Arguably, the goalie is the most important player on any soccer team. Sure, the forwards and midfielder get their due, but only the goalie can actually win or lose a game.
So, to make sure that you are the best goalie that you can be, use these 5 tips for success, every time you get between the sticks.
#1 — Get Flexible
Anyone can stop a shot that is kicked right at them, no doubt about it. But any low or high balls, particularly off to the side, are going to test your flexibility. You cannot be a stiff robot and expect to stop many shots, it just isn’t going to happen. The more flexible you can make your body, the better the chance you’ll have of stopping the ball.
Stretching adds flexibility, and doing exercises that stretch your quads, hamstrings and trunk, will give you that extra dimension whenever you are going low or high on a ball. Butterflies, swans and thigh releases increase the flexibility of the core areas needed to perform, and this little edge in performance might be the difference between stopping a shot or letting it get into the net.
#2 — Focus, Focus, Focus
It’s easy to forget you are in the game when the ball is on the other end of the field. And generally, you’ll get plenty of notice when the ball makes its way back towards your goal. But every so often, either with a long pass or a breakaway, you’ll suddenly find yourself back in the game in a moments notice, and that can be serious trouble if you haven’t stayed focused on what was going on.
Yes, the box is your space where no ball should pass, but if the ball suddenly appears out of nowhere in front of you on the pitch, and you aren’t ready for it, you’ll give up a goal that never should have happened. You can find dozens of highlight reels where long shots for goals were taken, because the goalie was not watching the play unfold. Don’t let that be you. Always stay focused, from one end of the field to another.
#3 — Watch the Ball
Spectators always watch the player who has the ball. But a goalie needs to watch the ball regardless of the player. It’s not going to do you any good to keep your eyes on the player as the ball goes zinging past you into the net. The player does not make a point, the ball does.
This can be a very difficult discipline to learn, especially on youth soccer teams. The natural tendency is to, just like a spectator, watch the player. But a goalie isn’t a spectator, they are an integral part of the team, so watching the ball is the key. And watching the ball must be done the entire game, not just in the box.
#4 — In Your Face
Most people think of goalies as being passive and waiting at the net to block the shot. But the best goalies take it to the forward.
Run at your opponent, make yourself bigger and get in their face. The less angle you give them, the less space they have to get the ball around you and into the net, the more chance there is they they will miss. Plus, a charging goalie can be a bit unnerving, and may cause the striker to attempt a goal shot before they are ready. That is almost a sure recipe for a miss, and that’s because the goalie made an aggressive move forward and took the momentum out of the play.
#5 — Confidence
You are the goalie, and on every play you need to have the confidence to stop the shot. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, center, right, left, crosses, whatever, you need to have confidence in your abilities. If you have had a bad game, understand what went wrong and correct your mistakes for next time. But once you begin to question your own skills and abilities, then it may be time to find another position or sport. For without confidence between the sticks, you’ll become a sitting duck.