Category Archives: Communication

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Good Communication

The Power of Good Goalkeeper Communication

Goalkeeper communication

Wesley Jackman. One of Leon’s first students and England representative.

An old coach of mine once told me, “Good goalkeepers make the first save, great goalkeepers, make the second save, but the best keepers don’t have to make a save at all.” His emphasis was on the point that goalies need to talk and need to know how to command the team. If your team is unorganized, then it’s more likely that the opponent will find a gap in the defense and have chances on goal; but if the team is organized, then it will be much harder for the opponent to break your team’s defense. You could be the best goalkeeper in the world, but if you don’t talk, then it’s more likely your team will let the ball through. On the contrary, a keeper without much skill could win his or her team the game via good communication skills. If you can tell players where to be, then you may never even have to touch the ball.

But why me?   Yes, the coach does have responsibility for the team and is the lead tactician, but it is his job to plan, and the team’s job to carry out his plan. Some coaches are not as vocal as others, and more importantly, nobody sees the field like the goalkeeper does. Yes, the other field players are supposed to communicate, but they can only see what’s in front of them, and many times they don’t talk to one another because they’re tired or have a lack of concentration. The goalie can also see the pattern of the game or play. The right winger may not notice the runner in open space behind him, or the forward may not think to press the left back who is about to play a big ball to that open man. Simple communication can stop instances like this.

So, what can I do?  Here are a few tips to help you communicate better on the field.

  1. Voice inflection: Be louder when the ball is closer to your net and tone it down when it pushes into the opposing team’s attacking third. Being loud is key. You might be giving great instructions, but if the team cannot hear you, it won’t matter.
  2. Be short and concise: The play of the game happens quickly, so the faster you tell your players what to do, the quicker they’ll be prepared. For example, instead of saying: “Hey, John, watch out for the right winger making that run!” say:”John, right winger!”
  3. Advice: Advice is key. If your center defender doesn’t step when you want him or her to, tell them. If the defender does not know he is doing something wrong, then he won’t fix it. Also, be sure to point out both the good and bad things your teammates do. Nobody likes being told that he is doing something wrong constantly, especially by a peer. If you point out the good things, it not only lets them know what they did right, but it also makes them feel better, which is very important. If you don’t think you’re playing well, then you won’t play well, and if you think you are, then you more likely will. Pointing out good things also keeps the team on good terms; I have had plenty of games when the coach or other players have constantly pointed out what is wrong, and everyone on the team gets mad at each other, which does not help at all. Having good team chemistry on the pitch is very important for winning games.
  4. Talking with the referee: As you all know, talking to the referee can end very badly if tempers are high. However, talking to the officials can be fruitful. It is frustrating to play with a referee who misses calls and gives absurd fouls, but shouting at him will not help. Whenever talking to an official, always do it in a friendly manner; the nicer you are to him, the nicer he will be to you and the team. If an opponent is pulling your shirt on corners, don’t scream at the referee; instead, ask him to watch for that certain player next time. More often than not, he will. And if you don’t say anything to the official, chances are he won’t do anything about it.
  5. Key words and phrases: Here are some of the main things I say to my teammates during a game:
  • Step up – Even if only your back line hears this, when they push up, it will force the rest of the team to do so.
  • Drop – Dropping the line is important and should be done whenever you see an opponent looking to play a big ball over the top.
  • Contain – This one is important. On counter attacks, sometimes defenders get jumpy and try to win the ball immediately. If they get beat, however, and there is no one to cover, then it is a one-on-one to the goal. Telling your player to contain lets them know to hold the attacker at bay until the rest of the team can drop back, get shape, and help.
  • Away or clear: Most of you may use this one regularly, but none-the-less it helps. If the ball is in a bad spot and there’s no way out, telling your players to clear the ball can relieve pressure and give the team time to regroup.
  • Right shoulder/ left shoulder: These terms are a quick way to let any individual player know there is an attacker to the right or left of them.

