The Mental Side of Goalkeeping: 4 Tips for Young Goalkeepers
In a sport that emphasizes group chemistry, cohesion, and coordination of movement with others, the beautiful game of soccer has one specific role that is as independent, personal, and dare I say, lonely, as any other in sport:
Goalkeepers train differently than their teammates, play differently than their teammates, and therefore, must think differently as well.
For a young goalie looking to develop further and grow into this extremely demanding role, I encourage him or her to take these four tips and learn them by heart:
1. You are on a desert island
Being a goalkeeper means you are in a world of your own on the pitch.
You are in a role that few people will ever understand, and one that will never get the recognition it deserves. The solitude must be relished, not avoided, as doing your job well usually means you will be forgotten at times when the going is good, and you will be criticized at times when it’s not.
You need to be mentally strong, staying positive at all times and pushing yourself to embrace the island and make it your home.
2. Stay alert at all times
When the ball is out of bounds or a substitution is being made and your teammates get to briefly switch off mentally, you must be engaged; organizing the defense, barking out defensive assignments, calling out midfielders to find their man.
Staying alert can be difficult when your team is dominating the game, so stay involved by communicating even more with your teammates, offering encouragement or instruction, and always focusing on your team’s defensive organization.
When the time comes, you need to be ready for the big moment. You don’t get to rest mentally until the final whistle has blown and your task is complete.
3. Fear is not an option
As a goalkeeper, you will need to learn to mentally block out fear; the fear of injury, the fear of making mistakes, and the fear of taking risks.
In this role, being scared of the spotlight or of physical contact is simply not an option. When the time to come off of your line and be brave in the face of danger presents itself, there are no half measures. You have to be fully committed to your cause and not fear the moment.
Bravery is the name of the game, and Courage needs to be your middle name!
4. There is always another shot
In this role, mistakes are magnified more so than any other position on the field. Fortunately, so are the big plays! When you make a great save, you are the hero; when you don’t, you’re the goat. This is the cruel reality goalkeepers live with.
However, there is a shining light at the end of the slow torture of retrieving the ball from your net after conceding a goal: There is always a next game to be played, a next opportunity to make a huge save, and a next opportunity to put your superhero cape on.
You have to keep both the mistakes and highlights in perspective; don’t let the highs get too high and the lows get too low. There is always another shot to be saved.
Not everyone will be cut out for the demands of goalkeeping, but the ones who fall in love with this position will go a lot further if they take heed of this advice.
Now put on your capes and go be the superhero your team needs you to be!