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The Modern-Day Goalkeeper

By Keegan Rogers

The Modern-Day Goalkeeper

            Go to your nearest computer, type in “Goalkeeper Highlights,” sit back, and simply admire.  You can watch these video compilations for hours upon hours and continuously be mesmerized by the abilities these goalkeepers are able to showcase.  Goalkeeping gems are all over the internet and should serve as motivation for any young, aspiring goalkeepers who want to achieve greatness.  It is truly amazing to watch young goalkeepers attend trainings and want to replicate the things they see from their goalkeeping idols.  As great as it is for players to want to do the things they see in these highlight videos, there is a giant problem that many tend to forget about goalkeeping; extension saves are no the only things that make a goalkeeper great. Keeping the ball out of the back of the net is not the only responsibility of a keeper anymore.  Goalkeeping has stretched beyond the 18 yard box and has become one of the most demanding roles in all of sports.  There are many dimensions about the position that players must focus on if they intend to develop into the modern-day goalkeeping mold.  This is an exploration of the demands goalkeepers must meet in order to be successful.

               In the simplest job description of a goalkeeper, the objective is to keep the ball out of the back of the net.  Plain and simple.  For a young goalkeeper, this should be their foundation.  However, as they develop and grow into the position, it becomes less about making saves and more about how a keeper makes saves.  In a perfect performance, a goalkeeper will make saves by holding every shot without any spills. This should be a goalkeepers primary shot stopping concern.  This is called a “secure save.” Of course, securing every save in a game isn’t always realistic.  A “parry” save is a secondary source in a goalkeeper’s shot stopping repertoire. There are various techniques for parrying a ball, but goalkeeperss must have the ability to parry the ball away from danger.  A parry save is meaningless if the ball is redirected back into a dangerous area.  Understanding this, the modern-day goalkeeper needs to assess the situation around them before the shot is taken to make a proper parry save.  This skill is much easier said than done.  It takes many years of repetition and practice to know when, where, and how to parry a ball into a safe area.  The last resort of making a save is called a “deflection.”  These saves typically consist of point-blank encounters, redirected shots, or 1v1 scenarios where goalkeepers have no choice but to react and do their best to keep the ball out of the back of the net by any means necessary. This skill requires a substantial amount of athleticism, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and even flexibility. Saves come in many different forms, and this is why shot-stopping to the modern-day goalkeeper is more than just keeping the ball out of the back of the net.    

                Let’s take a step away from making saves. Go watch the local pro or college teams and you will see that goalkeepers hardly ever use their hands anymore. Marcus Seaton and Jose Campos conducted a study about goalkeeping distribution and their results tell us that goalkeepers distribute the ball about 83% of the time using their feet, not their hands.  This is quite remarkable for a position that is unique in the way that they take pride in their ability to use their hands. Goalkeepers at the highest levels are expected to make saves, but even more so, they are expected to be facilitators.  Goalkeepers are natural leaders.  They are the only players on the field who can see the field’s entirety at all times.  This is huge for a team’s success.  If you can dictate what your team does with the ball, chances are your team will be successful.  The modern-day goalkeeper is expected to walk into any team or system and be able to dictate possession using their feet and leading capabilities.  Goalkeepers must be vocal, two footed, and comfortable with the ball at their feet.  These are traits you won’t find on any goalkeeping highlight reel, and yet, these traits make up the majority of the keeper’s action throughout the game.

                Goalkeepers are a breed of their own and they should play the part.  At the highest levels, goalkeepers go through an intensive work regiment, training every day on their position.  Professional athletes are diligent workers, but goalkeepers train methodically, constantly developing and mastering their craft to the point where it becomes an obsession. They take it upon themselves to unequivocally own their maturation as a player.  The objective for keepers is to find methods and routines that work and continuously build upon their technique until it becomes second nature in action.  It is important for keepers to constantly be in good playing form and to maintain a high bar of consistency.  The modern-day goalkeeper should be a perfectionist, always discovering, breaking down, and analyzing flaws in their game they should improve on. Goalkeepers must understand that there is no ceiling for talent.  The demand for quality goalkeeping is always at a premium and it is important for keepers to take on this challenge.

                The modern-day goalkeeper is a multi-dimensional evolutionary phenomenon.  It is a true pleasure to be a part of a unique community full of talented athletes who seek a better understanding of what the goalkeeping position offers to the game of soccer.  Strapping on the gloves and stepping onto the pitch is a gratifying experience that players should take pride in.  There is no such thing as a perfect goalkeeper, but seeking perfection through the position is a fulfilling journey that is full of thrills and excitement.  Witnessing the modern-day goalkeeper in action is an elegant sight and we should continue to develop our youth to fit this mold. 

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