Article by Jamie Stratton, Eastern University and GKHQ coach in PA.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 2.59.26 PM

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Related articles:

Good communication stops the opposition at the source

Goalkeeping communication flowchart


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Ways to improve your perception and your reputation as a goalkeeper

Original post – June 2015.

Updated April 2018.

I was recently sent this article about the need for Arsenal to purchase a new goalkeeper in the close season, but not any goalkeeper – one with the perception of being excellent.

Here is a quote:

“Place a top-class forward in front of a goalkeeper whom they perceive to be beatable, and the chances are they will beat them. However, put him one-on-one with one of the greats of the modern goalkeeping game—the ranks of which the likes of David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois have so impressively swelled in recent years—and there are other thoughts that will suddenly go through the attacker’s head. Minds will be scrambled and chances lost.” 

The article claims that it is not necessarily the ability of the goalkeeper, but their reputation that leads forwards to second guess and possibly snatch at a chance that a lesser goalkeeper would have saved anyway.

This leads me to ask two questions……….

  1. How are you perceived as a goalkeeper?
  2. What is your reputation, and how do you get one?

There are three group sets that will be making judgments on you as a goalkeeper.

  • Your teammates,
  • Your coach
  • The opposition

Here is a list of things that affect how you are perceived as a goalkeeper.

  1. What you look like. By this I mean your attire. Are you dressed like a goalkeeper? Are you wearing a goalkeeper’s jersey? Are your socks pulled up and laces done up?
  2. The condition of your gloves. There is an old saying that “A good workman looks after his tools”. Which implies that lack of care and respect for fine instruments and equipment says a lot about a workers’ attitude to the work they are doing. Your work is keeping the ball out of the net. Your tools are your goalkeeper gloves. Look after them. Not only will a pair of looked after gloves be kinder to you, you are perceived to care about your tools and thus your work. [Check out the latest L1 Goalkeeper Gloves here]
  3. A good warm-up, Pre-game or at halftime ( if subbing in ). The importance of a good warm-up is stated in this article [ The goalkeeper warm up ] Your teammates, your coach, and the opposition will all, at some point, take a look at your warm up. A good coach would either have the team warming up on their own or have an assistant do the warm-up which allows them to look at the opposition’s weaknesses. Your warm-up says a lot about who you are, both in what you do and how you do it. If you are doing an organized warm up with either the substitute goalkeeper, a teammate or coach you prove that you and the club are organized and that you are prepared for all the elements of the game. A good quality in the warm-up will not only provide you with confidence, but your teammates and coach will feed off the positive energy that a good warmup provides. 
  4. Communicate loudly and effectively. Communication in the game gives the perception that you know what you are doing, that you are in control and are one of the leaders on the team. [Read more about the power of good communication here] and different ways to communicate to not only your players but other. [See this article for Goalkeeping volcabulary] and also this [Goalkeeping communication flow chart] to help to know when to say things.
  5. Movement up and down the field. It is important that you stay connected with your back line to provide good angles of support. It mystifies me that parents are mortified if and whenever a goalkeeper steps out of the penalty box. For coaches, it is a sign that the goalkeeper is aware of the space behind the defenders. An old coach told me to imagine that you are connected to the last defender by a piece of string…. when the defender goes up the field, so do you. I went on a recruiting trip with Yale assistant coach, Marty Walker who was looking for a goalkeeper on his list. We got to the field, saw that the goalkeeper was on her line when the ball was in the oppositions half and said to me “Come on, let’s go!” [See the things that college coaches are looking for]
  6. Arrive early. If you are worrying that you will be late, or what coach will say, or wondering if you will not start the game because of your arrival time, you are taking time away from thinking about the game. You do not want to be the kid running to the field all flustered. As a goalkeeper, you should project calmness and authority. This can not be done if you are rushing. By arriving on time, you can be prepared by checking out the field conditions, see the goals and warm up appropriately.
  7. Take your own goal kicks. Recent studies of the college game show that the goalkeeper is only in possession for 4 minutes of a 90-minute game. An average of two and a half saves for females and three saves for the male game. That 4 minutes includes the 82% of play that is now with a goalkeepers feet. [See the trends of the modern game here] Can you imagine waiting, standing and not touching the ball and then the ball goes off for a goal kick? You go to get the ball, and then someone comes and takes your goal kick. That makes you a glorified ball boy or ball girl!! It means your influence on the game is even less. If you are not comfortable taking kicks, you need to practice or work with your coach on strategies to play out of the back. [See this article on striking a ball from the floor] By not taking goal kicks, there is a perception of lack of quality, lack of confidence and the encouragement to the other team that there is one less player on the field to receive the kick.
  8. Make saves look easy. As goalkeepers, we love to dive around. There is a fine line in the perception of the goalkeeper making this kind of save. In one hand there is admiration that the goalkeeper has been able to make the save, but as people get more educated on the position, the aim has to be to make the save look as easy as possible. You do this by making clean saves. Good technical ability is key for this, ensuring good footwork and body shape. There can be something quite soul destroying for the opposition to know they have hit their hardest shot and you just plucked the ball out the air looking so comfortable.
  9. Eliminate mistakes from your game. All the good work that you have done to provide a good first impression, such as arrive early, look the part, have a good warm-up etc can be undone in the first few minutes of a game if the first thing you do is a mistake. You give the opposition the opportunity to think that maybe you are not as good as they first thought. Ideally, you will eliminate mistakes throughout the whole game, but make things easy for yourself by holding off as long as possible. The best goalkeepers make the least mistakes.

