January 20, 2008
Readers send me emails every couple of weeks about how to make it into the big leagues, or how I can help them get into a club. It’s funny sometimes when you read articles about football players and how their focus on football is the be all, end all of their existence. It isn’t, (or at least it shouldn’t be).
Everything we do as footballers is a conduit for every other facet in our lives, a springboard into something outside of just football alone. We all hold passions outside of football, mine has always been writing, technology and running an online business…thus this blog.
Some goalkeepers, like Wigan’s Chris Kirkland for example has had a strong passion to become a firefighter his whole life. Sounds funny right? Oh, he/she doesn’t need the money, we say, why would they work a “regular” 9 to 5er when they can easily retire from football. But have you thought that maybe outside of your goal area, there are many other things to think about than just goalkeeping alone.
It’s both healthy and natural to have other passive or active past times than just being the “soccer” guy/girl your whole life. In fact, when you isolate yourself in your quest for success in just one pursuit, we end up isolating ourselves from discovering other fulfilling experiences in life.
Goalkeeping as a position and profession is lonely enough in itself, you need to attach yourself to other past times which you are wholeheartedly passionate about, with a view of being great at these outside of football in the future.
I’ll give you an example. One long time family friend of ours and a great Aussie footballer, Tony Sekulic, played both at an elite level in Australia and in the Bundesliga of Germany. After 4 years of chasing the dream abroad, Tony came back to work in the family business (last time I saw him) with his brother and seemed extremely happy in his life with his own young family.
You see, Tony has something I call “Soccer Smarts”. When you think of it, Tony used football as a conduit to a fulfilling life outside of football. How? You see Tony discovered that he could utilize the amazing skills he learned in the “business” of football, to be successful in his own business and family life back at home in Australia.
Now, it’s all well and good to be wholeheartedly passionate in your pursuit of excellence when it comes to your goalkeeping…it’s what we do. Although, don’t make football the only part of your existence. Yes, professional soccer players do live, breathe and eat the game…but they also know how to pursue other interests outside of football with the same powerful iand positive ntensity (at least some of them do) that gave them the success they needed to become the best soccer players in the world.
So, no, in the end, it’s not always about goalkeeping. It’s also about having something in your life (outside of football) that you are truly passionate for, and utilizing the fantastic skills you learn as a goalkeeper to leverage a more fulfilling life outside of the game when you move on from it.
January 16, 2008
Soccerlens started this whole thing… I blame Ahmed’s boys for picking up on the IFFHS’s rankings for the best clubs and players from around the world. Over the past week, I’ve been finding myself going back religiously to see if the updated rankings for the All-Time World Goalkeeper Rankings have been published, and they were…here are the results:
I’m so excited it feels like I’m watching a Eurovision song contest. (I’m not going to list all of them by the way, and only those whom are currently still playing):
1st: Gianluigi Buffon, Italy, 69 Points.
3rd: Oliver Khan, Germany, 62 Points.
6th: Iker Casillas, Spain, 53 Points.
7th: Edwin van der Saar, Netherlands, 45 Points.
11th: Peter Cech, Czech Republic, 37 Points.
13th: Dida, Brazil, 35 Points.
20th: Francesco Toldo, Italy, 21 Points.
27th: Rogerio Ceni, Brazil, 13 Points.
28th: Jerzy Dudek, (Poland), Oscar Eduardo Cordoba, (Colombia), Roberto Carlos Abbondanzieri, (Argentina), 12 Points.
32nd: Jens Lehmann, Germany, 11 Points.
34th: Rustu Recber, Turkey, 8 Points.
39th: Gregory Coupet, (France), Marcos Roberto Silveira Reis, (Brazil), 7 Points.
42nd: Andonios Nikopolidis, Greece, 6 Points.
45th: Brad Friedel, (USA), Pepe Reina, (Spain), Santiago Canizares, (Spain), Timo Hildebrande (Germany), 5 Points.
54th: Ricardo, Portugal, 4 Points.
55th: Andres Palop, (Spain), Juan Carlos Henao, (Colombia), Tim Howard, (USA), 3 Points.
62nd: Juilo Cesar, Brazil, 2 Points.
