Ways to improve your perception and your reputation as a goalkeeper

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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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