The Psychology Of A Goalkeeper Pt III

In the last post we looked at some qualities of a goalkeeper:
Lonely. Overlooked. Underrated. Under-appreciated. Vulnerable. Villain. But… and this is what we will talk about today …Mentally tough.
There are some critical factors a goalkeeper must go through, especially guilt and feeling like they have let people down. The reality is that there are 10 other players who make mistakes, but when the ball hits the net, the goalkeeper is the last one to watch it happen. They are living the experience, not watching it in the same way an outfield player does. The role of a striker is to score a goal, when they do, they are mission accomplished. It doesn’t matter how many times they missed. The role of a goalkeeper is to stop the goals. A striker whiffs a shot, they can make up for it by scoring later, and if teammates score and the team wins, the error is completely erased without consequence. A goalkeeper error? That one goes in the books forever.
The same is true in the “real world” though. There are times when we fail, when things seem irredeemable, when there seems no way forward. The world is full of stories of people who turned things around, and while sometimes things are irreversible, it doesn’t mean a new path can’t be created. You may be this guy:

There are many mistakes made by keepers, some truly terrible, but this one takes the biscuit. We’ve all had days like this and experienced a “Whoa, how did that happen…?” moment.
As brutal as being a goalkeeper can be, it can also be rewarding and you can be the hero. Many times the words “We’re only in this game because of you” have been said to a goalkeeper who is playing out of their skin. Sadly, often it is the negatives that haunt us, even if everyone else has moved on and forgotten.
So how can a goalkeeper stay sane in this most insane of positions?

  • Track your performance. If you’re playing against Manchester City, you are going to let in around 20% of shots on target. If you keep it below that, you’re better than average. Set goals to see how you are getting better.
  • Expect failure. Even the worst team scores 10% of the shots they get on target. Failure is an experience, not an identity and even the best are only 90% successful.
  • It’s only temporary. All of it. Those big mistakes you made may have happened, but the world is still turning.
  • Keep perspective, As Maik Taylor‘s wife, Zoe, a midwife would say I’m a midwife and I know what it’s like to have a bad day. I’d joke with him and say, ‘Did anyone die?'”. With the exception of Andrés Escobar, the consequences aren’t as bad as they may seem.
  • The game is about moments. So is life. One moment doesn’t define a goalkeeper as a person, or as a goalkeeper. A goalkeeper error is no worse than a midfielder slipping and throwing away being Champions of the Premier League. It just seems like it because very often there is no one left to clean up the mistake.
  • If the goalkeeper does make a save, it is very likely they are cleaning up the error of someone else ahead of them. It’s a team effort. As George Graham said “The goalkeeper is the jewel in the crown and getting at him should be almost impossible. It’s the biggest sin in football to make him do any work.”
  • Watch your language. There is a difference between “We’ll never beat a team with that quality” and “We will keep improving to meet that standard.” Both recognize a difference between the teams, one has given up, the other is working to improve. This is the difference between a belief in permanent or temporary states.
  • Likewise, there is a difference between “I can’t do that” and “I am working to be able to do that”. One is pessimistic, the other shows hope. Choose your words well.

How we view a situation is critical to how we overcome it. But not only that, but we if we believe there is no improvement, we may fall into a trap of learned helplessness.
Here are today’s three takeaways:
1 – Almost every mistake we make is forgotten by others. Some have bigger consequences than others, but we can move on from them.
2 – Life is a team effort. We all have goalkeepers in our life, those people we can trust and rely on when we screw up. Appreciate them, and support them when they are having  a bad day at the office.
3 – Watch your words. What do they say about your mindset? You can change your outlook on life by changing the way you talk and by seeing success as a result of your efforts, and failure as a result of your humanity. The harder you work, the more opportunities you will create.
Albert Camus made a great statement about the parallels of life and soccer. He was right, whatever happens on the field has a mirror in everyday life. Somewhere in your life is a goalkeeper, feeling the pressure to hold things together while everyone else is doing step-overs, and trying to get on the scoresheet. For me it’s my wife. Go find the goalkeeper in your life and show them some love and appreciation.
Here’s our last bunch of weak shots for the week:

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