Ohhhh, the controversy of it all! Interesting to see Dida anywhere in the top 20 this year, Jens Lehmann at mid table in the 32nd position, while his nemesis Oliver Khan in third place shows just how far Lehmann has slipped out of favor over the past year for Arsenal and the German national team. Interesting to see Reina down in 45th place as well?
Subsequently, Buffon was in equal place with Schmeichel as the all-time best goalkeeper in the world for 2007, and I’m sure that Iker Casillas (especially with his recent stunning performances), will be battling it out with Busson in the coming few years for top spot overall. Van der Saar was right behind Casillas, showing a solid year long performance with Manchester United to hold his place in the top 10.
January 14, 2008
It was Vince Lombardi who said “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will”. If it was good for the Packers…it’s good enough for me. But, you’d find that each and everyone of us has that “sit on the couch and eat potato chips” bug, and that kind of thinking will hurt you in a big way.
Planning forms the platform for perfection and it is the best possible procrastination killer. Funnily enough, most people would not know where to begin when formulating a plan, it’s one of those “I’ll get to it later” tasks. 99% of the reasons that we complain about never getting to the next level with our soccer skills and performance is because we never had a well thought out plan.
Rewind…Just over 4 years ago, I was sitting in a little office cubicle day dreaming about making it back into the highest competitive level of soccer. My little note book was gleaming in the fading light of the afternoon sun, I was bored to tears waiting in anticipation for my next training session at the gym, so I picked up my trusty pen and started chiseling away at the paper.
Following are some vital steps in planning your soccer season:
Vision: Nothing starts without vision. Where do you want to play in 5 years? Manchester United. No, be realistic. Jot down that you want to play in a State league team and be their first choice goalkeeper, for example. Your vision begins the process for you to map out the steps you need to get there.
Note: Your vision is not going to happen today, it’s a future forecast of things that are yet to happen. People often fail right here…at the beginning, because they fail to be realistic about their future vision, it all seems too far away.
Goals: Your goal setting processes are little benchmarks that you set along the way to reach your long term vision. Goals again have to be realistic, and they have to be daily, monthly and yearly goals.
Daily goals can be planning a plyometric session in the morning, while going for a goalkeeper specific training session in the afternoon. Your monthly goals could include increasing your training intensities week by week, while a yearly goal can be a specific milestone you envision that is the accumulation of every one of your minor goals.
Periodization: Now that you have your daily, monthly and yearly goals in place, the real fun begins. Soccer today is a year round sport, and winning teams (take your pick, Manchester United, Barcelona and co.) all plan there seasons well in advance, right down to the socks they need to wear on match day…get me?
So to be a winner, and forge a winning mentality, you have to plan yearly, and tweak your plan every single year until you reach your overall vision. Creating periods of pre, in, and off season training sessions, and the little details that go into each facet will unfurl into a complete overview of your progression throughout the soccer season…you’re one step closer to your vision, exciting huh?
Get It Down On Paper: Following is an awesome example of how a goalkeeper can utilize a periodized plan for soccer to map out a long term training cycle very easily. Funny thing is, Sam didn’t use some state of the art software that spat out an answer to his wildest dreams. Nope, he used a simple pen and paper, and got creative.
Mapping out your plan alongside a training diary will give you some keen insight into your overall performance, and will act a a great historical map of your evolution into a better goalkeeper. It’s great to look back at historical data about where you were, and see your overall progression mapped out in front of you and what you have achieved.
Getting organized with a soccer fitness plan is not difficult, you just need to start with a simple vision of where you want to be and what you want to achieve. Set realistic and measurable goals, plan for years, not just today and keep on tweaking your plan, be it fitness or diet on a regular basis. If you have any more suggestions add them to the comment box below so others can learn from your own experiences.
January 12, 2008
Commanding your back line is a daunting task for any goalkeeper. Now, imagine commanding your whole team when your second language is not English? Huge difference isn’t it? If all you hear on the field is the dull thud of the ball, and the chirping of crickets in the background, something just isn’t right.
We see the thunderous mistakes of goalkeeping heroes, and we point the finger at technique or lack in some aspect of the goalkeepers ability. What we tend to forget is that many goals are at fault not because of poor ability, rather a lack of communication.
