Perfection in Goalkeeping

The paradox of perfection in goalkeeping

Being a goalie is one of the toughest things you can do in sports. Not only does one have to deal with everyone else’s expectation that they be perfect, but they also have to deal with their own expectation of perfection. It is the one position where one mistake can cost your team the win. It is a position where even if you win the game you might still be dissatisfied with your play or a goal you gave up. While everyone else has the option of shying away from a shot the goalie has to throw themselves at it. While everyone else can back off a hard challenge the goalie has to run charge in.

Being a goalie is a nearly thankless position, a striker can miss all their shots over the course of a game, and no one bats an eye, a goalie misses one save and that is all that is remembered about their performance. While there are fail safes for every other player on the field, there is no fail safe for the goalie, if you miss the ball it is in the goal. Someone commits a foul in the box, you are now expected to do the impossible, clean up after someone else’s mistake and save a penalty kick. The stakes are high as a goalie, and it takes a special individual to want to stand in goal and take that beating.

There are several qualities that make up a great goalie, all of which can be learned, but if you can find an individual with these skills you are already a step ahead of all the rest.

A great goalie must be a natural born leader. You see the entire field; it is your job to give the rest of the team instructions as to where to be and what to do. That being said a great goalie is vocal. They will be the loudest person on the field. But I want to warn that while being vocal is a necessity, it is important to bear in mind that too much talking can lead the team to ignore you. As such a goalie must know what to say and when to say it to get the absolute most out from their teammates.

A goalie must have a short-term memory. It is never bad to stop and think about the goals you gave up and what you could have done differently, in fact I highly encourage a goalie to do this as it will only help them in the future. But there is a time and a place to review and that would be after the game. If you stop during the game or spend time dwelling on the goal you gave up chances are you will no longer be focused on what is going on right in front of you and will be more likely to concede another goal. A goalie must have a short-term memory, forget what just happened and focus on what is going on right then and there. The same can be said of when you make a big save, if you spend too much time congratulating yourself you will no longer be focused on the game at hand.

Which leads to the next point, a goalie must be able to control their emotions. Getting too down or too high will cause a loss of focus. I am not saying you can’t be excited or disappointed, but you have to stay focused and calm. The more emotional you become the harder it is to process what is going on around you. A goalie must be able to focus on everything at once.

A goalie must have impeccable focus. You must have an idea of where everyone is on the field, where the ball is and where you are positionally. Regardless of where the ball is you must be ready at all times to make a save or react.

You must trust your teammates to defend you but at the same time you have to prepared for them to make a mistake. A goalie is expected to do their research prior to a game and know the tendencies of their opponents.

Goalies must be ready for anything, a leader on and off the field, vocal, focused, and aware of everything that is going on. It’s a thankless job where we are expected to be perfect and we expect perfection out of ourselves. But this expectation is ridiculous. No goalie no matter how good will make every save. Mistakes will be made, and goals will be scored. By putting this expectation of perfection on the goalie we are doing them a huge disservice by adding extra pressure to an already high-pressure position. The mistakes of other players are often overlooked or forgotten; the mistakes of a goalie are rarely overlooked. We must remember that there are 10 other players on the field that the ball had to get past to get to the goalie. Some mistakes might be worse than others, but mistakes are too be expected. Rather than expect perfection out of our goalies we must start to encourage growth. We must understand that no goalie will ever make every save. Instead of putting the goalie down or getting upset at them, help them learn and grow from their mistakes. Film games so that the goalie can look back at their performance and see what they did right and wrong. Push them to be better. If we can shift the focus away from being perfect, we will create a less stressful environment for our goalies which in turn will lead to a more focused and better prepared goalie. A goalie that isn’t worried about making mistakes will make less mistakes, they won’t be perfect, but they will be better.