Appropriately, as a scoreboard manufacturer, our previous posts on “The Anatomy of a Goal” have centred on the art of goalscoring.
The definition of a goal is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort to achieve an aim or a desired result.” As with many things in life, there are usually obstacles to overcome before we can achieve our goals.
In football, that obstacle is called the Goalkeeper.
It is said that “Goalkeepers are different.” This cliché may be built on the title of a novel by the great football writer Brian Glanville, but the foundations of all clichés contain elements of truth.
After all, Goalkeepers are the ultimate party poopers. Their sole aim is to stop the numbers on the scoreboard from rising and keep them at zero. A goalkeeper’s enjoyment of the sport that we love is derived from depriving the game of its lifeblood.
It is therefore a lonely life. He is the player that is judged by his mistakes more than any other. If a striker misses, he will get another opportunity. The reverse works for the goalkeeper: his chances for redemption are slim and the prize short-lived. The opposition will come at him again.
I recently discussed this issue on grumpyoldfan.net:”Goalscorers names appear in the classified results, their impact forever engraved in the headstone of the match…Not so for the goalkeeper, saves are forgotten quickly as the action moves on and the score-line remains untouched. They are…charged with ensuring that the chisel does not mark that headstone.”
With the World Cup just a few weeks away, minds are drawn to the tale of Moacyr Barbosa. The Brazilian goalkeeper was forever haunted by the spectre of a single error. Unfortunately for him, it was one which was said to have lost Brazil the World Cup back in 1950.
Some great saves do stand out in the memory. Gordon Banks’ wonder save from Pele in 1970 has informed the description of many spectacular reflex saves from that day forward. Acts of goalkeeping bravery also weave themselves into the fabric of the game’s narrative, like Manchester City’s Bert Trautmann playing on with a broken neck.
A strong relationship is required between goalkeeping coach and ‘keeper. Often training separately to the main squad, specific drills are required to cater for the needs of the position.
Witness the relationship between David De Gea and ex-Manchester United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele. After a faltering start to his career in England, which included some high-profile errors, the young Spaniard was under pressure. Steele reportedly took Spanish lessons to help bridge the language gap and create a strong bond between the two.
It is against this backdrop of isolation that the guardians of the net appear to be eccentric or misunderstood by even their teammates – but it is wholly necessary to prepare them for their peculiar task.
It might not always be the case that another coach can be spared, though – at youth levels, for example. There the whole group must train together. Some emphasis must always go towards working the goalkeeper in as many different situations as possible.
Every cross is different, as will be the selection of players that surround the keeper at every corner, free kick or attack – all working to unknown tactics. The maxim “practice makes perfect” or the “10,000 hour rule” might not hold true if unable to replicate the myriad possibilities that can occur during a game.
Goalkeepers are often spectators for long periods of matches, expected to click back into action at a moment’s notice. The lack of activity, particularly at top clubs, requires high levels of concentration. This can be an issue, so a programme of “deliberate practice” should be devised. This will enable ‘keepers to switch back quickly into focus.
Writer Jonathan Wilson in his recent book, The Outsider, told the story that journeyman keeper John Burridge used to ask his wife to throw fruit at him when he wasn’t expecting it, in the hope of it honing his reflexes.
However, a perhaps more pragmatic approach was taken by former England international Peter Shilton. He once told of drawing diagrams as a child, from which he would work out the best angles to stop shots and intercept crosses. This groundwork would then be taken to the park and he would try and put it into practice with his friends.
Involving goalkeepers in the action as much as possible is the simple advice from http://thecoachesbench.com. Try and recreate a match environment as near as possible.
This is not necessarily something that should be left until the usual game at the end of a training session, as such games may not actually offer enough chances for the goalkeeper to touch the ball or make saves, interceptions or clearances. A session must be created where the goalkeeper might be tested more often with numerous crosses or shooting on sight.
With younger players it will soon become clear which players have a preference to go in goal. Be sure to instil a “no panic” approach. Teach them the basics of catching a ball, taking a deep breath and then releasing only when clear to do so – the temptation may often be to throw the ball out straight away. It will be possible later to concentrate on positioning, narrowing angles, protecting the near post and staying on their feet as long as possible.
Create an atmosphere of togetherness, don’t apportion blame individually. Goalkeepers may well be different, but they are an important part of your team.