But, is proper goalkeeping communication limited to the 18 yard box, or should it stretch well past the confines of the goalkeepers own little world?
Communication (especially for goalkeepers) has several steps (we go over these in our free 10 Week Report). Many of these processes can, and are, significantly skewed during the course of the competitive match. Some of the things that hinder a goalkeepers efforts at communicating effectively include:
Noise: Imagine the difference in the delivery of your commands with 6 people watching…and 60,000 people watching? Filtering through the noise during a competitive match is vital to the success of the team unit as a whole. There are many ways to succeed in communicating effectively without blowing your lungs into oblivion, one of which entails non verbal signals (like hand signals for example).
Destination: If you have an eagle eye view of every action being fought out on the park, how effective do you think your team would be if every message you sent out to your back line could be read and understood by the guys/girls in the middle of the pitch and beyond? Very effective! Great goalkeeping communication should not just be aligned with how you talk it out with your back line, it should reach out to your midfield and attacking players as well.
Great communication breaks down barriers, and it does not matter if you can’t speak a word of English. The human body has many ways of communicating other than your vocal chords, so using the hands and eyes are also great subtle cues to help maximize and relay your thoughts to your team mates.
Now, when we talk about the mistakes that high profile goalkeepers make, we sometimes miss the boat and forget to look at the fact that many goals are brought about by a lack of communication by the goalkeeper to their outfield player.
Effective communication really has no barriers, and great goalkeepers know that their communicative efforts travel far beyond their 18 yard box, and act as an aid for not only defensive play, but attacking play as well. So when you are communicating with your team-mates, be sure it reaches far and wide, no one can hear a pin drop in a field of bustling players.
January 11, 2008
New Tottenham manager Juande Ramos was more than supportive of Paul Robinson when he joined the North London club. He insisted that Robinson was a good goalkeeper and that his form would recover in a short while.
Now Ramos has dispatched his scouts in search of a new goalkeeper. The boss has changed his tune quite quickly in a short period of time. He seems to be fed up with Robinson’s mistakes and is looking for a suitable replacement by the end of the month, with Maarten Stekelenburg on top of his shortlist.
Robinson’s glaring mistake is his lack of consistency. Professional goalkeepers are known for their consistency, and without it, they do not play at a high level. Even if the talent is there, they must be able to use it on a regular basis.
In training and matches, goalkeepers should strive to be consistent. In every training exercise, it is not enough to have one or two good repetitions. Naturally, age and experience need to be taken into account, but as a goalkeeper develops, their training needs to be set up so that they have a 80-90% success rate. Then when they are more advanced and can handle a bit of failure, harder exercises that stretch their abilities can be introduced where their success rate may be lower.
With consistency comes confidence, not just for the goalkeeper, but for his teammates as well. Players need to know that their goalkeeper has the ability to bail them out of mistakes. Unfortunately, after his recent form, many players and coaches have lost confidence in Paul Robinson. I would be very surprised if new England manager Fabio Capello keeps him as first choice, or even on the squad with others such as Robert Green and Joe Hart playing as well as they are.
January 10, 2008
The other day I was surfing around some of my favorite internet marketing type web sites (yes, I don’t just live and breathe soccer you know), and stumbled across an article over at John Chow. Funnily enough I saw a site review (John does tonnes of these) for Speedendurance.com which is run by Jimson Lee whom is a competitive Masters Athlete, coach (mostly track and field) and president for an athletic club in Vancouver, Canada. (UPDATE: Ok, It was not a site review, thanks Jimson!)
I’ve always alluded to the fact that to be a top class goalkeeper you must think outside of the square (obviously further than your 18 yard box). Looking at other athletic fields, and the specific movements that top level athletes in other sporting fields adhere to, can give your own goalkeeping performance a massive boost. One extremely important facet (and one which we cover extensively in The G-Code) of your training, are plyometrics.
Plyometrics is basically a fancy name for any activity that specifically enhances muscular power (more importantly neuromuscular power). If you can enhance and increase your muscular power, then you can guarantee to generate top class goalkeeping performance in every facet of your game, be it jumping to catch the ball in mid flight, or diving to attack the ball with a shot on goals.
