Author Archives: Leon

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Goalkeeper’s taking penalties

The Charity shield often shows goalkeepers taking penalties if the game ends in a draw. Today saw Courtois miss his to hand Arsenal the first silverware of the season ( Albeit a glorified friendly ) 

Here are a few goalkeepers scoring penalties – As you can see Courtois is no stranger to taking a good penalty.


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How to improve consistency of performance as a goalkeeper.

The new season provides for many, the opportunity to reflect, refuel, reengage, restructure and refocus for future performance growth.

Achievements and failures are in the past – new journeys, opportunities, obstacles and challenges lie ahead. The best athletes and coaches prepare effectively for all these challenges.

The Mind is the Athlete

Every sporting decision we make, every reaction, every choice and every movement is based on a fine motor skill using not only the muscles of the body but predetermined by the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

First, you need to understand that there will be good days and bad days on the field. You cannot play at the same exact level every day. Even pro players have ups and downs.

For goalkeeping, one success factor that I’ve observed, which is present across all of the different levels, is consistency. It is what they do each and every day over and over again that allows them to achieve their results. A goalkeeper will always be remembered by the mistakes they make. Therefore it is important to increase the consistency of good performances.

Wolff’s Law states that the body conforms and adapts to the intensities and directions it is habitually subjected to. The key word is habitually. It’s not enough to do a single intense workout then expect to be faster, fitter, stronger. It’s the workouts that you habitually do every week for many weeks that make your body faster, fitter, stronger. Hence the reason for this 8 week plan.

The good news is consistency is a piece of the puzzle that we can all solve. Consistency is not a skill or talent, you have direct control over it. Here are eight habits that will increase your consistency and ultimately your success on game day.

  1. Pre game routine –  Arrive early to the field to settle into routine. Take care of all the details of checking and organizing your equipment.
  2. Warm-Up – Warm up the same way for every game. This will signal your body and mind of your readiness to play. This is not the try to try anything new. Stick to your tried-and-true method for preparing yourself.
  3. Game Plan – Know the game plan from the coach with regards to distribution methods, speed of play and any adaptations due to weather conditions.
  4. Mental Routine –  Have a mental routine to help you visualize good saves.
  5. Commit – Once you have decided on technical method for saving, commit to it.
  6. Trust – Trust your training, your abilities and, most importantly, your capability to make the correct save or decision.
  7. Emotional Control – If a mistake happens, may not like it… but get over it. One bad decision hot is not an indication that you are playing bad. You are only as good as your next save. Riding the emotional roller coaster is a consistency-killer.
  8. Now is the Time – During play is not the time to evaluate your progress, analyze your technique  project the final result. Stick to your plan… What do you need to do at this moment?

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The Goalkeeper as the Quarterback of the team!

I have spoken to many of the Goalkeeper HQ community about the importance of the goalkeeper being comfortable with their feet. Those that have read my coaching philosophy and expectations know that despite there being so many topics to cover as a goalkeeper, distribution in some shape or form will be covered in my sessions. Why? Because the goalkeeper is not only the last line of defense, but now, the modern day goalkeeper is also the first line of attack. (The inspiration for our L1 range of Goalkeeper Gloves) 

It is as important for us as goalkeepers to be able to play the ball out of the back as it is for a quarterback not to throw interceptions or get sacked.

I have provided other articles regarding how we can control the tempo from goal kicks, but we also get to dictate the style in which the team play. Do we Hail Mary every time? Do you go short? Do you get rid of straight away or do you hold on? 

There are some important coaching points when playing out of the back.

  • A good first touch is important 
  • Be in a position to play early if required
  • Be comfortable with left or right foot to avoid being read.
  • Have a range of passes in your locker – Long or short, Driven or lofted
  • Communicate with players 

For all his faults this year, Claudio Bravo was brought in to Manchester City for one reason…… to provide the first line of attack to the team. This video below shows both how often he has to deal with the ball at his feet, and how good he is as the Quarterback of the team.

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Pregame title

Dealing with pre-game nerves

This article has been taken from a recent newsletter from Goalkeeper HQ partner, Marty Walker who delivers weekly articles on sports psychology. You can sign up for his newsletter here.  Or check out his web site at & e-mail him at

Pre Game Nerves!!!!!

How do they make athletes feel? Do they get excited about the impending competition or do they crumble under the pressure of nervousness and anxiety?

