Being consistent

Playing to a consistent level is going to help you do better over a season and the long term!

Playing to a consistent level is a major part of goalkeeping. Learning how to provide your team with a standard of shot stopping ability they can trust and are confident with becomes the backbone for success. Without it, how do you expect to have a good run during a season? It’s all well and good playing a “blinder” but if you can’t repeat the success next game, what good is it? Coaches are more inclined to pick a goalkeeper who is shown to be consistent and can continue that consistency at a higher level. This is true whether it is at club level or international: if you play well and stop the ball and are giving your team the best chance of winning, then you are more likely to get picked!


Why the need?

When playing for a long stretch of games, you obviously want to be putting in good performances on a regular basis. Not only is it going to help you win a league or tournament, but will show your team and coaching staff that you have what it takes and provide good goalkeeping at critical times no matter the occasion. The better you play, the better your team plays. A team who can trust their goalkeeper to make the timely saves is theoretically more confident going forward, since they have less to worry about being scored on and therefore will increase their scoring chances. By playing confidently and having confidence in your team, everybody wins!


Tracking consistency

Whereas in American sports they are inclined to track save percentages and goals allowed for each and every goalie performance, it seems harder to analyse how well a goalkeeper performs over a longer period of time. You could always work out the stats for yourself to find a good average; working out a medium level that you can work to improve from. Obviously the more wins you record the better, but by tracking down a base level of shots stopped or games won or goals allowed, you can work on improving your . Other factors like the quality of your defence and your experience (which helps with decision making and playing confidently) will come into play, but at the end of the day, the more shots you stop, the more you give your team the chance of winning on a regular basis.


How to play consistently

Playing consistently is all down to a good ‘mental game’ (which is a very big topic and will hopefully be looked at in more detail in other articles). Learning to play well at away pitches and overcome difficulties that affect your psychological mindset will set you up well for being able to play consistently whatever the game. The more confident you are, the better you will play over an extended period of games.


The trick to playing with consistency is to play your best and give it your all. Even if you lose, you want to make sure you only lost by a goal or two. Heavy defeats are going to affect your analysis of your ability to perform well, whilst going from play really well to playing poorly are not going to look good either.


Playing consistently

The ability to play consistently also comes down to experience. Whilst young goalkeepers can show a lot of talent early on, the more games you have and played and the more experience you have under your belt, is a decisive factor in your ability to turn out a good performance regularly. Unlike outfield players, goalkeepers don’t reach their playing peak until late into their twenties or early thirties, so “earning your colours” will eventually help you turn out strong seasons.


A consistent goalkeeper is one who plays well no matter what. In spite of how well the team performs, the goalkeeper plays well. Consistency is shown by the goalkeeper’s ability to provide their team with the chance to win in good games and bad. If you take a look at the elite goalies in pro sport, you’ll notice the quality of the better performing goalkeepers. Not only do elite goalies steal their team wins but they play well throughout the season, not going through bad patches that cost their team points. Brad Friedel, for example, (even though he is in the twilight of his career) is a very good unsung goalkeeper who provides consistency for his team and has done for a number of teams over a number of seasons.


Be consistent!

Ultimately, you need to try and be consistent in each and every game over your each year’s season and also your entire playing career! Setting yourself a goals against target or number of wins a season can be a way of working towards self improvement and consistency. The key to consistency is simple. Play every game the same; have the same attitude no matter if you think they’re ‘easy wins’ or difficult games and you will find yourself performing at a good standard throughout the season.

Never say never!

Never giving up on the play shows good mental strength and the determination to win.