Following are some awesome tips from Jimson Lee, that you can utilize to maximize your own goalkeeping performance:
Plyometrics and Depth Jumps
The importance of plyometrics cannot be more emphasized.
Plyometrics refers to exercises that enables a muscle to reach maximum force in the shortest possible time. The muscle is loaded with an eccentric (lengthening) action, followed immediately by a concentric (shortening) action. This action is often confused with the stretch reflex reaction.
In short, Plyometrics bridges the gap between strength and speed.
Plyometrics training can benefit several sports: horizontal jumpers in Athletics (high, long, triple), volleyball players, football, basketball and soccer goalkeepers, just to name a few. For goalkeepers, the extra few inches you gain from your jump can make the difference between a goal and no goal!
This handy checklist gives a high level overview on Plyometrics and particularly Depth Jumps.
General & Preparation
1. Count the number of foot contacts per session, and perform the exercises on a grass surface to minimize wear and tear on the legs.
2. Wait until all the injuries are healed before beginning a plyometric program.
3. Introduce Olympic weight lifting first, especially power cleans from the ground. It is important that they acquire proper proprioception and co-ordination with the correct lumbar-pelvic rhythm, especially the knees, lower back and hips.
4. Start with depth jumps from the ground, then exploding upwards. If a sand pit is available, try the standing long jump, which is a common test for children to test for power, explosiveness and elasticity. The current world record is 12 feet 4 inches by a shot putter, not a sprinter of jumper.
7. Depth jumps uses the central nervous system heavily. Therefore, they should be used not less than 3-4 days before a technique session. You can do some light strength work after a plyo session.
8. In general, you can do plyometrics 2 or 3 times a week, preferable at the end of practice. If you have a split session, make sure you have a few hours before each session.
9. A general guideline for each exercise is executed in sets of 10 repetitions, with 1-5 minutes of rest between sets
10. The optimal dosage of depth jumps with an intense vertical or horizontal take-off in one training session should not exceed 4 sets of 10 jumps for well conditioned athletes and 2-3 sets of 5-8 jumps for lesser-conditioned athletes. Easy running and relaxation exercises for a period of 10-15 minutes should be done between sets
11. During the competition period they should be included once every 10-14 days, but no later than 10 days before a competition.
12. You should land on the balls of your feet, as the heel should not slam to the ground by momentum. This indicates the force (or the height of the box) is too great.
14. When doing depth jumping off boxes, remember to be relaxed when stepping off the box, not jumping off the box.
15. Unlike weight lifting where you exhale on the concentric contraction (the force), your breath should be held and never released during the contact phase or landing phases where maximal effort is produced.
I hope these guidelines will get you started on plyometrics. Of course, the volume should be tailored to each individual athlete.
About the Author
Jimson Lee is a coach and founder of http://Speedendurance.com , a site dedicated to Coaching, Training, and free Videos.
January 8, 2008
Iker Casillas again proved his plaudits as one of the best goalkeepers in the world against Real Zaragoza on the weekend. Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster praised the fact that Real Madrid is lucky to have one of the best shot stoppers on the planet. Casillas pulled off some brilliant saves against a fired up Zaragoza, the following video highlight shows some fantastic positioning and reaction by the Real Madrid custodian:
There are probably too many saves to mention from the above video. What stands out if the first one to one situation where Casillas journeyed off his line to block off an attack by Zaragoza. If you notice he paced himself with the Zaragoza attacker well enough to be in the right position, allowing him to utilize his feet to push the ball away.
Goalkeepers should realize that sometimes the use of the feet (as opposed to diving) is necessary to repel an effective attacking situation. There are many times during the game where a goalkeeper will not have time to react with his/her hands when attempting to react to the ball. Utilizing your feet and legs will sometimes be just as effective in pushing away an attacking situation on your goal.
Diego Milito of Zaragoza summed up Casillas performance very well:
“Sometimes it is difficult to beat Casillas and it was one of those days. He is a great goalkeeper, one of the best in the world.”
Can’t complain when even the oppositions striker applauds you.
January 7, 2008
Poland and Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc has ended much anticipation about a move away from Celtic Park by signing a three year extension to his current deal with the Scottish Champions. Now this is interesting seeming that we heard so much in the press about his disagreements with team mates Lee Naylor, and once speculation linked to a possible decision for Boruc to move away from Celtic to AC Milan or Arsenal.
