It was the start of the league and 10 weeks of preseason has already gone by. During that time, I had enough time to know them and let them know me. I achieved to create a strong bond, where goalkeepers and goalkeeping coach decided by mutual agreement how to act and which stimulus were the most important in the different stages of the game.
Specifically, one of the aspects I had to manage as a coach was the “positioning-placing”.
Both were goalkeepers “from the goal”. They paid special attention to defend their space only, without paying attention to inhibit the danger using their positioning-placing behind the defensive line. They were used to very backwards positions, so they suffered with long shots, reacting mostly late and badly, due to the large space they weren’t defending.
Thanks to the dialogue, making them see and understand the game first and then suggesting specific game tasks to improve those aspects, we achieved to embrace these messages:
“DEFENSIVE BALANCE WITH AND WITHOUT THE BALL”
“ATTENTIVE AND FOCUSED ON THE GAME OPTIONS”
“CONSIDER THE SPACE BEHIND THE DEFENSIVE LINE”
“IF THERE IS NOT PRIORITY IN THE KICK, BUT THERE IS PRIORITY IN THE INSIDE PASS, I MUST CONSIDER A POSSIBLE ANTICIPATION-INTERCEPTION”
The match started and during the warm up we observed the goalkeeper was calm, focused and very attentive to the different aspects of the game.
As the coach, I took the liberty of giving him a couple of messages:
“ENJOY THE GAME AND KEEP IN MIND THAT EVEN YOU MAY BE UNCOMFORTABLE, FOOTBALL SOMETIMES DEMANDS POSITIONING IN MORE FORWARD AREAS TO AVOID CHANCES OF PASSES TO OPEN SPACES”.
During the match, the opposing team threatened us in two occasions with long shots, trying to surprise the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper’s positioning was perfect. I was pleased watching how all that work we had been training for months was being carried out efficiently and safely.
However, the match broke and we lost control of the game, 5 minutes away from the ending. The rival was pushing a lot and was clearly superior. I started to feel a bit of excitement and pressure because beginning the year getting 3 points, could be a good starting of the season.
The referee added 3 more minutes. Infected by the euphoria and the adrenaline rush, I got up and sent the following message to the goalkeeper:
DON’T TAKE SO MUCH RISK, BECAUSE THEY ARE GOING TO CATCH YOU!
STAY IN THE GOAL JUST IN CASE!
I’m sure, as goalkeeping coaches, more than once we took a decision in the heat of the moment of the last minutes of the match or during a training session. And after finishing, we asked ourselves:
What was I thinking about?
We know there can be no excuses but, as human beings, we react to a series of emotional impulses, all of them fed by the well-known adrenalin. That excitement leads to very big mistakes in most cases. If we do not pay attention to those mistakes and think about them, talking about them later and openly with the goalkeepers, they may provoke we lose that thing we care so much about: our credibility.
Is that message right or wrong?
Am I aware of the consequences of that message?
What led me to not being consequent with my philosophy, strategy…?
If we think about the causes that lead us to take that kind of decisions, they will explain when it is more likely for our strategy to fail. All the value we had generated until then, will disappear with it.
Football, as a cooperation – competition sport, suggests that there is always a rival. However, when rivalry is more intense, it gets more dangerous, usual, hard to live with and to manage.
As coaches, the desire to win at all costs or accomplish a result, no matter the way, sometimes blind us. This desire gets more powerful when we perceive the rival as priority enemy.
What should I do when I detect this feeling?
As goalkeepers’ coaches, once more our figure is going to not only help our goalkeepers, but also ourselves. An intelligent and simple way of defusing rivalry is to put our goalkeepers together and remind them that our enemy is just the other side, whose interests are the same as ours. Our rival, as well as we, are clever, reasonably rational and a bit emotional. And they probably see us as an enemy too. It is not always easy to control our feelings towards the rivals but adopting a perspective of normality and empathy can promote making cold and rational decisions, even when rivalry is tough competition.
TIMES OF THE MATCH
The tick-tock of the clock during the match can overwhelm us as coaches if our only aim is winning at all costs. We call that emotion “pressure”.
Whether you’ve ever played a game or given an order to the goalkeeper during the training session or match, you surely noticed how the pressure of time seriously harmed your decision making. A lot of studies support that this is caused by a boost in our psychological excitement, lowering the ability to find and use relevant data.
So, is it best to stick to a strategy just because it worked in the past?
In many occasions, football is going to give us final deadlines, as goalkeepers or as goalkeeping coaches. So, the time pressure is inevitable. A football match lasts 90’ plus the time added by the referee and, in this situation, there is nothing we can do. However, there is a place the goalkeeping couches can go to.
How many times did we add unnecessary pressure to ourselves or to the goalkeeper?
Goalkeeping coaches (and goalkeepers) usually adopt strategies to make decisions more easily, comfort zones where pressure is not an imminent threat. At this point, what really matters is to realize and make the goalkeepers realize that working in those comfort zones keep us away from progressing, growing and we will end up failing.
If we let the pressure become our master…
Who will be our rival?
The opponent or ourselves?
FOCUS OF ATTENTION
As we said before, there is an aspect in football (sometimes for good, sometimes for bad), and that is this sport is completely integrated in our society. The presence of an audience, highly engaged fans, family, friends… increase the ability to get easily excited and freak out, reducing in many cases the performing of physical tasks or tasks that involve creativity, perception, analysis or problem solving. Watching it and living it, are totally different things.
A graphic example: imagine we are coaching a goalkeeper every week and his/her game is spectacular. In the tasks/drills, the goalkeeper moves fine, decides properly… However, the matchday comes and the goalkeeper’s decisions are wrong, we perceive in him/her some concern in these actions, agitation, frustration… fear. As coaches, we ask ourselves why, and sometimes we question our own job.
Something easy to understand is that the goalkeeper is the focus of attention. As a coach, I can’t help that, but I can be an ally in this aspect. Once more, a relaxed conversation with the goalkeeper, or a different point of view in which this aspect can be seen as “one more thing”, inherent to the profession, can play it down and help the goalkeeper to manage these situations more fluently. However, we must not forget the fact that sometimes we are going to be the focus of attention for bad, but also for good. We must also learn to channel those emotions in order to keep on growing
Did I assimilate negatively the aspect of being the focus of attention?
Is that ambition keeping me away from enjoying the good things of my job?
Do I focus all my efforts, as a coach, in offering my goalkeepers a perfect image of myself? Do I have that need?
And as a goalkeeper? Do I focus all my efforts in being “perfect” in the eyes of my coach, my dad, my friends…?