The truth is that it is perfectly normal to have a range of nervousness prior to competition and I believe in their necessity in obtaining optimum performance. Just as we fuel our bodies with the fuel to perform, fueling our mind and managing our mind for performance is a necessity. And nerves are a fuel for the mind. 

So here are several tips on how to start managing nerves pre game. In order to maximize your potential as an athlete these tips need to be learned and mastered. 

So here goes…..

1 – Focus. 
Focus on what you want to happen, not what you want to avoid happening. Narrowing your focus on positive outcomes will help you avoid distractions and unnecessary fears which impact performance.
2 – Process, not outcome.
Focus on your game and you will be able to reach higher consistency. You can never guarantee wins, regardless of how well you perform. Focus on guaranteeing your best effort and then naturally, wins will come more often. But not always.
3 –  Self Talk.
Athletes who learn to identify, understand and restructure their self talk prior to a performance provide themselves a successful platform upon which they can pursue performance potential. Being your own best fan is great, but only if your ambitions are challenging and not realistic dependent upon your performance capacity. 
4 – Let go of previous mistakes. 
We all make them, so understanding the right time to analyze performance errors and when not to is key to growth and development. Mistakes are necessary to learning. 
5 – Relax – Release. 
If you are feeling physical tension prior to performance it is a sign of hyper anxiety. How we feel manifests itself in our physical self. If you are struggling to deal with tension. Learn tension and relaxation techniques from a sport psychologist to help you manage your nerves and control your body better. 
6 – Control. 
What are you in control of and what can’t you control? You should be aware of this pre performance. You can’t change the weather, the coach, the spectators, the opposition…. but you can control your focus, your attention, your goals and you attitude. 
7 – Stretch. 
Mental fatigue leads to feelings of restrictedness and tightness. Stretching is a great way of using the body to control the mind and also helps with relaxation. 
8 – Enjoyment.  
What do you enjoy? Are you a young athlete who loves the sport? Are you a budding athlete who loves the challenge of competition? Or are you a seasoned athlete who loves the pursuit of trophies and glory? Understanding why you do what you do allows you to enjoy the process so much more. 


As always, these are easier said than done and it takes time, effort, patience and focus so that you can control your emotional and mental self so that your physical self can excel. 

And as always I am here for all athletes and happy to help on their journey to personal success. So don’t hesitate to set up your appointment. 

Just as you train your body so must you TRAIN YOUR MIND.

Marty Walker

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How does your speed compare to Premier League academy players?

In a recent 442 Article, Leicester City’s strength and conditioning coach Matt Willmott was asked about the physical demands of academy football.

Here are a couple of the questions, with the speed comparisons at the bottom.

How big is the physical difference between Premier League and academy football?

On a basic physical test – for example a 20-metre sprint – the senior academy and first team players are probably fairly close. However, the distances covered at high speed during training or a match would be greater in the first team. The technical gap also raises training intensity and makes it feel a lot harder and that’s probably the biggest difference our players find. First team players are technically superior; they can play different types of passes and move the ball quicker. The technical difference means they have to work harder physically. From a strength point of view, the first team players have had more years training and should be stronger. 
How do you prepare players for the demands of the Premier League?
As soon as players start at the academy at the age of eight, we use a multi-sport system to develop basic physical skills. Once they move into the 12-14 age group, we place a massive emphasis on promoting the quality of athletic movements and developing correct movement patterns to ensure players can reproduce the movements they would do in a game or training. We place importance on the ability of players to control these movements through various positions or under various loads where the movement is challenged. Then as they mature they can be progressively loaded to increase strength and develop power. 
How often are players subjected to physical testing?
Our senior academy players – under-18s and 23s – are tested every six weeks. Our younger age groups, from under-9s to under-16s, are tested every 12 weeks. We test their speed using a 20-metre sprint test; vertical jumps for single and double leg power. We also measure agility through an arrowhead run, while a YOYO and SDS test designed by staff at the club is used to measure endurance. 
Speed test banding (20 metres / 21.8723 yards
Poor = 3.17 secs or more
Below Average = 3.16 – 3.06 secs
Average = 3.05 – 2.96 secs
Good = 2.95 – 2.86
Excellent = 2.85 secs or less
How do you compare?
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The three things college coaches are looking for from prospective new goalkeepers

Throughout the last few months, I have been looking through a number of goalkeeping recruitment videos in the hope to find a goalkeeper for the Division 1 college I am currently working for. I have in earlier posts, talked about what makes a good goalkeeper recruitment video, but what is it that a goalkeeper coach, assistant coach and head coach are all looking for from prospective new goalkeepers?

