As a goalkeeper, there are two extremes to how we see our performances:
A) You’re playing well week in week out, saving everything, claiming every cross, loud, big and proud! “Go on…have another shot.” “Put that cross on me.”
B) But then it all changes, you drop one cross, one poor clearance, on awkward bounce. All of a sudden your confidence is shot, you start to fumble the simple claims, you don’t fancy that cross in between you and your back line, communicating with your back four becomes even harder. “Please keep this cross away from me.” “I don’t fancy the pass-backs on this surface.” Everything seems to find its way past you and in to the goal.
Now these are clearly two extremes of the spectrum, with many of the Keepers reading this knowing and more importantly believing that they are strong enough to overcome a tiny blip. However there are also the keepers reading this who will have experience of the two scenarios. This article aims to look more closely at the reasons for this sudden switch in mentality, and maybe help you understand the psychology of Goalkeeping a little bit more.
KeeperTalk has teamed up with leading Sports Psychologist Dan Abrahams to discuss the difference that a goalkeeper may face as opposed to an outfield footballer, and ways in which a goalkeeper can manage their psychological approach to the game.
There is no hiding from the fact that goalkeeping is almost a completely different sport to the outfield footballer, and as such should be approached differently from a sports psychology perspective. Goalkeepers train away from the rest of team, warm up individually, and of course spend a large percentage of the 90 minutes alone.
Dan Abrahams compared a goalkeepers psychology to that of a golfer. Golfers perform their action intermittently, and effectively have a lot of time to think – or over think; which is where there can be a problem. This is much the same with goalkeepers. It is said many keepers find it difficult to go 89 minutes without being troubled, and then being forced in to a save in the final minute. Could this be due to over thinking? Loss of focus? Harder to maintain focus?
Dan Abrahams explained how the brain is hard wired to be negative. This can have a knock on effect for goalkeepers who are subject to this extra thinking time. Dan tries to encourage players to think positively using various techniques, which we will touch upon in this article. One of the most important things Dan tries to implement is to make players aware that they need to manage themselves with their thoughts, this is tougher for a goalkeeper due to extra thinking time, but nevertheless can make a big difference when it comes to performance.
There are various techniques that Sports Psychologists like Dan use to give players that little bit extra help psychologically. Here are just a few of the tips from Dan:
1. Body Language – If you act confidently, you will think confidently. The mind affects your body language but the effects can also be replicated vice versa.
2. Breathing techniques – Psychology experts like Dan will implement breathing techniques to their athletes. These are specific to the individual, so would require advice from an expert in the field.
3. Positive self talk – Little words or sentences to yourself can help. It is vital that these thoughts are positive, as the brain will automatically try to promote negative thoughts. Avoid words like “don’t” or “can’t”, as these are negative thoughts and the brain will automatically drawn to them. Sentences should be assertive and positive, “I will catch this next cross.”
4. Use of keywords, Dan encourages one of his client to attempt to ‘tick’ off certain keywords during each performance. Words such as “dominant,” “Committed,” and “decisive” with the Goalkeeper having these words in his mind it will promote positive thoughts!
5. Finally and probably the most important is Imagery. It is vital that any player imagines positive performances and actions. Imagine making that save, that claim, that rush out of your box but also imagine how you feel after it. Many keepers think about recent errors, and they are always there in their mind at all times. To counter act this the promotion of positive experiences and positive imagery are vital.
Thank you for reading this article, and I hope that you may even have learnt something from this. KeeperTalk would like to that Dan Abrahams for helping me write this article. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @danabrahams77 , in which he often gives advice and thoughts when it comes to sports psychology. You can also read Dan’s blog site which is on the right hand side in the ‘friends of Keepertalk’ box.
Thanks for reading, and please post any comment…
Follow Dan at @danabrahams77