originally comes from the pioneering playing style of Gyula Grosics. The Hungarian goalkeeper playing in the 1950s is credited with the revolutionary approach. With a high defensive line, the goalkeeper is often left with a large gap between them and the defensive line. The goalkeeper essentially acts as an extra defender, coming off the line and sometimes out of their area to quash attacks and also calmly distribute the ball to their defence. The ‘sweeper keeper’ has all the desired attributes of a modern goalkeeper; agile, quick, and comfortable on and off the ball. Victor Valdes of Barcelona is seen as the atypical modern version, comfortable with the ball at his left or right foot and able to make pinpoint passes, is said to look so comfortable with the ball at his feet to be able to play in midfield! Hugo Lloris (who has recently joined Tottenham) is said to be the missing piece of a puzzle AVB is putting together, centred around fluid, passing and attacking play.


Here you can see Valdes operating as an extra defender, giving his team options as they are pressed by the opposition:




The following link gives better insight from the soccer perspective:




How can it apply to hockey?

When it comes to looking to apply this style to hockey, thinking outside of the box to reflect on can be a good way of new ways of developing the goalkeeping approach. The new penalty shuttles have shown how pro-active and aggressive the modern goalkeeper needs to be. The more a team pushes forward and plays an active, aggressive press deep into the opposition’s half, the higher the defence plays and therefore the more open to attack the goalkeeper becomes. By stepping off their line and treating the D as theirs to control and defend, the goalkeeper is more able to shut down scoring chances. With the change in free hits to allow aerials, the goalkeeper needs to be prepared for more aerial threats into the D at the higher level, which become more dangerous when the defence is playing a high press.


Acting like a fifth defender is not as uncommon in indoor hockey, with a mobile and aggressive style befitting the fast paced game. Peter McNally in the 80s of Australia acted like an extra player, able to trap with the glove and then play the ball with his stick, along with Scott Kovacs and now Andrew Charter, demonstrate the aptitude of aggressive goalkeeping to shut down scoring chances by working in unison with their defence. However, in terms of the outdoor game, there is little to comment on, but there are some who show a more attacking style in the way their defend their goal. The French style of goalkeeping in hockey often follows the indoor style, with a pro-active and aggressive style which sees the D as the goalkeeper’s role to protect. Julien Thamin was famous for his pro-active approach with the French international team and St Germain HC. I have noticed examples in the England Hockey League of pro-active goalkeeping, with Andrew Isaacs at Havant comfortable coming out his goal to punt away aerials thrown into his D, whilst Stuart Hendy regularly comes off his line to intercept passes in the D.


The following link (didn’t want to plagiarise the photos!) demonstrates Isaac’s style, with pictorial evidence of a goalkeeper active within their D:




Comfortable with the ball at your feet

Whilst hockey goalies aren’t expected to hoof the ball up the pitch to set up a goal (although I’ve seen it done at the national league level!) we can learn a lot from football in the need to be comfortable with the ball. In essence, as goalkeepers we should be comfortable with our kicking enough to act as a passing option. A couple of times I have had to bail out my defence and acting like an extra defender, was able to pass the ball back to them or rush out to kick away a pass into the D and save their blushes. Like a football goalkeeper with strong kicking ability, the field hockey goalkeeper should also have strong kicking skills; able to kick with both feet strongly to distance with strong technique. The ability to come out off the line to intercept or kick away a pass into the D with distance to the sidelines, is an important part of goalkeeping.


Actively out to challenge

When faced with a lack of defensive support and having your team push up to push for a goal, you need to be ready to come out and challenge the play. By acting like an extra defender and coming off your line, you offer your team mates the chance to slow down the play; challenging the ball carrier, which in turn gives your team mates extra time necessary to get back into position and provide support to defend the goal. Similarly, whenever a ball gets through, you should be prepared to come out and clear it, like you will soccer goalies do. Just like Casillas rushing out of his box to knock away a high ball with his head, or sliding out with the feet to block (we would have to use the stick!), hockey goalkeepers can sometimes be seen shutting down scoring opportunities by sliding out with the stick to prevent a one on one. This is an elite skill and needs confidence and practise, but if executed well will shut down a potential goal.


At 5:08 you can see Manu Leroy (of KHC Dragons) pulling off such a feat:





Hendy comes out to challenge.


Pro-active positioning

‘Sweeper keeping’ like an extra defender revolves around aggressive positioning: able to read the play well, the goalkeeper can respond to what occurs in front of them from active positioning at the top of the D. Closer to the edge of the D, you will be quicker out to aerials or long passes into the D, ready to challenge a breakaway player or unchallenged players coming into the D. By being prepared to come off your line actively, you stand a better chance of shutting down scoring chances and preventing goals through pro-active goalkeeping involved in the play.



On their goal line, the goalkeeper gives away too much space to go through on goal.



Off their line, the goalkeeper is more able to challenge a pass or player.


Whilst it is a basic example (and not off hockey!), the following illustrates a goalkeeper challenging the angles and pushing up off their line:




Protecting your ‘house’!