A physical ability to keep the ball out of the net

If you are going to be on the squad of a college level team, you have to be good enough to do the job of your position. For Goalkeepers, the most obvious job is to keep the ball out of the back of the net. The goalkeeper should show evidence of the ability to keep the ball out of the net from a variety of scenarios. Shot stopping has a number of sub-topics which need to be shown. Low shots, high shots, point blank saves, angled shots, shots to the left and shots to the right are examples. A proof also that the goalkeeper can be brave by diving at feet and calculated by collecting a variety of different crosses. If a goalkeeper can make these saves, you will gain attention.

Show areas that you can still improve. That you have not reached your ceiling.

College coaches are not expecting goalkeepers to be the finished article. You will hopefully have four years to improve. What is the difference between showing you have not yet reached a ceiling and actually being poor? The key is in the consistency. If the goalkeeper has proved that they can keep the ball out of the net as mentioned above, the coaches will ask for full game footage. In this game footage, coaches will be looking to see if there are any common trends that may raise a red flag. Here are some examples:

  • Inability to dive to one side.
  • Poor goal kicks, distance wise.
  • If any height concerns affect collection of crosses or ability to command the box.
  • Lack of bravery in traffic
  • Goalkeeper not coming off line

Things that can be helped improve.

  • Accuracy of kicking
  • Turning tips around posts into catches
  • Turning punches from crosses into catches
  • Tempo of the game
  • Improved starting position

It is also important for any potential goalkeeper to know that they are not the finished article and are willing to take on board information from any / all of the coaches

Provide evidence of quality distribution.

This is the one thing that players / parents leave out of recruitment videos, but is one of the most important for coaches looking at potential goalkeepers. The goalkeepers will be working in a group of 3 or 4 throughout the year. More often than not there will be scenarios in practice where quality service is required. Whether you work in pairs or as a group including the goalkeeper coach, all goalkeepers need to be consistent with quality service. 

Here are some examples:

  • Volleys / half volleys to partner
  • Shots on target from angled positions
  • To provide different speeds on shots in order to work, yet not kill the goalkeeper.
  • Ability to cross a ball consistently
  • Quick footwork for rondo or small sided games with outfield players.
  • Ability to hit a target area for a restart in a phase of play

If a prospective goalkeeper can not achieve the required service on a consistent basis for scenarios mentioned above, the other goalkeepers, the goalkeeping coach and the head coach will get frustrated. It is one thing if you, as a goalkeeper is not the best, but you soon fall out of favor if you are stopping others from becoming the best they can be due to your lack of quality service.

Here are some action points:

  1. Ensure you are starting a library of different saves for highlights
  2. Have a number of full games ready to show if needed
  3. Keep working on distribution and ability to serve

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Goalkeepers Keep Warm Title

How goalkeepers can keep warm during cold temperatures

Often, with games in the New England area being played in late November, December and March, I find myself constantly having to remind goalkeepers to keep warm. This applies to practices and games and if you are the starting goalkeeper or are sitting on the bench.

Goalkeepers, more than any other position, have to keep their core body temperature up as they may have periods of inactivity.

A drop in the core temperature of the human body can result in numb hands and slow coordination – Obviously detrimental effects for goalkeepers.

Practice & training:

Use all necessary warm clothing to start the session. Layers are key with a water proof jacket as the top half layer. 

Any practice on a cold day should should be high tempo meaning that goalkeepers may need to shed layers. Be ready to add back on to these layers if / when the practice tempo slows down. i.e. – game play at the end. 

  • Hat
  • Snood
  • Warm compression shirt
  • Training shirt x 2
  • Training top ( long sleeve )
  • Water proof jacket 
  • Compression shorts / pants
  • Training shorts
  • Goalkeeping pants

Game day – Playing:

Goalkeepers can take advantage of the fact that goalkeeping uniform often has long sleeves and pants are acceptable. 

Use hand / foot warmers prior to warm up. It is harder to get hands and feet warm than it is to keep them warm

Although a goalkeeper should not be playing with a hat on, there is nothing wrong with wearing a hat for warm up to keep body heat in.

