“Empathy”. A key value in the current goalkeepers coach

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“Empathy”. A key value in the current goalkeepers coach

Today, the goalkeepers coach is an active part of the coaching staff. One of the values that he/she has to handle perfectly is the "empathy". A feature that has to manage in all goalkeepers trainings, being able to keep it throughout the season.

I can’t stand this keeper!

Hopefully he finds a new team for the next season because… I’ll not stand another season training with him!

How many times have we wondered things like these?

When we train, we spend a large number of hours with people around us. People we can connect to from the first moment or people we do not connect at all to. The circumstances force us to live with them and even have a daily deal.

The relationships that we create with the keepers within the working group or with the team mates, are decisive to have a healthy and appealing climate. And sometimes, as coaches, it will get us to make a huge effort, not only to create and maintain such climate, but also to overcome certain future problems.

The football world is thoroughly rooted in society. This means that around it millions of interests are generated. Finding ourselves down the road with the social climbers, the tiresome, the envious, with those that will hinder you at the minimum slip, with those of “for yesterday”, with those who leave everything for the next day, with those that know everything… It would be interesting to learn how to live with all them. And therefore we have to do our bit. Asking again what our minimum and maximum are, and up to where I am willing to give.

Empathy is the ability to know, understand and share the feelings of others without the need for those to verbalize them.

(Sanchez y Gaya)

Thanks to this emotional ability we can handle and deal more closely with the goalkeepers emotions and feelings, enhancing our link with them by realizing what they feel without necessity to be share. This aptitude from us makes it easier to put us in their perspective, being able to understand, guess and reflect on what they feel, what happens to them, what worries them …

Empathy should not be confused with identification, nor with imitation. Developing and applying empathy as part of our method will not make us lose our personality as coaches, nor the credibility from goalkeepers. An empathetic trainer simply understands, values and feels the reason for their reactions, to be able to obtain information from them and manage them appropriately.


If because of my personality I am not an empathetic trainer, can I no longer acquire and improve that value?

In general as goalkeeper coaches, we genetically have a special predisposition to experience the emotion of empathy. Maybe being goalkeepers, feeling different from our beginnings, learning sometimes to accept the defeats as our own although they did not belong to us … have caused in our present a certain tendency to react to the emotional manifestations of another goalkeeper in an innate way. But it is not enough feeling the same as the goalkeeper. In addition to be empathic on an affective level, we must acquire over the years the personal relationships experience and the education of this value.
Nobody says it’s easy but being interested in the goalkeepers, knowing their culture, their life, what surrounds them, their hobbies, their circumstances, understanding their needs and objectives can be a good start.

What guidelines should I follow then to train that value?

Value the times when giving advice

No one questions that as coaches we wanted to help the goalkeeper solving his problem, but do not forget that perhaps before opening himself to us, he has thought a lot about how to solve it. Probably, he will have taken several ways to achieve it before we suggested solutions.

Without understanding the problem, it is not advisable to provide solutions. For this reason, it will be positive that our first words after listening are focused on asking the possibilities that have been discussed and the reparation attempts taken. This position will help us to understand the situation, causing the goalkeeper to feel understood. Otherwise, it is possible that our advice falls into oblivion.

Do we as coaches follow advices from someone who has not understood our situation?

Have we considered before giving advice if the goalkeeper just wants to be heard and understood?

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