Very few footballers have the inclination to become a goalkeeper in the first place, let alone master the role. That’s partly because goalkeeping, among many other things, requires an immense amount of bravery — which the majority of players do not have.
Goalkeepers of any age or level have to be brave enough to take on huge responsibilities as well as tackle the mental and physical challenges that come with the role.
The question is, are you brave enough?
Are you ready to take on new skills and big responsibilities?
By becoming a Keeper you embark on an journey where you’ll learn (and refine) an array of new skills such as handling techniques, shot stopping, good communication, quick reflexes and footwork, decision making, and leadership. Of course, goalkeeping is still football — but its by far the most difficult and specialised role in the game. You have to be determined to take on this challenge!
Aside from learning the relevant skills, Keepers take on a huge responsibility from the get-go: the ability to influence the score in practically every interaction they have with the ball. In other words, Keepers can make or break games of football.
There’s no doubt that this huge responsibility can weigh heavy on your mind and impact your ability to perform on the pitch — if you let it. But you have to face it head-on, be confident, and prepare to be accountable. That’s precisely why Keeping isn’t suited to players with a tendency to drift in and out of games, or those that avoid conflict. Goalkeepers may have less action than some other players, but every single moment is highly influential.
Are you thick-skinned enough?
No player is more likely to receive criticism than the goalkeeper.
Strikers may dispute this argument by pointing out that they too come under fire for not scoring goals. But the fact is, unlike goal scorers, goalkeepers are never given praise for “working hard” or making a “good attempt”. Just think: a striker has the luxury to play poorly for 90 minutes of a game, score a late winner in injury time, and all of a sudden that’s deemed a “good” performance.
Could a goalkeeper make a hash of several shots throughout a game and then make one wonder save to make up for the goals they’ve conceded?
Of course not. Goalkeepers are expected to put in near-perfect performances every game — with only minor allowances made for goals that are deemed ‘unsavable’. If a goalkeeper makes an error that leads to a goal there’ll be no “better luck next time”. On the contrary it’ll usually be pure disappointment and criticism from everyone associated with the team. And that’s very hard for goalkeepers to deal with on a mental level.
Even professional goalkeepers struggle to recover from their errors, and to re-gain confidence in their ability. But the best Keepers in the game don’t stay downbeat for long. They’ve learnt to build up a thick-skin, and to deflect negativity while striving to improve in the immediate future — the very next moment of the match.
To become a successful goalkeeper you’ve got to build up the courage to deflect all those inevitable criticisms, rather than dwelling on them. You’ve got to be calm, yet highly determined to bounce back from mistakes and prove everyone wrong — time and time again. You have to be brave in a mental way.
Are you prepared to physically challenge for the ball?
Goalkeeping is, without a doubt, one of the most physical positions on the pitch. Keepers are expected to put their body on the line to save hard shots, challenge for crosses/corners, make vital tackles, and dive at the feet at players in 1v1 situations. It’s an adrenaline-inducing position that’s a lot of fun to play — but it carries the risk of injury.
Cuts, bruises, and knots from diving for the ball or colliding with opponents are common goalkeeper injuries. But it’s not unusual for Keepers to endure more severe injuries such as fractured fingers or wrists, and in worse cases arms or legs. Even with all of the protective sports gear, goalkeepers simply cannot avoid all injuries.
It helps to have a tall, strong body type — but bravery is the core component required. So when you become a goalkeeper you have to consider whether you are willing to take the rough and tumble that comes with the job. There is no way of getting out of the physical aspect of the game — it’s absolutely vital.
Are you able to command your team mates?
As a goalkeeper you’re expected to communicate with, and lead, the defence in front of you. This is known as “commanding the area” and it’s an essential part of being a Keeper.
Assertive personalities are naturally suited to leading the back line and giving out orders. But there’s absolutely no reason why a more introverted character cannot adapt to take on a dominating role on the pitch. After all, the great thing about football is that it enables you to express yourself in ways you wouldn’t off the field!
As a Keeper you have to be brave enough to make split-second decisions — such as claiming the ball — and stand by them. You’ve got to find it in yourself to become a strong leader — even if it occasionally offends your team mates — because you’re in the best position on the pitch to assess vulnerabilities.
With the vast amount of skills required, big responsibilities, regular criticisms, potential injuries, and the need to become the ‘boss’ of the back line it can be daunting starting out as a goalkeeper. But it becomes easier, and much more enjoyable, as you start to get into the groove of the role. But there is no doubt: it takes guts to be a goalkeeper.