LAST week, on November 25, the world lost one of the greatest ever soccer players to have played the game. Diego Armando Maradona.
Nicknamed ‘El Pibe de Oro’ (The Golden Boy), Maradona was one of the most skilful players to ever play. His technical ability was unparalleled, and he was renowned for his dribbling ability, his vision, close-ball control, creativity, balance, passing and strength. All those talents made it very difficult for defenders to play against him.
Although he had a certain level of natural talent, he did not reach the legendary status levels on talent alone. He did, of course, work tirelessly on his technical abilities in order to improve his performance during competition.
There is a famous video of him warming up for SC Napoli before what was the old Uefa Cup (today’s Champions League) game against Bayern Munich. In the video it shows Maradona executing his skills pregame with the music ‘Live Is Life” being played over the stadium’s speaker system.
He toe-taps the ball, then flicks it up onto his knees then up onto his head where he balances it for a few steps then drops it back down onto feet before completing the ‘Maradona 7’ – toe-tapping off both feet, both knees, both shoulders and then the head.
Not once does he look like he is struggling to keep control of the ball. He looks totally confident in his ability to perform these tasks. There is no doubt Diego would have spent hours of practice time perfecting these fine motor skills before taking to the field of play. Confidence is created through experience, meaning Maradona was fully aware and confident in his performance and especially his capabilities as a player.
As a goalkeeper it is also very important to work on these fine motor skills just like Maradona. It is important for any goalkeeper who wants to improve to ensure they focus some of their training schedule into working on this area. Working on the more technical aspects of your game will allow you to optimise your performance during games.
Catching, kicking, diving, vision, ball-carrying, footwork, jumping, blocking, hand speed, hand eye co-ordination. These are all examples of technical skills that the goalkeeper will need to work on to become a better player.
By self-evaluating or evaluating with your coach, you will learn which of these skills you need to work on. Then, by prioritising those which you feel need the most work, you should be able to formulate a training schedule around that information.
When designing a training strategy for your technical skills you will need to look for specific exercises and drills that will assist you in improving these skills. To maximise your improvement, it is best to focus on one specific skill at any one time. This will allow you to really hone in on how your technique is being performed and will allow you to understand what is happening and how to improve it.
Breaking your skills and techniques into ‘micro-skills’ will enable you and your coach to really put your performance under the microscope and highlight the various parts of your skills/techniques that need to be fine-tuned to result in improvement.
This type of training is of less intensity and adopts a more ‘spot and fix’ ethos rather than a high intensity workout. This will allow the goalkeeper time to focus on the movement they are doing as well as the quality of that movement. In turn, this will allow them, or their coach, to spot any irregularities and fix them accordingly.
If you do break the skills down into micro-skills in these sessions, it is vitally important that you perform the skill as a whole at the end to ensure that the micro-skill you have just worked on can be integrated fully into the whole skill. By integrating the micro-skill into the whole skill it encourages it to become part of the whole skill which then develops into habit. Remember when under pressure instinct takes over rationale thought and reverts to what you have been taught or trained in a certain situation. So, if we train good habits, we perform good habits under competition conditions.
Technically gifted players are in no way gifted with their technical ability. They are born with a level of innate talent. What they do differently from other players is work very hard on the skills of their game. This catapults them to levels higher than other players operate at. If you wish to improve your technical ability, just like Maradona, you will need to put the hard work into improving your technical skills. Don’t be a prima donna, be a Maradona!
Are you a goalkeeper or goalkeeper coach that feels they are limited with their knowledge of the position? Do you have questions that you would love to have answered? Would you like to have someone who you could contact about your goalkeeping?
Please feel free to send any questions or queries to myself and I will be more than happy to help as best I possibly can. You can contact me through either my Facebook or Twitter pages (Morrison School of Goalkeeping) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer you as soon as I can. #G-Unit.