Goalkeepers and Mental Strength

  • I thought the first topic I would tackle in this new blog is the often hidden feelings of a goalkeeper, the depression, the self doubt, the hyper criticism, the never ending chase for perfection that is the clean sheet, and the battle against the ill informed media on the subject. As a football fan and also a professional goalkeeping coach I guess I view the game slightly differently, looking for the minute details in the keepers movement, could they have made that save? Could they have caught the ball? Could it that goal have been prevented?. It's an annoying habit, as my dad will testify (he often sits next to me!), but I feel in order to expand my knowledge on goalkeeping it's vital to analyse every game to see if there is something new to learn, some way of improving myself, a different way of doing a drill or making a save. I think that this over analysis stems from being hyper critical of my own game when I played, I would often be on for a clean sheet, then curse myself as I conceded a sloppy goal due to my mind wandering to the pleasures of the clean sheeted glory. Usually one could be followed by two as I didn't learn to let the anger at losing the clean sheet go quickly enough.



    I felt as a young keeper positive feedback would have worked for me, but those were the days of no keeper coaches, keepers were there to be shot at and nothing else. Being hyper critical of yourself seems a common trait for keepers, having spoken to colleagues about it many seem to also be of the sense that they are their own worst critic, getting them selves caught in a spiral of dark thoughts about their performance and how it could be improved. Reading a book recently about the late German keeper Robert Enke made me realise that I too was similar in that I was hyper critical of myself, and unfortunately I too was suffering with depression again. Book available here Robert in action here I currently make my living as a professional goalkeeper coach but I felt my standards were slipping despite favourable reviews and references, I was in a vicious circle of feeling that I wasn't giving value for money, that I was letting the keepers down, that I was wasting everyone's time. Reading about Robert made me realise I had a problem and seek help. It was not a place I wanted to be and I wanted to feel in love with my football again. As I mentioned earlier being a goalkeeper is often about being perfect, and whilst I am by no means perfect, perfection is what must be delivered if we, as keepers, are to meet the expectations of the team, manager and fans by not conceding a goal. Those expectations do pray on the keepers mind whether they let on or not, as a fan I know I have turned up to matches and had my heart sink when my favoured stopper of the day was not available to play, literally conceding that the replacement stopper had conceded before a ball has been kicked. Knowing how the fans, and team perceive you does pray on the keepers mind and that you need positivity to play your best. 



    I have found that colleagues I have confided in about how I have been feeling about goalkeeping know instantly the torture a keeper puts themselves through and offer words of encouragement, but what if you are the only keeper at the club? Or the manager isolated you? The other keepers don't want to interact due to the competition? What then? I don't think there is a right or wrong answer BUT don't feel that you are the only one, and of course, DO tell/talk to someone.  Recently we have seen a lot of critics giving their two pence on David De Gea, admittedly a lot of these critics have played professionally but how many have played in goal? And can we let Alan Smith in to the GK union based on ten minutes in goal in a sky advert? They tell us that he is inexperienced compared to Anders Lindegaard, who whilst older at 27 to DDG's 21 years, has played only 100 professional games to DDG's 75. However I think we would all agree that La Liga and Europa League are a far higher standard than Danish football. So stats don't always tell the truth. Also people point to Lindegaard's clean sheet record but look at the teams they were against hardly world beaters. I'm not saying Lindegaard is a bad keeper, he clearly is a talented lad but DDG needs to be cut some slack by the media who appear to want him to fail. I don't think really we can point the finger on any of the goals he has conceded other than possibly the 1st goal v Basle and even that I'd contend he sent it away from goal and was unlucky it deflected off Evra's leg as it was going wide! So with this do some the media need a crash course in goalkeeping. And goalkeeping methodology? For me a resounding yes.



    Until next time, I wish you clean sheets and worldies!  David