When it seems that all is lost and the ball is goal bound and you’re surely going to concede, it can be easy to just simply give in and accept defeat. But that’s where you’re wrong! I’ve made plenty of saves desperately scrambling back to deny a goal scoring opportunity and due to the effort in recovering ground and not giving up on the play, have been able to stop a goal being scored. It can be quite an achievement, let alone lead to a great deal of satisfaction just to wipe the smile off the shooter’s face. Isn’t that what goalkeeping is all about?! Too many times have I watched highlights on Match of the Day with football (soccer) goalies simply watching the ball go past them, normally on free kicks (although arguably you could say you can’t be too critical as at that level the ball travels so fast they know they’ve been beat). Wouldn’t you rather give it your best shot (not sure if that can be considered a pun!) and see if you can stop it?


Diving back

One way of dealing with such a scenario is to dive back on the play; diving back towards goal, trying to reach the shot. This is easier said than done, but if the ball is on the pitch and need lifted, then is obviously easier to pull off! Against a passing play you can cut the angle if the ball is headed towards you. That said if the ball looks like it’s about to cross the line but you have the time to stop it, diving back with your stick extended can stop it in its tracks. Although it’s a different sport altogether, you’ll find plenty of highlight reel saves by ice hockey goalies who reach back behind them to stop the puck crossing the line.


Don’t give up!

Essentially you need to have a never give up attitude in order to stop yourself being beaten. Normally you expect to have to dive across or recover from an initial save where the ball has shot out (if the shot was difficult to control), if you are to make the stop. How you make the save is obviously dependent on the situation. If you’re out in the door leaving an “empty goal” for the shooter, then you’ll probably need to sprint across to get in its way, whilst if you are faced with an immediate follow up, you’ll need to do your best to recover into your ready stance quickly to make the next save. Similarly, if you have been beaten on a 1-on-1, then you can attempt to get back into your zone to get in the way of the shot, or run parallel to try and cut off the shooting lane.


A good drill to practise this mentality is one I was taught a while ago dubbed “the killer” (because of how much it will wear you out!) which is apparently used by goalkeeper coaches in Holland. The drill starts off with three balls in a line, the goalkeeper runs out, slides to clear away the ball and then has to run back to try and stop a ball the coach has thrown towards goal. This process is repeated, testing the goalkeeper’s mental and physical strengths. It basically teaches you to never give up on the play, running back to try and stop the ball crossing the line. If you can do it in drills then surely you can pull it off in games!


The following is a clip of South Korea’s goalkeeper Myung-Ho Lee making three concurrent saves in spectacular fashion in the 2009 men’s Champions Trophy tournament in Melbourne. He makes the initial save before recovering to make the second, before launching himself across the goal mouth to deny the Australians. With all that effort no wonder he ends up out of breath! And who says you can’t be unbeatable?!



Never surrender!

Ultimately, all it takes is a desire to stop every shot. Whilst it’s up to you and your confidence, you can try and make yourself unbeatable in games. Trying to stop everything thrown at you (or should that be fired or shot at you?!) and a desire to keep a big “0” or a clean sheet shows your team mates how much you want to win and should hopefully rub off them and inspire them. Remember, never say never! A ‘can do’ attitude is all it takes!

Are you a ‘fighter’?

Fighting for your starting spot in a club or team is important for success!

Not that I condone violence or anything (showing passion for your sport doesn’t mean you need to get in a full on brawl; that’s ice hockey you’re thinking of!), but to really put yourself to the test and evolve your game, you’ll need to show some fighting spirit. Champions are those that overcome adversity and challenges to reach their peak. It’s lonely at the top because it takes a lot of willpower to get there. As in life, things won’t always go your way; you have to step up to the mark and tough it out. Some things are worth fighting for and if you really want to go far in hockey and see how good you really are, then you’ll do whatever it takes to get there.


A metaphor for competitiveness!


Why bother?

Obviously if you are going to look to step up your competitively, you’ll begin to question why you bother. As you grow up (or you’ve already reached that stage!) you’ll realise that as much as it saddens me to say it, over things will become a priority (after all you’ll need a job to pay for equipment when you’re too old for your parents to and such like!). What would make you get up early on a weekend to go play in the cold and wet? Why would you go through a long training session after a hard day at what? So, what it boils down to essentially is: how much do you love goalkeeping? And who doesn’t? And if you don’t, then why are you in goal?! It’s the love of the game that keeps us playing and if you lose sight of that enjoyment you may end up giving up on goalkeeping altogether.


