Facing your fears: Goalkeepers
Oct 4, 2021
Doesn’t it seem as if you, the goalkeeper, endures the most pressure on the field?
Doesn’t it seem as if your worst moments are worse than anyone else’s, and your mistakes seem to be a bigger deal than say, a midfielder or defender? Perhaps, a fear of making mistakes or getting seriously injured holds you back, making you fearful of the ball, diving or missing a save.
Even the greatest goalkeepers of all time make mistakes, but like them, you overcome common fears and dominate in the box. It all boils down to technique, practice and mindset - all of which you can master.
Fear of Diving
If you’re new to the goalkeeper position or returning to it, diving will seem pretty far out of your comfort zone. You won’t be used to the acrobatic leaping the seasoned keepers pull off with ease, so it’s natural to worry about getting hurt.
The issue here is you are unfamiliar and inexperienced, and as human nature dictates, new things feel scary. But with that inexperience comes a lack of skill, which means you won’t know how to dive properly and thus avoid injuries associated with diving. Lastly, you may remember watching team games or professional games on T.V. where goalkeepers get badly injured after diving.
For you to become fearless at diving, you need to practice your diving to feel more comfortable with it. With that said, it’s best to practice diving in small steps and at lower intensity at first.
Break a Dive into Chunks
- Training Bounce - Without hopping, bounce up and down on your toes.
- Hop Stop - Next, imagine a shooter is bringing their leg back. When their leg goes back, perform a small hop forward to help cut down the shooter’s angles.
- Feet Shoulder Width Apart - After you land from the hop stop, your feet should be shoulder width apart.
- Power Step - After landing the hopstop you will perform a power step, which is a step in the direction of the shot (do not lunge).
- Explode - Explode into your dive using the leg you performed your power step with.
- Hands Leads Body - Use your hands to lead your body as you dive.
- Match Height to Ball - If you’re practicing a low, ground save, dive just above the ground. If you’re practicing a waist-high save, keep your dive waist-high.
Practice these steps slowly and repeatedly before raising the speed and intensity. If you’re not comfortable on grass or turf yet, you can also practice on a mat for added support and cushioning.
Speaking of cushioning, a great way to reduce the fear of getting hurt is to wear padded goalkeeper gear. Padded jerseys, padded pants, armoured crop tops and concussion headgear can all absorb the impact of hitting the ground or another player when diving.
For example, our BodyShield goalkeeper leggings can absorb up to 90% of impact forces while our ExoShield headguard may reduce concussive forces by as much as 84%. That means a much softer landing when you dive.
Fear of the Ball
Again, if you’re a novice goalkeeper, it’s quite possible you might fear the very thing you’ve been commissioned to stop - the ball itself. You worry about the ball hitting you in the face and the stinging pain (or bloody nose) that may follow.
The issue here is likely a two-fold issue: 1) Lack of experience and skill, 2) Fear of pain. Fear of pain is obvious; it’s human nature to avoid pain. However, that fear can distract you from actually saving the ball. And then there’s a lack of skill. When it comes to fearing the ball, many goalkeepers have poor shot blocking technique or slow reflexes and reaction time, and so can’t stop the ball very well.
But you can change all of this.
Practice blocking a soccer ball at low speeds or have someone throw a small (softer) ball at you. That way, if the ball does hit your face, it won’t cause pain (maybe a slight tingling at most) and it can help you slow down and focus on your shot-blocking skills anyway.
Additionally, you should focus on shot-blocking drills and reflex training to help you react faster to an incoming shot.
Leave Your Fears Off the Pitch
The butterflies in your stomach will disappear with practice and time - you won’t be a nervous goalkeeper forever. You’ll start to play with more confidence as your diving and shot-blocking skills get better. In fact, the goal (excuse the pun) is to unlearn the fears you have.
Also, the right equipment will help cushion the blows inherent to soccer, so that you won’t fear injury as much. It’s normal to have some fears about goalkeeping when you’re new, but like playing any position, you’ll feel more comfortable the more you play.
Looking for goalkeeping gear and apparel? Browse through our collection of goalie gloves, leggings and more.