On the other hand, both Arsenal and Milan will be doing some serious head hunting, as Dida and Lehmann are looking to move away from their respective clubs. The European Champions are in search of a goalkeeper to replace current number 1 Nelson Dida following many recent woeful performances by the Brazilian, and a smack down by a Celtic fan.
Meanwhile, Arsenal are looking to bring in a goalkeeper to take a firm grip of the number 1 shirt at The Emirates. Jens Lehmann seems to be on his way out but recently Manuel Almunia has put in some excellent performances to stake his claim in becoming the outright number one goalkeeper for the Gunners. It seems that Lehmann has also been linked with Dortmund in the Bundesliga. But in a funny twist, it seems that Dortmund fans don’t want Lehmann on their team either.
January 7, 2008
Greg and I were slamming some serious keys on the keyboard today as we chatted back and forth regarding our new initatives at Keeper Skool and Kaliaaer. The conversation got lead astray when Greg mentioned something about some young guy whom he saw in training for Barcelona while he was in Spain. Oier Olazábal Paredes (we’ll call him Oi for short), got swooped up at the tender age of 17 (Born in 1989) by Barcelona, and is now third in line to the likes of Victor Valdes.
Following is a video of young Oier clocking up some game time (I’m not sure if this is FC Barcelona B team, or Real Union, where he started his goalkeeping career):
January 5, 2008
Great Goalkeepers are the First Line of Offense!
The first priority of every goalkeeper is to prevent the ball from entering the goal. This objective is the focus of the majority of most youth goalkeeper training today. It makes sense! The goalkeepers are the last line of defense.
However, in the game of soccer today, the demands of the game require that goalkeepers have the technical and tactical skills to start and support their team’s attack of the opponent. The goalkeeper that can begin an attack with each clearance can be a huge asset to their team. However, the goalkeeper who kicks or throws aimlessly is wasting quality attacking opportunities
Can the young goalkeeper begin to develop this ability to be the “first line of offense” in the early stages of their formal goalkeeper training? I’d like to offer some thoughts on exploring the role of the youth goalkeeper as the first attacker.
What should happen when the youth goalkeeper gains possession of the ball?
- Secure the ball.
- Take a deep breath.
Think about trying to keep possession of the ball with his/her team.
Look for your teammates
- Where is the teammate who is in the most favorable position to receive the ball safely?
Generally the goalkeeper should look to the side opposite from which the attack was made, as this side will be less congested.
Start the attack as soon and as safe as possible
- When to throw, when to hold, and when to kick the ball depends largely on the situation.
- A throw and a kick can be used to various advantages.
Holding on to the ball also allows the team to recover and change to an attacking attitude.
It is critical that the goalkeeping instructor and team coach spend time developing the goalkeeper’s confidence within the team through functional play. Within the team play the focus is on what the keeper must do after he/she gets the ball. Most importantly, it is vital to develop the goalkeepers ability to stay calm with the ball as well as focus on how to get the ball to a teammate in the safest way possible. Allowing the goalkeeper to work within the team as the first attacker will build consistency and confidence between the goalkeeper and his/her teammates.
A problem I consistently see in game play at the U8 – U12 age groups (and many older ages too) is that the goalkeepers are put under instant pressure and their response is to get rid of the ball as soon as possible. I have found two main sources for this pressure. The first is the team coach and the second are the parents. Attend a youth game at the U8-U12 age group levels and you often hear coaches and parents screaming “KICK IT!” within just moments of the goalkeeper gaining possession of the ball. The response is the same! A ball kicked or thrown anywhere with no purpose or advantage to the goalkeeper’s team.
When this happens, three things have occurred. There has been no time for the goalkeeper’s nerves to settle after the save, no time for the brain to change from a defending attitude to an attacking attitude, and no time for the eyes to focus on the field to see options.
It is of great importance to develop the defending and attacking technical and beginning tactical skills of young goalkeepers. It is only through this developmental process, our young keepers will comfortably become connected to the team play on both sides of the ball.
This is the second part in a series of three writings focusing on Youth Goalkeeping. Part 1, published on Dec. 30, 2007, can be found in the December archives.