Why do you need to?

If you are young and want to attempt to get the opportunity to represent your country or at that stage where you are ready to make the step to progress to national league play, then you are going to be in with a hard task. You might think you’re working hard but even if you are, be assured that out there the ones who already compete at this level are already working hard, if not harder than you. To be in with a chance of outdoing them and taking the spot, you have to be working ten times as hard as them or something like that! To make sure you out do the competition, you really have to give it your all.


Even if you are lucky enough to be in that position of being the first choice, then you still have to keep going with your efforts. If you get too comfortable being the number one and you start slipping up, then the chances are you’ll have someone nipping at the heels (hopefully inspired by this article!) that is looking to take your spot. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of competition after all! Hockey is unfortunately an amateur sport in most countries and if you ever did get the chance to represent your country at the highest level there is (like at the upcoming Olympics), then it would take a lot of sacrifice and commit to make it happen.


How to fight

If you are going to go about making an effort with your goalkeeping, then it shouldn’t really be an issue of how to go about it. For example, I heard about a guy who would jog a lap of the pitch before kitting up and then jog a lap after the game before warming down. If you have that stamina after putting in all your effort into playing well throughout the game, then you’re on to something! That being said I followed the advice! Go the extra mile, make every second count. Work hard in training and set yourself targets of how may shots you can stop. In games take responsibility for your mistakes and let your defence know that it was your fault because it will help develop team spirit (they don’t always like taking the blame after all!). Perseverance is key to making a go of things and it’s all about sticking out the tough times. So you had a bad game? So what! Make sure you make amends in the next one. So you didn’t get a clean sheet and you feel responsible for it because the team played well? Again, acknowledge it and move on!


Have you got what it takes?

Your fighting spirit will depend on how much you want it. I used to get the train up to London from my parent’s house for a return journey that clocked in at about three years (not that I let the club know!) because I had landed the opportunity to fight for a reserve spot with a national premier league team (although I’m not sure why I’m letting the secret out now!). Of course I was working (my studies meant the opportunity filtered out in the end), but I make the extra commitment to travel that distance and landed the spot. I found an opportunity where I could be noticed and took it by the horns, having been overlooked time and again by bigger clubs and throughout county and other trials. The moral of that story (if you want to learn from it!), is that when opportunity knocks you should be ready to take it and do your best when you do.


Go out and fight for it!

Ultimately not all of us goalkeepers want to play nationally or at high domestic league level, but for those that do, you’re going to need to fight every last round for the chance to play at the top. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of self improvement and desire to be the best you can be. So you may not be waiting by the telephone for someone to ring you up and let you know you’re in with a chance of making the reserves for the Olympic squad, but who’s to say you can’t go about working to be the best goalkeeper in your league or club? So go on, go out and make a difference!

The Mental Aspects of Goalkeeping

A great resource download for all you amazing people on staying sharp between the ears!

Here is a great resource for all you amazing people….its written by Francesco Staps who’s tried to help all goalkeepers “stay sharp between the ears!”

Francesco’s 18 page PDF has been written in Dutch and also translated with some help from Keepers Resources writer Dan Pilgrim and Marjolein Kamstra.

This great resource even has its own website – and some download links to the PDF’s are below…


Great work Francesco!

Maintaining concentration

It is important to maintain concentration throughout the game. If you play on a strong team and don’t face many shots, then you will need to stay alert for long periods of time, even though you having nothing to do, until you face a shot, so you can readily stop it. This is an art form which is difficult to craft, but if you can, you will be very successful.

