Never say never!
When it seems that all is lost and the ball is goal bound and you’re surely going to concede, it can be easy to just simply give in and accept defeat. But that’s where you’re wrong! I’ve made plenty of saves desperately scrambling back to deny a goal scoring opportunity and due to the effort in recovering ground and not giving up on the play, have been able to stop a goal being scored. It can be quite an achievement, let alone lead to a great deal of satisfaction just to wipe the smile off the shooter’s face. Isn’t that what goalkeeping is all about?! Too many times have I watched highlights on Match of the Day with football (soccer) goalies simply watching the ball go past them, normally on free kicks (although arguably you could say you can’t be too critical as at that level the ball travels so fast they know they’ve been beat). Wouldn’t you rather give it your best shot (not sure if that can be considered a pun!) and see if you can stop it?
One way of dealing with such a scenario is to dive back on the play; diving back towards goal, trying to reach the shot. This is easier said than done, but if the ball is on the pitch and need lifted, then is obviously easier to pull off! Against a passing play you can cut the angle if the ball is headed towards you. That said if the ball looks like it’s about to cross the line but you have the time to stop it, diving back with your stick extended can stop it in its tracks. Although it’s a different sport altogether, you’ll find plenty of highlight reel saves by ice hockey goalies who reach back behind them to stop the puck crossing the line.
Don’t give up!
Essentially you need to have a never give up attitude in order to stop yourself being beaten. Normally you expect to have to dive across or recover from an initial save where the ball has shot out (if the shot was difficult to control), if you are to make the stop. How you make the save is obviously dependent on the situation. If you’re out in the door leaving an “empty goal” for the shooter, then you’ll probably need to sprint across to get in its way, whilst if you are faced with an immediate follow up, you’ll need to do your best to recover into your ready stance quickly to make the next save. Similarly, if you have been beaten on a 1-on-1, then you can attempt to get back into your zone to get in the way of the shot, or run parallel to try and cut off the shooting lane.
A good drill to practise this mentality is one I was taught a while ago dubbed “the killer” (because of how much it will wear you out!) which is apparently used by goalkeeper coaches in Holland. The drill starts off with three balls in a line, the goalkeeper runs out, slides to clear away the ball and then has to run back to try and stop a ball the coach has thrown towards goal. This process is repeated, testing the goalkeeper’s mental and physical strengths. It basically teaches you to never give up on the play, running back to try and stop the ball crossing the line. If you can do it in drills then surely you can pull it off in games!
The following is a clip of South Korea’s goalkeeper Myung-Ho Lee making three concurrent saves in spectacular fashion in the 2009 men’s Champions Trophy tournament in Melbourne. He makes the initial save before recovering to make the second, before launching himself across the goal mouth to deny the Australians. With all that effort no wonder he ends up out of breath! And who says you can’t be unbeatable?!
Ultimately, all it takes is a desire to stop every shot. Whilst it’s up to you and your confidence, you can try and make yourself unbeatable in games. Trying to stop everything thrown at you (or should that be fired or shot at you?!) and a desire to keep a big “0” or a clean sheet shows your team mates how much you want to win and should hopefully rub off them and inspire them. Remember, never say never! A ‘can do’ attitude is all it takes!