Hasn’t everyone has heard at one point or another “You’ve got to be a little nuts to be a goalkeeper”? This comment routinely comes out of someones mouth when a GK makes an aggressive tackle on an attacking player or a unorthodox save, last second or otherwise. Still being an active player, I am told this routinely….but is there some truth to it? Why does a player decide to put themselves in front of a ball and player travelling at high speed? Why would anyone want to be in a position where the game requires you to be perfect? What kind of mental toughness do you need to be a GK?
First, GK’s need to have a short memory (for goals that is not for learning proper technique!!) They need to be able to pick themselves up, brush themselves off and be ready immediately for another shot – forgetting about what just happened and focusing on what comes next. To help our GK students learn to be mentally strong, goalkeeper training should try and help students see the game as a 1v1 battle against the opposing teams goalkeeper, not 11v the goalkeeper. Goals will be scored, there is no denying it, but a GK just needs to perform better than other other teams GK to be successful. The GK cannot be responsible for making sure all his/her field players do their job, only for doing the best they can. A great goalkeeper doesn’t believe he let his or her team down – they see a bigger picture. There are 10 other players on the field that have responsibility to keep the ball from getting into a scoring situation…you are not carrying the team on your back!
Goalkeepers need to be mentally strong….they can’t let a goal get them down no matter how easy or hard the shot may have been because they have to be focused on the next shot, the next save. But lots of younger GK’s get frustrated, drop their heads and lose focus after a goal, whether it was possible for them to make a play on the ball or not. During my training, I’m constantly telling my students not to worry about what just happened, just move on to the next ball. I firmly believe mental strength separates the good keepers from the great.
Look forward, not back. Learn from your goals and saves and be better than your opponent!