The goalkeeper’s main job is obviously to stop the ball and if , it can be difficult. The ability to stop shots, according to sport psychology, depends on your “arousal level” (i.e. how awake and alert you are), which means that you have to be for the whole game, not just parts of it. That’s why it is often easier to play against a high scoring team who will put a lot of shots on goal; allowing you to get into the ‘zone’ and build up rhythm, and there are goalkeepers who succeed at facing a lot of shots on a team with poor defence. However, if you face a small number of shots during the whole game, which are also of good quality (as the shooter only has that one chance to score and will make the most of it, compared to having lots of chances by simply regularly shooting at goal), then you need to be ‘awake’ for the whole time, ready to face those shots.

Therefore in order to be able to do the job of save making, you have to be able maintain a strong level of concentration for the whole game; fully focused on the task at hand, whilst also being able to keep up a level of consistent pressure on yourself, so that you are mentally prepared to stop a shot when it comes.

Not ‘mentally awake’

Not being mentally ‘awake’ is hazardous to your chances of making the save when it is most important. The biggest danger to your chances of properly concentrating for a full stretch, which can be made more difficult if you have little to do. To maximise your ability to be ready for every change in the game and every shot as it happens, you need to be ‘switched on’; ready and alert to what is happening, so that you can react when called upon. It is not humanly possible to concentrate all the time, and we cannot expect for that to be the case: however, you do have to make a concise effort to work on your concentration. If you want to be able to deal with immediate action when it occurs, often in the blink of an eye, then you have to work on maintaining concentration during a game.

It is often easy to ‘drop off’ or day dream, or ‘fall asleep’ on the play, which is dangerous territory if you end up facing a breakaway you were not ready for. Since you ‘switch off’ when the ball is not in your team’s half, it is easy to get distracted and bored, leading to a major drop in concentration levels. Not getting a good night’s sleep can attribute to this. If you don’t have the energy and are too burnt out to concentrate, then you will not be able to. Your attention span is also a key factor. When you are younger, your attention span is shorter, so it is essentially a lot harder for a younger goalkeeper (especially under 15) to be able to pay attention for such a seemingly long time as 70 minutes. As such, it is easier to face more shots because you have less concentrating to do as you focus on stopping shots. However, you can work on elongating your attention span, like doing some ‘brain’ or mental training (with various methods).

If you are “dozing off”, then you're not fully 'switched on' for action. Notice that the goalkeeper is looking the other way from the ball and is not in a ready stance, even though the player is just outside the D.

Staying focused in the game

In order to focus and remain focused, you have to force yourself to ‘stay awake’, if you want to have any chance of stopping every single shot and dealing with every broken play during a game. If you want to be able to call your defence to help, then you need to be watching: watching requires your focus. The easiest thing to focus on is the ball, as it is the obvious source of action. Maintain focus on the ball ALL the time, so that you are fully aware of what’s going on. Be completely focused, so that you can maintain your concentration.

Concentration levels

Although your main aim is to be fully alert, all the time, it is not possible; trying to do so, you could wear yourself out by the first quarter of the game. As we are human and prone to lapses in concentration, you can’t always expect to be tuned in to the flow of the game all the time. As much as it is important to be fully focused at all times on the play and where the ball is, it is just as important to conserve energy, so that you can save it for later on. Think about what would happen if you were trying to concentrate for the whole game, only to collapse in the last five minutes (as you ran out of energy); the most important part of the game, where the winner is decided.

The following is a rough percentage guide to how much you should be alert according to where the ball is:

  • When the ball is in the opposition’s D, you should be 5% ready for action
  • When the ball is in the opposition’s ’25’, be 15% ready
  • When the ball is at the half way line, you need to be 35% ready
  • When the ball is past the half way line, be 50% ready
  • When the ball is outside the D you should be 65% ready for action
  • When the ball is inside the D you should be 75% ready for a shot
  • When someone is lining up for a shot, you should be 100% ready!

This does not cover other scenarios. On set plays, like a short corner or penalty flick, you should be 100% ready to start with, as you cannot afford to not be paying attention.

