Goalkeeper tips: Playing with a bad defense

Here is the reality of the game… you may be a goalkeeper who always play with the a team that has a “great” defense,  played together for a while, close to the same age group and get an average of 1 to 3 shots on goal every game.  This is the kind of defense or team that would make a decent to a skilled goalkeeper look like a million dollars.

But what if you have a TERRIBLE defense?  Balls go through this defense as if they don’t exist, or defenders who simply can’t get it together.  This type defense will make an awesome goalkeeper look like they’ve never played before because you will be under intense pressure the entire game and more goals will slip in.

Here are 8 GOALKEEPER TIPS to help you:

First, let me be very clear.  These goalkeeper tips are NOT going to bring magical powers into your team and transform them into World Cup winners.  Second, it is NOT ONLY the defenders’ responsibility to defend.  It is a TEAM responsibility which starts with the forwards all the way to the goalkeeper. Third, your goalkeeper skills, agility, power, speed, vertical jump reaction & experience MUST BE an essential part of your game.

However, if you follow these tips, you (goalkeeper) will be able to manage the game and even possibly give confidence back to your defense.

Goalkeeper tips:

  1. Communication: Give direct and simplified instructions to your defenders; DON’T BE A CHEERLEADER; call them by their FIRST NAMES and tell them exactly what you want them to do or who to cover. You will need to be as SPECIFIC as possible but don’t expect them to listen to you the first time.  Be ready to repeat yourself more than once. Getting mad at them will NOT solve your problem. Basically, “it is like holding a child by their hands.”
  2. Accept the reality:  getting upset, complaining or simply blaming everything on the defense or the coach, or simply stating “I told them but they don’t listen” is NOT going to resolve the fact that you still have to play the game. Accept it, embrace it, and move on!!
  3. Know all responsibilities:  This one is VERY IMPORTANT!  There are many goalkeepers who have NO CLUE what team tactics and strategies are, and not knowing the tactics alone will complicate your game. For example, what are the responsibilities for EACH of the field players on a 3-6-1, 3-5-2, or 4-5-1 formation?  Who are the defenders supposed to cover during a counter-attack? What are the responsibilities of each single player on the field during defense & offense?  If a player moves up to attack, who will cover his/her spot? These are important questions because it will help you understand when an attack is developing and, as a result, it will help you give CORRECT and EXACT instructions to your defense.
  4. CONTROL THE BALL MORE:  The moment you see your defense in trouble and heading towards your goal, YOU MUST tell them to release the ball to you or pass back. For example, tell them to give you the ball to your feet, get the ball for a punt, or goal kicks. You MUST MAKE yourself available to help your defense keep control of the ball.
  5. MORE CALCULATED RISKS:  In other words, don’t expect your defense to do everything right.  You may have to play much higher off your goal line, come out more to punch or catch balls on crosses, and be ready to sweep balls that are near by or running loose anywhere near the 18-yard box.  Get ready to make many decisions that are out of your comfort zone. Playing to0 cautiously in the goal will not be the best approach when playing with a bad defense.  Be proactive!!
  6. BE LOUD:  lots of time keepers will say, “I was screaming but they don’t listen.”  Sadly, I don’t buy that!!  If you are really loud people (not just mom or dad), everyone on the sideline will hear EXACTLY what you are saying. To be more specific, you must have a COMMANDING PRESENCE in the goal to take charge of every defensive aspect.
  7. Know your weak players:  Sometimes knowing who your weakest players or defenders are can help you figure out who needs the most help or what player to avoid when you are distributing the ball.
  8. Keep it simple:  If you have possession of the ball and you are about to DISTRIBUTE the ball by punting or throwing, you must MAKE SURE it gets to them to where they can control the ball immediately on their FIRST TOUCH.  Give it to them on a “silver plater.”  This way you don’t put them under any pressure to lose or miss the ball.

There are many more tips which I could add to this blog, but this will give you a very good idea on how to handle these type of teams.

Lastly, understand that anyone who plays the game for a long time, from amateur to professionals, will eventually play for a team that struggles on defense.  Avoid living in a “dream world” where you NEVER lose a game, you play with the best team all the time, or you never get scored on and you always win every game, etc.

Instead, focus on understanding the game, your team and their abilities, and continue to improve in all aspects of your goalkeeping training.  This way you will be a productive player on the field no matter what team you play for.


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