On countless occasions, in all sports, we hear coaches or parents urge to “Get your head in the game!” or “Switch on upstairs and get it going” as an inspirational decree intended to produce improved performance . I’m sure you can come up with more that you have heard! The most unusual thing is that very little time, if any at the youth level especially, is actually given to training and developing the psychological side of an athlete! Technical and tactical instruction abound, so a player is able to complete a certain task with relative ease due to the constant repetition of a technique and consistent explanation of tactics, but how is it possible to follow a command such as “Focus” or “Don’t lose your focus” if the tools by which we are able to gain or maintain focus are not trained regularly?

You may also have heard coaches say that they train a certain drill, repetitively, so that their players have “seen this situation a hundred times in training” when the situation arises in a game. It may be easier to replicate game situations with multiple players, but how can you replicate game scenarios with a goalkeeper coach and a small number of goalkeepers, or even just one keeper?  In reality, we can only say that we have “seen something similar or close to this situation in a game but not exactly” because a goalkeeper coach can volley, throw, or shoot a number of balls from a variety of service areas in training, and the goalkeeper will develop certain techniques based on that service, but in a game, the coach will not be volleying from 12 yards out, or throwing from an angle, or crossing into the far post to an unmarked attacker. There will be more people in the penalty area, perhaps as many as 12-15 other players There will be movement from these players, so the training can only replicate so much of what you could see in a game. How do you help your keepers “train the game brain?

In a training session, goalkeepers move through a variety of drills and progressions to develop footwork, hand-eye coordination, handling, speed, agility, touch, reactions, proprioception, balance, quickness, jumping ability, decision making, and all good coaches will not only instruct the HOW to do something, but also the WHY. The development of a goalkeeper not only depends on their physical and technical abilities and attributes, but also on their cognitive understanding of WHY a skill should be performed a particular way.

At Just4Keepers of Central Virginia, the “GAME SITUATION” is always defined in each drill. Rather than arbitrarily going through a series of drill sequences without much thought going into them from the goalkeeper, the game situation is clearly explained, which in turn gives an explanation of why we are where we are, and why are doing what we are doing! I will ask the keepers to visualize the play unfolding, to see the ball moving, to envision the positioning of defenders and the runs of forwards. A keeper will not simply move from a post to a cone just to get to the cone. They are encouraged to keep their heads up and eyes on the ball, and not focusing on the cone that they are moving to. There are no cones on the field in a game! They will visualize a ball being passed, a deflection being made, a missed clearance from a defender, and when the game situation arises in the drill, it is clearly pointed out by me, although the non-working goalkeepers often now voice their recognition of the game situation as they, too, are learning to visualize the GAME SITUATION, even though they are not the working keeper!

Train your keepers to “see” the play unfold in the drills, to visualize the moments of a ball moving and adjusting to that angle. Just4Keepers of Central Virginia training enables keepers to put themselves in game situations during training, assists in gaining a better understanding of how and why certain movements and techniques are used, and encourages the development of the complete goalkeeper, including the often overlooked mental aspects to the position.