A reputation is earned by the collective perceptions over time.

By ensuring that you do these nine things on a regular basis you will earn the reputation of your teammates, coach, and opposition of being an asset to the team. It will help in proving consistent good performances and the ability to pull off the odd great save.

[See this article on how to improve consistency as a goalkeeper]

Here are some other factors that can help you improve your reputation with the coach and your team.

  • Be as good in training as in games
  • Be early to practice
  • Be seen to practice outside of regular training hours
  • Interact with the coach. Ask questions about the session, the upcoming game or discuss something you are unsure about. ( This is easily done if you arrive early to practice ) 
  • Be the role model. Be the best that you can be so that people look up to you.

Another article that you may want to consider is this one which asks if you are one of the “cool kids” at school.


Here is the full article regarding Arsenals search for a new goalkeeper in 2015

They ultimately got Petre Cech. Ironically, read about his nightmare Arsenal debut here.


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Retreat to your goal when you call away

I just watched highlights of the NYCFC v Chicago Fire game and saw an example of why you have to retreat to your goal line upon calling “Away”.

Like all good goalkeepers, Josh Saunders’ original thought is to claim the cross. Upon assessing the flight of the ball, he elects to call “Away” and gives responsibility to his defenders.

Goalkeepers should ensure they get back on their line so they can react if the defenders do not get to the ball first.

Having watched this spectacular save by Joe Hart, you can see what can be achieved with that extra split second reaction time if you stay on your line.

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Goalkeeping Communication

Goalkeeping communication flowchart

Goalkeepers are constantly being told to “Communicate” or “Talk” to the players but what do you say? 

I have come to the conclusion that a goalkeeper does not talk for one of three reasons. 

  1. Lack of confidence in their ability
  2. Wanting peer acceptance and not wanting to upset players by yelling at them
  3. Not knowing what to say and when to say it.

For the sake of this article, I will be concentrating on a small part of the third reason goalkeepers do not talk – Not knowing what to say and when to say it.

There are plenty of times in which a goalkeeper needs to communicate. They are;

  • When the ball is behind the defense
  • When the defender is 1v1 with the attacker
  • Free kicks
  • Corners and long throws
  • Balls out wide
  • When distributing
  • When the team needs leadership

See below for the four stages of communication when the defender is 1v1 with the striker.

I created this flowchart to help goalkeepers to have a systematic approach to their communication.


Wake up-2

See also another post on communication and goalkeeping volcabluary 

The power of good communication



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Good communication stops opposition at the source.