Get a good warm up in. a)before you do your goalkeeper warm up routine b)before the game.

If the ground surface is wet, you should warm up and have separate kit to play in.

Take every advantage to be on the move during games. Be involved, but also get quick movements in when the ball is up the other end of the field.

  • Dry kit to play in ( Change after warm up if necessary)
  • Snood can be worn, but hats should not be worn for games
  • Layer up, with a good warm compression base layer. 
  • Multiple layers of shirts are allowed, but allow full range of movement
  • Surgical gloves are good to wear under goalkeeper gloves to keep hands from getting cold / wet. ( powder inside stops sweating ) 
  • Have additional clothing and gloves for second half
  • Towel to wipe any excess water if wet.

Game day – Sitting on the bench:

The sub goalkeeper has an important role to play to ensure the starting goalkeeper is suitably warm. The sub goalkeeper should help, rather than hinder the starting goalkeeper during warm up and be ready to perform. The sub goalkeeper should also be aware that in cold temperatures, injuries are more likely to occur and they should have the mind set that they need to be ready. 

Sub goalkeepers, like the starting goalkeepers should have dry clothing to change into after what should be a rigorous warm up with the starting goalkeeper. Nothing worse than sitting on the bench getting cold from your own sweat!

  • Dry clothes / kit for sitting on the bench after warm up
  • Hat should be worn
  • Layer up in such a way that you are ready to play if called upon
  • Thick bench coat ( if not already provided )
  • Use hand warmers whilst on the bench
  • Pants should be worn whilst worn on the bench.
  • Keep warm with sprints and movements when coach asks players to warm up.

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The perfect training area – In your back yard!

I was recently asked for advice on what should go in a goalkeeping area that was being made…. in someone’s back yard.

“Wow” – I said. I immediately went into shopping list mode! The area is as big as a penalty box and this is what I came up with. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any advice.

  1. A goal. The same size as what you play in
  2. A lined penalty area for realism and to get visual clues when training
  3. Balls. Lots of them for lots of repetitions
  4. Rebound wall to practice both kicking and control – The modern day goalkeeper needs to be great with their feet. Control and accuracy of kick are vital.
  5. Ladder and cones – Again, goalkeepers need to have quick foot movements. There are so many ladder routines, one will never get bored. Read the article regarding footwork here
  6. A balance ball. A goalkeeper’s core strength and balance is essential. This is great for pre activation warm up which gets the smaller muscles firing before working the big ones which leads to less imbalances.
  7. Storage shed or box. (not shown) To keep everything tidy and to save equipment from the elements
  8. Bands. To improve leg strength
  9. Video camera & tripod – To film those practices and learn from mistakes
  10. Pinnies / Bibs for when your friends want to come and play for a 3 v 3 plus goalkeeper session

There is certainly no excuses for this young goalkeeper to be the very best they can.

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These “Old guy” Goalkeepers still have it!

I found myself having to go in goal during the Quinnipiac indoor scrimmages this last week. It was good to get in between the sticks and after a shaky first 10 minutes in which I dusted the cob-webs off, I got back into the groove. My mind did start to wonder if I could play again at any decent level but the way I felt later that day and the next day soon reminded me what a foolish thought that was!

As if to rub it in, I then see that 44 year old Essam El-Hadary has helped Egypt to the final of the African Cup Of Nations.

In doing so he has kept four clean sheets from five games. Here he is making two saves in the penalty shoot out in the semi final against Burkina Faso. The first of which is against the opposition’s GK.

Another 40 something year old is Sutton Utd’s Wayne Shaw. Non League Sutton Utd recently shot into the limelight with an FA Cup 4th round win against Leeds Utd and now face Arsenal in the 5th round. Shaw in the reserve goalkeeper and goalie coach and will play if 1st team goalkeeper Ross Worner gets injured.

At 6ft 2″ and 280lb he will surely be Arsenal’s biggest test!!

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30 Day Goalkeeper Fitness Challenge

I pointed out to my goalkeepers last night that we have six weeks until the start of the season. Six weeks to get in fighting shape. I will be providing the goalkeeping knowledge and repetitions needed, but much of the fitness work needs to be done in their time. 

I like targets and the Stides app helps me in accomplishing them. Here are some of my favorite 30 day challenges that will get goalkeepers ready for the season ahead in slow increments.

See this article on core fitness

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