Obviously your concentration levels will change throughout the game depending on what is happening. However, what stays the same needs to be your intensity; making an effort to keep up your interest in the game. Remember: you can be caught ‘napping’ by the opposition, like being too far off the line, or in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the top level being beaten by an aerial pass into the D (which is then deflected for a goal) is just an example. You need to aware of these situations and ready to act, so you don’t get beaten by them.


  • if your team is in control of the ball then you can be more relaxed (until they lose possession!)
  • if an attacker is in control of the ball then you should be more alert and focused on the danger of a scoring chance
  • change your level of concentration according to where the ball is on the pitch and the relating danger of facing shots
  • try to conserve energy, so that you are ready in the last minutes of the game
  • force yourself to concentrate: focus on nothing but the game at hand

Keeping up the pressure

Going for long periods without being called upon is a difficult trick to master. This is especially the case when playing at higher levels, or when you play on a team who are very (and therefore stop scoring chances reaching you in the first place). With the ball staying deep in the other end or the midfield for extended periods of time at the top levels, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and then stop only a few shorts that you will end up facing. Unlike in lower levels where you may be able to get away with ‘dropping off’ and ‘falling asleep’ on the play because you will be soon ‘woken up’ when shooters start moving in on goal, you have to be awake and alert 110% for the whole game, ready for action at any given opportunity.

The technique for reaching optimum levels of is to challenge yourself; force yourself to concentrate. Wipe out any other niggling thought from your mind and focus solely. Like yoga or zen, make your sole focus that of the match. By doing this, you will forget any distractions and be able to properly concentrate on the game.

With the ball in the other team's D this goalkeeper is taking a rest, but at the same time is focusing on the game at hand; staying mentally alert in the mind.


Ultimately, you need to concentrate, and have the ability to, for long lengths of time. To be able to get the best out of yourself and perform to your highest level, you need to be focusing on the game at hand. Concentration goes hand in hand with your ability to stop shots, so it is important to work on it. It is up to you, so you have to work on it individually. You need to give 110% in your efforts.

Staying mentally strong

The mental game is often ignored by goalkeepers and coaches alike. However, it is essential in order to succeed. The best goalkeepers are those who believe in themselves; nothing can ‘get them down’. To play well, you need to play with confidence and it’s worthwhile working out for yourself how to encourage this!

You train twice as hard as everyone else, are expected to stop all of the 100+ shots blasted at you in training, get bruised black and blue, then go and be told you’re still not ready skill wise. If you make a mistake it can cost your team the game. When it comes to game time, you’re expected to pull off amazing dramatic saves at the drop of a button. You have to take bull in the form of pointless advice from team mates and comments from the opposition trying to get under your skin. Once you’ve done all that, you have to go back and do it all again.

Your role forces you to take on the responsibility of the team (something that can kill your ‘mojo’ if you let it get to you): if they are playing poorly, you have to ‘pick them up and carry them, making the big saves to keep them in it, and if you are down on the scoreboard a screw up can cost you the game. At the decisive development stage where you are a young keeper looking to develop into a no 1 at top domestic level, it’s back breaking work training hard twice a week and then playing at weekends. If you look at pro sport (and any other type), you’ll find out that the best players are those who have stuck with it and worked their way through to be the best in the world.

Despite the smiles, it's not always this easy! If you want to be the best in your club, or even the world, then you need to persevere, as it will be a long time until you peak.
Despite the smiles, it's not always this easy! If you want to be the best in your club, or even the world, then you need to persevere, as it will be a long time until you peak.

Mental strength

A goalkeeper stands against a tough mental battle, given the role of the task to ensure the team wins. In comparison to the other players, you can easily be everybody’s mug of the month. If a defender makes a mistake, you’re supposed to mop up after them, and if it isn’t a striker’s ‘week’, then it’s just put down to not being given the right scoring chances by their team mates. Being mentally strong is essential to any chance of achieving success. As you start to go up the ladder of hockey, you will come under intense pressure not only to succeed, but dominate, in a game where you won’t seem many shots in a defence orientated game. There are some keepers that will fail to take their game to the next level and progress in their development because of their inability to develop a mental ‘game’: don’t let that be you.