As a goalkeeper, you are responsible for guiding your team. You have the privilidge of seeing the whole field and should see the opposition set up their attacking play. It is your responsibility to share what you see.

The call from the goalkeeper must be early . The purpose of calling is to give information in time for effective action to be taken. Late calls do not permit effective action. There are three elements to effective communication. 1) When 2) What & 3) How

Clarity of voice and information is essential. The call must be loud enough for the players to hear. Goalkeepers must not be afraid of “Turning up the volume” – it may be necessary to compete with the noise of the crowd.  The information must also be clear. If information is being given to a player, then his name should be called.

The call should be decisive and should be in a voice of command.

The voice whilst being loud, decisive and authoritative, must also be calm . The worst thing which could happen would be to panic team-mates into action.

Whilst constant communication of various types should be the norm, I see two main times when an instruction is vital.

1) When the ball is in the air

2) When the ball is has gone behind the defense and they are now facing you – the goalkeeper.


When the ball is either in the air of behind defense.

Keeper’s/Keeper’s Ball : You are coming to collect.
Away : You can’t deal with it, but hopefully someone else can.
Come home : Relaxed way of telling players that you are available as support.
Turn outside : No need to knock it back, turn so you can set up an attack.
Knock it back/ Head it back : It’s keepers ball, but needs a player to help it on to you.

There is a difference in vocabulary used depending on if the team has possession or not. When in possession

When the team-mate has time on the ball:
“Time – two-touch”
“Time – turn”
“Time – carry”
When the team-mate is under pressure:
“Man on!”
“Away – Man on”
When the keeper wants the team mate to pressure the ball-carrier:
“Get tighter!”
“Close him/her down”
“Stand up! Stay on your feet”
When the keeper wants to make play predictable:
“No turns!”
“Show inside / down the line”

When the ball has been cleared and you want the defense to compact the play:

“Squeeze!” (Quickly over a short distance)

“Step up!” (Gradually)

When the keeper wants the defense to hold a line:

“Hold the D” (5yds higher than box)

“Hold the edge” (of the area)

“Hold the spot”

“Level with the 6” (yard box)

“Level with the ball”


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Goalkeeper goal kick

The back pass

The Goalkeeper should be a soccer player first and have in addition the knowledge and ability to play in goal.

That fact, as well as the fact that 76% of a goalkeeper’s touches in a game do not involve the hands requires the goalkeeper to be competent with the ball at their feet and the back pass situation.

With good vertical play and a confidence to play with feet outside the area, the goalkeeper’s position can lead to an extra player advantage on the field (especially indoors)

Are the players in your team scared to play back to the keeper? – Please discuss with the team the advantages of playing the way you face as a defender and using the goalkeeper to pivot play.

Much of the back pass is tactical ( decision making ) and communication within the team is key.

The goalkeeper, and players should adopt these 4 words so that everyone is clear on what is happening.

“KEEPER” – Dont touch it, keeper is coming “BACK” – Play it back to the keeper
“AWAY” – Clear it
“TURN” – Keep possession. You have time to turn

Ideally the goalkeeper would be looking to play to a defender who has peeled off wide, thus maintaining possession. The pass, as expected with outfield players should be the correct weight and accurate. (Not necessarily to feet, but in front )

Common errors for misplaced passes include:

  • Weak ankle
  • Shoulders not straight
  • Poor first touch
  • Twisted follow through
  • Non kicking foot pointing the wrong way

The long kick is often a last ditch effort to clear from a charging forward. This kick is to clear danger. Height, distance and width are needed. Remember that this often results in a loss of possession, as larger opposition defenders facing the field of play are more likely to win the ball.

A good goalkeeper who is comfortable with the ball at feet should be an advantage to the team rather that a hindrance, giving everyone heart attack on the side!

See this unusual way to deal with a back pass.

See my related articles

The importance of a good first touch

Back pass facts

Kicking balls from the floor

Breaking down the Courtois backpass mistake

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