Dealing with Mistakes as a Goalkeeper

We’ve all been there:

a lapse in focus, an unlucky bounce, a moment of indecision, and in the blink of an eye your team has conceded and the blame falls largely on you. Were there mistakes by your teammates in front of you that contributed to the goal? Probably, but ultimately as goalkeepers we are tasked with keeping the ball out of the net. Given the difficulty of that task, our margin for error is razor thin. 

Nobody likes to make mistakes, and we do our utmost in our preparation to avoid making them as best we can, but ultimately to think that you will never make a mistake is not a realistic expectation. It's better to try to avoid mistakes, but also have a plan for how to deal with them when they happen. Here is a step by step process to try the next time you make a mistake.

1. Reset

As tough as making a mistake can be, chances are it won’t be the last action you have to make that game. Immediately following a mistake the best thing you can do is reset and re-focus yourself on the match. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have an opportunity to make amends for your error by making a crucial save later on. However, that can only happen if you’ve let your previous mistake go and are able to stay focused on the rest of the game. When it comes to mistakes, having a short memory is key. One of the best teammates I ever played with used to say to me that right at the end of the match if you asked him to tell you what mistakes he made he wouldn’t be able to. He had that good of an ability to refocus and move on. 

2. Re-watch

A very important tool in learning and developing as a goalkeeper is the use of video analysis. It is so helpful to be able to watch yourself in training and in matches. Human beings are fundamentally visual learners. As babies, we learn by watching our parents. I think the same is true for goalkeeping. Seeing what you are doing wrong is a lot more useful than listening to someone tell you. If your team films your games make sure you are utilizing that resource to help yourself improve. If your team doesn’t film games maybe ask a friend or a family member to film when the ball is in your defensive third. You can also ask your GK coach to film training sessions to learn that way. When watching back a mistake I try to be as objective as possible. It is hard to watch yourself make mistakes, so making sure you come into the video session with the mentality to learn and improve (and not be defensive) is crucial in order to get the most out of it. Try to assess the mistake in detail. Was it a bad decision, or did you just fail to execute a technical movement? 

3. Address in Training

Depending on the mistake it might be useful to try and correct it in training. This is situation specific, sometimes the best thing can just be to keep your same training routine, but more often there may be an exercise that can help you improve the technique or decision that you struggled with during the match. Be a good self-advocate and talk to your coach about what you feel like you need in terms of training to improve.

4. Move on

Finally you have to move on. The biggest mistake goalkeepers make is dwelling on or obsessing over mistakes for too long. Follow steps 1 through 3 and then get yourself ready to play your next game. Remember that mistakes will happen, but what will set you apart from other goalkeepers is how you deal with them and learn from them.