During a game, how you feel and how you look to the other team can affect the final outcome. If you start to show emotion and look beatable (getting wound up, which can cause you to make rash decisions like bad tackles), then the team will really start to test you and get as many shots as possible on goal to find your weak spots. Learning to grow a backbone to resist nasty comments and shake off mistakes will set you up for the ‘professional’ game, mentally able to beat off anything that comes your way.

Developing strength

As they always say, sport is 99% mental and 1% skill, not to mention the hard work needed to beat out your peers. In order to succeed at a high level, you need to have a solid mental ‘game’ as well, otherwise you won’t be able to play to your best. In the face of allowing costly goals that can affect your team’s chances (letting the lead slip), you need to be able to stand up and carry your team. If not, then you will crumble and end up giving away a defeat because of it; losing confidence as you get shelled by the opposition, and consequently your team losing faith in you. How you develop a strong mental character is more of a personal skill, as it is something that cannot necessarily be ‘taught’, you need to work out what works for you, and build up a system to resist negative thoughts.

Self belief

Goalkeeping is all about confidence, which relates to how you play; if you are playing confidently, then you will be able to compete at your best (regularly, week in week out), but if you aren’t happy with your game or the situation, the chances are you will play poorly; rethinking situations that would normally be easy to deal with and doubting yourself. If you are nervous, then you cannot perform at your best, and therefore let your team down. A confident keeper will make those unbelievable, amazing saves that deny the opposition’s best chances, whereas a shaky keeper will let in soft goals. It’s all about confidence: if you play confident, then you will succeed, but if you get upset with yourself, you will sink, costing your team.

Examples of encouraging yourself:

  • Wear the no.1 shirt: if you believe you’re the best, then you’re likely to go out and prove it

  • Build a video of ‘Hollywood’ saves and then watch it before the game to really psych yourself up

  • ‘Roar like a tiger!’: it may sound stupid, but doing the clichéd trick of looking into a mirror and putting on your ‘game face’ can really help

  • Work out phrases to say in your head when training or playing (encouraging your self to perform)

  • Take pride in your ability; acknowledge something if it’s done well (i.e. making a timely save to keep the score even, or getting a clean sheet)


Learning to become mentally unbeatable, is a personal thing that varies for everyone, but in order to succeed, you do need to establish a strong mental game. Positive mentality will define whether or not your team succeeds; if you have a ‘mental collapse’ and get shell shocked, making yourself beatable as a result, then you have made the opposition’s job all too easy. Don’t: never give up and always fight no matter what; don’t make it easy for them to score on you . Leaning to shrug off goals and people’s comments will help you maintain consistency in your game, always being unbeatable.

Here are some ideas staying mentally strong in practice:

  • Focus on your game; don’t get phased by what’s going on around you – only you can , so concentrate on your

  • Don’t show emotion: don’t get harassed by players getting in your face or your own team stabbing your in the back – learn to ignore and use it as a motivational driving force – look weak and the opposition will think you are easy to beat

  • Never give up on your team; stay in the game no matter what to keep them in it, showing commitment and will help make the big saves when they really matter

  • Develop a thick skin; learn to ignore people’s comments and let mistakes wash off you like water off a duck’s back (make them the reason to perform better rather than having a negative impact); that way, you can really prove them wrong

Ultimately, you need to be strong in yourself and your own ability; it is your game and essentially your problem (if you’re having a bad spell), so you have to work out methods to help yourself.You truly have to believe in yourself: no-one else matters. If you can’t go onto the pitch thinking your God’s gift or the best around, then you will struggle to play to your best, doubting your own ability and letting your confidence slip.