It’s often said that goalkeepers are a “different breed” to outfield players. And it’s true. Throughout all levels of football, players and coaches involved in the game will attest to that.
So exactly what makes keepers so different? How are goalkeepers unique?
It’s Practically a Different Sport
Goalkeepers play an entirely different game to their teammates.
Firstly, and most obviously, regular outfield footballers can only use their feet (apart from on throw ins), while goalkeepers are granted the additional power to use their hands inside the penalty box. This means keepers have more tools to sharpen than their remaining ten teammates.
Sure, there’s several overlaps between goalkeeping and outfield roles, too. The ability to pass and pick out a team mate, as well as the need for fitness & strength, and high levels of concentration applies to everyone on the pitch.
But the rules, responsibilities, training regimes, physical attributes, typical age range — even the mindset — of goalkeepers is vastly different. Goalkeeping is practically a different sport in its own right.
Essentially, a highly broad skill-set is required for goalkeeping. It’s football… plus a whole lot more on top. That’s precisely why it’s the toughest position to learn.
The Lone Player
The lack of camaraderie is ever-present between keepers and their team mates. It’s a lonely existence both on and off the pitch.
During training sessions you’re isolated from your team, working with specialist coaches — or battling against team mates in strike drills. You practice your own game.
The disconnect from your team carries through onto the pitch, where you’re physically isolated down one end. You’ll often go extended periods without touching the ball or being involved in the action. If your team scores, you rarely get the chance to celebrate in the huddle, either.
Busy games do little to change the dynamic. You can produce some outstanding saves, even set up attacks from great distribution — yet you often won’t receive the recognition you earned. Make one mistake, and guess what? The focus is entirely on you, for all the wrong reasons.
Off the pitch you’re still out of the loop. Your team mates bond over the dramas which took place up the other end of the pitch — the goals, penalties, bendy free-kicks — even their diabolical attempts on goal. Unlike the keeper, they can afford the luxury to laugh off their mistakes and inadequacies.
It’s mandatory that keepers are independent and single-minded. Yet at the same time they also need to avoid becoming too distant or introverted, in order to remain fully integrated with their team. That’s a challenge in it’s own right.
A Different Mindset
The role of the goalkeeper attracts certain ‘types’.
Goalkeepers aren’t in this for the personal glory; they’re in this for the team. It’s not about how many goals they can score, or how many assists they can make to better themselves. Success, for a keeper, is measured by how many goals they can prevent.
My coach always said that goalkeepers were the best behaved, most dedicated, least arrogant players he’d ever coached (he still coaches England’s third team). And that never surprised me. The attention span, strength of character, dedication and drive required to be a goalkeeper weeds out any characters with airs and graces.
For more on the “goalkeeper mindset” check out my post on the Psychology & Mental Strength of Successful Goalkeepers.
Goalkeepers Are Unique At All Levels
One of the big believers that goalkeepers are a “special breed” is professional striker, Peter Crouch.
Crouch dedicated an episode of his podcast to goalkeepers (his nemesis), and provided an honest insight as to precisely why they’re so very different to other players.
At one point in the podcast the presenters joke that Crouch is “goalkeeperist” — as he mocks keepers’ peculiarities and character quirks. Typical striker, right?
Nonetheless, it’s interesting to learn how professional goalkeepers fit into the team dynamic and how it never really changes from youth right up until the very highest level of football. It creates a sense that the most successful keepers in our game are indeed a unique, different breed — just like you.
Being a goalkeeper means accepting and embracing that you’re different. So it’s no wonder that goalkeepers stick together and have such a strong mutual respect for one another; keepers know how tough it is to be the outsider.