The American phrase often used in field hockey refers to the need to dominate your area. It complements the theory of sweeper keeping, with the recognition that is more than just your goal, but your D, that you are guarding. The idea that you need to protect more than just your two posts is essential to strong goalkeeping and a more broadened role of supporting your back line. By ‘protecting your house’ in an active way, it helps reassure your team with a commanding, dominant presence, knowing that you are ready to come out and shutdown scoring chances yourself.


Playing as a ‘sweeper keeper’

Playing like a ‘sweeper keeper’ will obviously as listed previously, involve acting like an extra defender; prepared to come out and play the ball away or shut down attacks. The more active you are in the D, the more agile and physically fit you will need to be. As soon as you go out and down to block or intercept, you need to be up on your feet as soon as possible, before getting back into position to stop further shots at goal. Strong decision making and confidence in your ability will obviously be important as you don’t want to be giving unnecessary goals or getting stranded and out of position.


At 3:24 you can see a great example of pro-active goalkeeping:




The following are examples of ‘sweeper keeping’:


  • Aggressively challenging breakaways
  • Making interceptions against passed plays
  • Coming to the edge of the D to sweep away the ball with the stick, or using the stick to intercept outside the D
  • Attacking base line runs with slide tackles
  • Coming off your line to deal with aerials into the D
  • Being alert to rebounds; actively coming out to kick clear a deadened rebound etc.


Being a ‘sweeper keeper’

Ultimately, considering the role of the ‘sweeper keeper’ should cause you to rethink the goalkeeping position. Whilst the buzz phrase of ‘sweeper keeping’ is a good way of attributing the skills of a commanding goalkeeper, it is a good way of reflecting on your activity within the D. In essence, the theory acknowledges the need for goalkeepers to be more than shot stoppers. A key part of goalkeeping is to deny scoring chances through interceptions and the like, rather than allow shots to come in. By recognising this you can develop into a stronger and more commanding goalkeeper that your defence has trust in.

Quantity versus quality?

When analysing performance, quality of saves versus quantity of shots is a point of interest.

Having played on teams where I got regularly shelled with shots, I often wondered whether being able to save the vast majority of them meant I was a better goalkeeper than those opposing ’keepers who had less work to do. However, as I moved up the leagues and changed teams, my opinion changed as I realised the importance of being able to make key saves at important times. Making that all important save can be a game changer, influencing the outcome of the game if the current score is close or the game is tied. By being able to make crucial saves when it counts, you are going to give your team a better chance of winning the game.


Quantity of shots

The strength of your defence and the way you organise it (as I wrote about recently) will have a big influence over the number of shots and scoring chances you will face in a game. Whilst you don’t always want to be facing a lot of shots, it can actually have a positive knock-on effect depending on how you play the ‘mental game’. I personally found myself to be a ‘rhythm’ goalkeeper (a term used for ice hockey goalies which refers to playing in a rhythm) as I would find it easier to concentrate better and play better when facing a lot of shots. If you consistently face a lot of shots, don’t take it personally and think of it more as a training session so you don’t get disheartened. I found it a quick way to learn the position being thrown in the deep end!


Quality matters

If you have strong technique and are a good shot stopper, then you are obviously going to be able to stop shots that are otherwise going to beat you. Whilst having more shots to stop looks better on paper, since your shots saved versus shots will obviously be a good representation of your ability, it is important to remember that the quality of shots is a better way of seeing how good you are. If the shots are easy (i.e. ‘soft’ goals if you fail to make the save), then a lot of easy saves aren’t going to test your core foot work and save technique, for example.


Quality over quantity

When playing competitively at good levels of hockey, you will notice that when playing behind a strong defence you will obviously face less scoring opportunities, which in essence makes your life harder! Any scoring chance therefore becomes more important because when the opposition does break through they are more likely to produce a shot that really tests you because they cannot waste opportunities. This in turn means that you are going to have to be prepared to stop it! With less shots coming your way, you also have to be much more alert because losing your attention and ‘dropping off’ will mean you make yourself beatable.


The following clip demonstrates this, with a close game and few shots:




Strong mindset

In contrast, facing few but hard to save shots is going to test your ability. Every shot is essentially an opportunity to prove yourself and focusing on a closed mindset of ‘one save at a time’ will help you direct your efforts and continue playing to a high level. Playing like it’s ‘0-0’ will also direct your attention away from worrying about the score line and help you focus on stopping those shots.


Quality not quantity

Ultimately, however many shots you face, you need to be able to stop shots no matter the quality. It could be argued that no matter the number of shots you face, when it comes down to the crunch, you need to save them! I think it’s harder to be a goalkeeper on a strong defensive team because if you only face one goal and you fail to stop it, you are going to under more scrutiny. Whilst it’s not really that fun to face a ridiculous amount of shots (as it can be disheartening over a long period of time), as you improve and get the chance to play on better teams, you’ll recognise the need to perform at key times in the match when it matters the most.