Playing Goalkeeper is Not That Easy

Thirty-Nine Things That Are, Or Should Be, Going Through a Keeper’s Mind


By Paul Oliu

As a result of some high profile blunders over the past several weeks, from Claudio Bravo at Man City to Andre ter Stegen at Barcelona, Gigi Buffon with Italy, and the countless youth keepers I have seen, I’ve been talking a lot about goalkeeping lately.  As an old goalkeeper myself, I’ve made my share of mistakes.  And as anyone who is a net minder, there is no hiding when you cost the team a goal. 

Contrary to popular opinion however, I have always said that being a goalkeeper was a thinking man’s position.  I would argue that a keeper needs to consider a lot more variables to make a single play than any field player.  To make it more difficult, there is a zero margin of error.  So not only does a goalkeeper need to consider a number of elements to make a play, he or she must also do so without making a mistake.  A mistake can cost you your team’s confidence, or worse, a goal.

So with that in mind, I put myself through a mental exercise of trying to outline what are some of the elements of being a goalkeeper.  I started with the notion that some colleagues have said to me in the past, and that is the only thing a goalkeeper needs to do is to “shut up and make a save.”  From there I listed loosely in order what a goalkeeper needs to think about every time they are in goal. 

So here it is.  A list of everything a keeper needs to keep in mind every time they step into goal:

1. Make sure your angles are correct. Where are you in relation to your natural ability to make a save at the near post?

2. Make sure distances are correct. Where are you in relation to your natural ability to cover the goal.

3. Own the six.

4. Make a save on a goal at all costs…. Or “shut up and make the save.”

5. Intercept a pass to someone on goal.

6. Make a save, catch the ball

7. Make a save, parry away to the sideline.

8. Make a save, parry away for a corner.

9. Properly positioned to come out for the ball near post.

10. Properly positioned to pivot to go far

11. Come out and catch the ball on a corner.

12. Come out and punch the ball out to corners of the box.

13. Come out for a ball for a one on one.

14. Get big on – 1 on 1

15. Dive at the opponents feet on a one on one..

16. Direct wall. Half man past the ball.

17. Direct players to know what to do when the ball moves.

18. Be positioned to cover natural ability to get to far post.

19. Receive and distribute ball with feet.

20. Distribute ball with hands.

21. Distribute ball to forward alone in space.

22. Distribute ball to forward in 1 on 1 situation.

23. Distribute ball to outside mids.

24. Distribute ball to outside backs.

25. Punt/ kick ball away to player positioned to win a 50/50 ball.

26. PK – Evaluate players angle to the ball.

27. PK – Read hip position as shot is taking place.

28. PK – Positioned to push player to choose strong side.

29. PK – move to ball.

30. Move to the play. Support backs on through balls.

31. Direct your defense to afford the best posture to prevent a goal.

32. Direct defense to mark open men.

33. Direct defend to cover passing lanes to goal.

34. Direct defense to force the play to strong side.

35. Direct midfield to cover passing lanes. 

36. Think, don’t react.

37. Move, don’t stand still.

38. Talk, and often.

39. You are a field player. This has come under considerable fire as of late, but I still maintain that yes, despite that it is a specialty position, a goalkeeper will always be a field player.

I am sure I am missing something, as I am sure there are those who will quibble with my list.  But so be it. While I expected it to be substantial, I didn’t expect it to be this long.  Hopefully, this helps my kindred spirits in goal realize what they have always thought… that being in goal is not that easy.

Paul Oliu is another former ex-writer. His articles appear on The 56th Minute whenever he gets the urge.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s