The role of being a goalkeeper is not for the faint of heart. With the intense physical demand, there is also an intimidating mental demand of this position that only retains a handful of courageous men and women. Mistakes for a field player are much different than mistakes for a goalkeeper. For a goalkeeper, errors are magnified to an incredible level that only a few can continually bear. The bigger the stage, the bigger the magnification. Mistakes can be used as a growing experience for athletes, but sometimes mistakes can be incredibly difficult to overcome without the proper mindset. If mistakes are being made by a young goalkeeper who does not have the proper mindset, then mistakes are not easy to bounce back from and can hinder a player’s development and even prevent them from playing the position again. It takes a great understanding of the position and your role on the team to be a solid goalkeeper. As much as coaches harp on the physicality of being a goalkeeper, there is a goalkeeper mindset that needs to be instilled in your mind to properly develop into a more efficient player.
The foundation for having a good goalkeeping mentality is to live in the short-term, but to never forget. Mistakes are made in the past, so it’s best to leave them there, but keepers need to be sure that they learn from them as well. While you are playing as a goalkeeper, your job is to focus on the moment and nothing else. Throughout a match, emotions will run high and revert to low nonstop until the final whistle. After a brilliant save, your adrenaline will be pumping and you will want to do whatever it takes to get your hands on the ball. Too much energy will lead to bad decision making. It is certainly natural to be excited about making a solid stop, but you need to train yourself to play for the moment and bring your emotions back into check. After making a mistake, your body will want to shut down and give up. The more a mistake lingers in the mind of a goalkeeper, the longer your performance will be altered. Goalkeepers must learn to adapt quickly and continue to play in the moment, rather than letting the past highs and lows effect their performance.
What young goalkeepers need to understand is that mistakes are inevitable and they will happen. The greatest goalkeepers in the world are thankful for the mistakes they made because those mistakes have lead them to the learning experiences that they gained. After making a mistake, build yourself up to a level emotional state and play for the moment. This can be done by encouraging players around yourself or creating a mental “reset button.” Young goalkeepers also need to understand that without low points, they will not live up to their fullest potential. Goalkeeping is an experienced-based position. There is a reason why a professional goalkeeper’s prime doesn’t start till their early 30’s and there is a reason why goalkeepers can play until they are nearly 40. It is because it is a position that you are constantly learning. There is no such thing as a “perfect goalkeeper,” so it’s imperative that young goalkeepers embrace their mistakes and learn from them at a young age.
Goalkeeping is quickly becoming the hardest position in all of sports. Only a select few can take on such a task. Goalkeepers in the modern era are complete athletes. They need to have the full physical repertoire, branching from coordinated footwork, solid hands, and the endurance to play a full 90 minutes. Goalkeepers need to have the ability to cover the largest goal (in terms of dimensions) in all of sports. By virtue of their position, goalkeepers need to be natural leaders. They also need to be brave, relentless, and fearful. However, none of this matters unless they have the proper mindset to grow and become the best they can be. The intangibles of being a goalkeeper mean absolutely nothing if they cannot channel their mental energy and attention to the aspects that make them great.