GOALKEEPING is a very specialised position. A goalkeeper must have a good basic skillset just like every other position on the team, but they also need to develop specific goalkeeping traits, skills, and movements to be able to play the position competently. Like any sports person that is truly serious about improving in what they have chosen to do, goalkeepers must become students of their craft to excel at their optimal performance levels. Whenever they do this, it allows the ‘keeper to have a better understanding and greater input into their own training needs.
You should be adept within this specialised area and be actively involved, with the guidance of your coach, in creating a periodized training schedule. This will give a sense of purpose and direction for both the goalkeeper and coach to follow throughout the year. Combine this with regular self and peer appraisal and furthering one’s goalkeeping ability becomes more of a habit as opposed to a hobby.
It is important for all ’keepers and their coaches to tailor specific training plans to their own specific needs. Not all goalkeepers will be trained in the same way. Yes, they may complete the same drill but its purpose and how it is to be completed will differ from ‘keeper to ‘keeper. It is the role of the coach to understand their goalkeepers and adjust the purpose and execution accordingly per goalkeeper.
Whenever I train goalkeepers, I focus on six main Goalkeeping Areas:
Before any training has even begun a goalkeeper needs to focus their body on the exercises they are about to perform. This area is far more important than merely warming up the muscles of the body as simply moving about would complete this. What Activation includes that a regular warm up does not is attention to specific detail such as hand eye co-ordination, diving technique, footwork, foot speed, ground contact, eye activation and reaction, peripheral vision, handwrist activation. Incorporating such drills like eye exercises, pendulum rolls, short ladders, visualisation and fingerhandwrist exercises into your prehab routine allows these areas to be activated before continuing onto your physical activation whereby you activate your body’s muscles for exertion.
React & Recover
Whenever I am training or coaching, I always combine both areas as they can be closely linked during games. How fast a goalkeeper can react to certain stimulus both mentally and physically goes hand-in-hand with being able to recover from making a save or being caught out of position. Training reactions with drills that force the goalkeeper to make decisions in split second speed sharpens reaction overtime. Adding in a second ball or balls of different colours and sizes will aid with improving their reactions. Having multiple reps in quick succession works the goalkeeper’s recovery both back to the set position and recovering from being out of position.
Everything that a goalkeeper does begins with their feet. Good footwork is essential and should be worked on in every session whether it be with speed laddershurdles, rushing out to close attackers, working the techniques, set position, last step towards the ball or positional awareness training, this one area vastly improves every other goalkeeping area as a bonus. Always make sure to train footwork in awkward positions or when caught out of position. It is just as important to know how to reposition oneself, when caught out of position, rather than to just try and get into the best position every time. There is no such thing as good or bad position, only the position you are currently in.
Shot-stopping is a phrase that has been borrowed from our soccer counterparts to give definition to the action of a goalkeeper making a save. Realistically, there is virtually no shot stopping in Gaelic football for a goalkeeper. In soccer the goalkeeper can expect a shot purposely aimed at goal from anywhere inside 35 metres. This is not the case in Gaelic as most shots on goal come from inside the 14m box (penalty area). It is because of this fact that it is better to say the goalkeeper is in a ‘Situation,’ one that requires decisive thought or an action to be taken and can be dealt with comfortably with some anticipatory decision making. Other situations that must be trained by a goalkeeper include closing attackers (1v1, 2v1, 1v2, 2v2 etc.), high balls, rebounds, penalties, taking side-line passes all of which must be practiced at game intensity or higher and under extreme game type pressure.
This is probably the biggest area involved with Gaelic football goalkeeping at present, but for me it is on a par with each other area. Goalkeepers need to do more than just kick the ball out from restarts although having 25-30 restarts a game means a good portion of training needs to be assigned to this area. When training, it is vital to constantly remind yourself of your kicking routinestyle and FEEL your kick. Once your body becomes akin to your kicking style it will become easy to feel whenever something has gone wrong or is out of sync. Working on your own to improve kicking technique can include various methods such as using targets to aim at (hula hoops, player dummies), coned areas on the field, visualising runners, repeating the previous kick, or using slalom poles as gates to kick through. Every team should have a couple of restart routines for during games and these should be practiced at least once a week with as close to 15v15, as possible.
Another area that I currently cover within the area of Distribution is a goalkeeper being in possession of the ball. With the emergence of the ‘Fly Goalie’ into Gaelic football with Rory Beggan (Monaghan) and Niall Morgan (Tyrone) giving an exhibition of what the future of the position will entail during this year’s Ulster Final. It will become ever more important to coach your goalkeepers to be comfortable being in possession of the football. You don’t have to force them to bomb forward like Morgan, Beggan, Brody (Laois) and Hughes (Armagh), but enough for them to be competent when in possession.
With the game constantly evolving into a high-octane, faster-paced sport with lessening decision-making time, it is vital for goalkeepers to keep up with this trend by ensuring that when they train it is well above game pace and intensity and is under the same level of game pressure or higher than that they would experience during a competitive game. This ensures the goalkeeper’s readiness for the game as they have prepared well by training the way they intend to play, and they do this by using my Six Goalkeeping Areas.