Recently I saw a great quote from a professional GK coach, he said “three things are certain in life – taxes, death and goalkeepers conceding goals” Very true, as goalkeepers we are destined to concede goals. Some goals we have to hold our hands up and say great finish when the striker can put it in the top corner but sometimes we will feel as if we could have done better with certain goals. Mistakes are going to happen, the mark of a goalkeeper is how well we deal with these mistakes and how few times we allow them to occur.
Look at David De Gea at Manchester United, when he first started out at Old Trafford he really struggled. In his first season he made several errors that led to goals, but with a determination to put things right, a strong, positive mental attitude and a manager who took him out the firing line when he needed it he has now become one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Below are different ways in which we can try to deal with mistakes in a match. We need to be able to carry on with our game as in the coming moments our team may need us to make a match winning save.
- Box it up – In between the goal going in and the game re-starting take a moment to replay the error and visually see yourself boxing it up, putting it on a shelf and writing on the box “For later” this technique allows you to try and clear your head ready for the rest of the game AND allows you to revisit it when the time is right to see what you could have done differently. A great technique to learn from mistakes and great for younger goalkeepers.
- Hand in the air – A gesture or signal to the bench taking responsibility for the mistake. Managers know that mistakes are going to happen. A detrimental reaction from managers is sometimes to start shouting at the goalkeeper from the edge of the pitch telling us how bad we’ve done, this has nothing but a negative outcome. A hand in the air from the goalkeeper can show the manager you’re sorry and are ready to make up for it.
- Deep breaths – Feelings of panic can set in immediately after a mistake, thoughts like “Am I going to play the next game now?” “Are my team mates going to blame me for the defeat?” Deep breaths can bring calmness back to the situation. A calm, in control goalkeeper always performs better than one tied up in negative thoughts.
- Play the game – Don’t go trying to do something you wouldn’t normally do in an attempt to make up for the mistake. This can often lead to another. Great goalkeepers play the game as it comes to them, they don’t go looking for extra things to do.
- Self talk – A powerful technique that can change your mindset in moments. After reading a book called “The Chimp Paradox” by Sports Psychologist Dr Steve Peters this is something I have put into my game. Our voice in our heads is a chimp, it can be our best friend or our greatest enemy and it seems to come alive just after us goalkeepers make a mistake. It can immediately start chirping up with comments like “It’s all my fault” “I’ve let everyone down” Instead try to get your chimp saying more positive comments like “It’s gone, there’s nothing I can do about it now, my team still need me here, we are still in the game” “It’s in the back of my mind for later, for now lets keep trying to get a result” “I’m focused and ready to go again”
At different times I have used all these techniques. A moment from last season sticks in my mind after we played Dover Athletic away on Good Friday. I somehow let the ball go through my legs and allowed the leagues top goalscorer to get probably his easiest goal of the season. He even thanked me at full time. It was a bad mistake. I did however manage to box it up, save it for later and after bouncing back with a clean sheet and a 2-0 win a few days later I finally watched it back. I looked at my technique and put it right in training over the coming days. Hopefully these techniques can help you or (if you are a parent of a goalkeeper) your goalkeeper get over mistakes and learn from them.