By Tim Mulqueen
It's perfectly normal to feel nervous before a game, but keepers need to clear their head of negative thoughts. How they go about doing this depends on the individual.
A good goalkeeper coach learns to read his players well enough to know whether to step in -- and to know what to say. If a keeper needs a little confidence boost, the coach might provide a positive memory: “This field reminds me of where we beat Lions SC and you saved the last-minute penalty kick. Remember that?”
If the keeper needs more of a pep talk, the coach might be more direct: “You had great practices this week. You made incredible saves and snatched crosses better than ever. You’re as prepared as you can be. Now go out there and have some fun!”
If the keeper needs to rein in his racing mind and relax in the minutes before the game, the coach might initiate some light-hearted conversation: “Hey, Sam, look at the face paint on those fans!”
A keeper who thrives on intensity may be best left alone.
A keeper who struggles with self-doubt can mentally walk through scenarios such as the following: Take a few seconds to scan the field. Imagine a counterattack that results in a breakaway, and you grab the ball from the forward’s feet with a perfectly timed dive. Imagine great saves and safely gathered crosses. To clear your head, picture the soccer ball. Try thinking of nothing but that ball. Tell yourself “That ball will be mine!”
(Excerpted from “The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper” by Tim Mulqueen with Mike Woitalla courtesy of Human Kinetics. U.S. Soccer Federation coach and instructor Tim Mulqueen has been goalkeeper coach for U.S. national teams at the U-17 World Cup, U-20 World Cup and at the 2008 Olympic Games. He's been a goalkeeper coach in MLS, for the MetroStars, and the Kansas City Wizards when they lifted the 2000 league title.)