I HAVE been writing these goalkeeping columns for over three years now and I regularly have emails, texts and social media messages from players, coaches, parents etc. in relation to goalkeeping. One of the most commonly asked questions I receive would be: “Where do I get my inspiration from?”
The short answer for this is ‘Everywhere.’ Inspiration can be found anywhere at all; you just need to be looking for it.
One of the most common places that I would find inspiration for my goalkeeping would be in other sports. All sports have the same fundamental skills that are the bedrock for their skills to be evolved into sport specific skills.
The key for us as players and coaches is to strip these sports’ specific skills right back to their ‘textbook’ skills and then see if we can develop them into ‘performance’ skills for goalkeeping.
Most of the time it can be an arduous process of trial and error and there are times when skills cannot be transferred but when you do transfer a textbook skill and develop it into a performance skill the rewards can be fantastic.
Here are some of the sports I have taken inspiration from whenever I was looking to improve my goalkeeping performances as both a player and a coach:
As a coach, the main inspiration I took was to create a goalkeeping philosophy and design a set of goalkeeping principles that I could use and follow as a framework when coaching different goalkeepers. It helped me create a coaching style that was not a ‘one size fits all’ model but one that accounted for the variations in every goalkeeper’s unique style.
As a player, soccer was a massive influence in terms of finding exercises that would improve my hand work especially reaction times and hand-eye co-ordination. The positions are similar in nature but are performed very differently but as mentioned before the corebase skills are very similar and from this they can be developed easily for Gaelic goalkeeping.
Judo and Cirque du Soleil (Acrobats)
Both of these disciplines were instrumental in assisting with the development of my ‘Pendulum Roll’ diving technique.
The technique that allows a goalkeeper to land with minimal risk of injury while also giving them the ability to use the momentum of the dive to recover back to their feet as quickly as possible without the need to use their hands.
Judo is a martial art that involves throws and holds, therefore the first thing that they teach you before anything else is how to fall correctly without injuring yourself or your opponent.
The Cirque du Soleil acrobats propel themselves around their stage by using the momentum of rolls to transfer their bodyweight which allows them to move from position to position with so much grace and elegance.
By combining both disciplines, and a lot of trial and error, my Pendulum Roll diving technique was born. This technique can be broken down into three stages for easier learning and is a great way to start getting goalkeepers, especially those who are timid about diving, to dive.
I am an avid Gridiron enthusiast and a Buffalo Bills fan of 30-plus years back into the early 90s when they reached four Super Bowls in a row without winning a single one. Ouch!
But the sport itself has always intrigued me. Teams have more coaches than players and every part of the athlete’s life is meticulously planned out for them, from when and how to eat to getting players into various sleep patterns (one, two, four times per day) to the extreme of actually taking the players’ home bed mattresses on tour with them so they have their own sleep grove in the hotels that they stay in, every possible one per cent is thought of.
From a playing viewpoint, I took a massive amount of information in how they develop speed, agility, and quickness into their players. More importantly how they ensured that the footwork drills they completed were totally specific to both the sport in general and specific to the position that each player would be playing.
From a coaching aspect, I had always been fascinated by the team playbooks on both offence and defence.
In terms of the offensive side of the ball, these plays that the quarter back would use to get players open assisted me, and still do, to create restart routines for teams that I have been with or worked with. They have very similar principles in that the main objective is to receive possession of the ball as far down the field as possible with play development after the catch.
With more and more rugby documentaries available and the introduction of the ‘mic’d up’ phenomenon, rugby has allowed me to further my understanding of how important both communication and organisation is in Gaelic games.
The top rugby teams all have their own team language and calls to help them communicate and organise themselves on the field of play.
Most Gaelic teams have some form of communication system but nowhere near the levels that the rugby teams do.
Whenever a Gaelic team is developing their team language it is, in my opinion, essential that the players create that language (with guidance from the coaches) with the goalkeepers as the central figures in the creation of this language.
Why? Because it is the goalkeepers that have the advantage of being able to use the language more than others, they also have the best vantage point on the field of play and as they have no opponent to mark, they have more decision-making time than others to decide what tactic to employ in each developing situation.
Most importantly they should have a strong character to accept their mistakes and hold themselves accountable for making a wrong decision.
Other sports are important to get inspiration from but none more important than your own sport. As a player or coach one of the best exercises you can do is to write down as many different situations that you can think a goalkeeper will face in a competitive game and then use that list to create your position specific training.
Once you have done this and have perfected each situation your next step is to make it more difficult so that you then adapt to the new situation.
As the season goes on, any new situations that are not on the list, or even any attempts on goal that you face, need to be replicated again in training so that you are fully prepared for those situations if they were to ever to happen again. You may even want to replicate situations that you may have seen other goalkeepers in to be ready for them also.
The most important thing to remember when you want to be inspired, is to “look for inspiration.”