Effective Communication as a Goalkeeper
One of the biggest responsibilities a goalkeeper has is communicating with their teammates. Beyond helping a goalkeeper stay engaged in the match, when done right, communication can provide defenders with valuable information that can limit the chances opposing players have to score. Gianluigi Buffon is famous for his effective communication that keeps his defense organized in front of him and limits the saves he has to make. Of course, we all love diving around and making big saves, and effective communication may actually mean that you have less action, but it will also lead to keeping more clean sheets. Here are some things to keep in mind while you communicate.
Be Clear and Concise
A University of Illinois study showed that when participants were engaged in conversation their performance in different motor skill and reactive tests dropped. In simpler terms: it is hard to simultaneously communicate and be physically active. With that in mind it is important that the information you give your defenders is clear and concise. The phrase ‘less is more’ definitely applies here. Certainly you want to be strong and demanding with your commands, but you also don’t want to be issuing a constant stream of commands and direction. Too much talking and your defenders will tune you out. Try and strike a balance when communicating between speaking to little (and withholding important information) and speaking too much (to the point that your teammates tune you out).
Change Your Tone
It is important that the level of urgency in your commands matches the situation on the field. If you rank the urgency in your communication on a scale of 1-10, the situations where you are at a “10” need to be serious situations where a lack of immediate action will result in your team conceding a dangerous chance or even a goal. These are moments where you need to make sure your message is heard, and that the urgency of the command is made clear in the way that you deliver it. On the other hand, most of the time you can’t be at a “10” when asking your opposite outside back to tuck in when your team has possession in the opposition’s half. This isn’t to say that there won’t come about a time where it is crucial for your opposite outside back to tuck in immediately, but more often than not this command can be delivered calmly at a lower level of urgency. Communicating at a “10” all the time actually dilutes the urgency of your commands and also can lead to your teammates tuning you out. It is crucial that you match your urgency to the situation. In addition, as goalkeepers we need to project calmness and confidence, and screaming your head off in inappropriate situations does not do this. Of course there will be times where you have to be really loud and demanding, but you can’t be like that all the time.
Communicate all the time
Communication definitely pays dividends defensively but it also can be very effective offensively, particularly when playing out of the back. Whether it's reminding your players to get to their starting positions quickly before a goal kick, or directing your defensive midfielders into dangerous positions to receive the ball, these are examples of effective offensive communication. When done right you can give yourself better options when the ball is at your feet and also make your team harder to press and defend as you build the ball out of the back. With all trends in the modern game pointing towards an increase in goalkeeper involvement in possession, these are important skills to develop and hone.
Practice in Practice
The best way to get better at being an effective communicator is to practice your communication in training. Crossing and finishing, small sided, and even your goalkeeping sessions are all examples of different exercises that call for different kinds of communication. Practicing this skill in training also helps you learn about how your teammates react to direction differently. I have played with some players who I can bark at and say pretty much whatever to and they are fine with it, but I have also played with some guys who don’t like that and prefer to be spoken to differently. Ultimately you have to get your message across even if it isn’t in the player’s preferred way, but it does make sense to cater your instructions to the player you are speaking to. After all, it's in your best interest for them to follow your directions, so if taking the time to learn how they like to be communicated with is what you have to do then it makes sense to do it.