Before starting this article, we would like to inform you that these articles are our opinions from our active career as goalkeeper, but also as goalkeeper trainer. Therefore, it is not always the right one. As with many things in life, there will always be different possibilities and opinions. Therefore, this one or that one of others is not wrong, but just like what this article is about, communication is very important. Also with your trainer or goalkeeper trainer you need to have good communication as a goalkeeper in order to share an opinion.
From our point of view as goalkeeper trainer, communication is the most difficult factor you can teach a goalkeeper. You insist on it every training and evaluation, but it has to be in your personality. You have to be confident enough in front of your fellow players to be able to handle it. It goes without saying that when you have just joined a new team, coaching will not be the same as if you had been a goalie with this team for a few years. Nevertheless, communication is one of, if not the most important factor that you as a goalkeeper must have.
As a goalkeeper, you are in a position to see the whole field and what is happening on it, which means that effective communication can warn defenders of potential threats and stop an attack before it starts.
The key to effective communication can be broken down into 3 categories:
- The words you say
- How you say these words
- When exactly you say these words
The words you say to communicate as a goalkeeper
Specific and concise
When you talk to your team-mates, try to keep the information as concise as possible, say as much as necessary and no more. Giving your team-mates longer commands during the game can serve as a distraction or cause your communication to lose its impact.
Be efficient with what you say by giving instructions as trigger words, e.g. change, alone and squeeze. You can agree with your team-mates during training what each of these trigger words means, so that during matches they know what to do when they hear each command. This will maintain the impact of your words and make the information easy to recognise and follow in the heat of the moment.
Also try to agree on some gestures. For example, you can use your hand to indicate where you want the ball to go back. Not only which foot, but also how far away from the body you want it to go The arms wide open can e.g. mean that the player is all alone and can take the ball quietly A wide-open left or right arm can then indicate e.g. on which side the opponent is coming to pressure These are just a few examples of how miscommunication can be countered The wind, someone on the sidelines shouting something, etc. can prevent your words from being heard properly By making additional gestures, your team-mate will still know how to react
Often when a goalkeeper communicates, they give general information to guide the defensive unit as a whole While this is effective and a good start, goalkeepers can take their communication skills to the next level by then giving specific information to individual members of the defensive unit
Suppose you have told the defence to “shift” or “tilt” to one side of the field and you notice that your left back is a little out of position. Identify who you are instructing by using his name, followed by the necessary information. So, according to the example above, this may sound like “*name* step and slide right”. This will ensure that you get their attention and you can start defending on an individual level, as well as a whole unit.
Specificity also comes in the instructions, for example instead of telling a teammate that they have a man in the “back”, you can let them know where by saying, “back left”. These extra small details give the goalkeeper more control over the defensive part of the pitch.
Communication as a goalkeeper is about helping your teammates, not about shouting and swearing at them. Do not be afraid to encourage and praise your team-mates and let what you say focus on what they can do to prevent a goal attempt, not on what they did wrong earlier.
How to apply these words
Be confident and clear
I know many young goalkeepers who suddenly become shy when they have to direct their teammates, and often they know what to say but don’t have the confidence to say it. I was once in the same position, and to overcome this I made my teammates believe that I was confident with the way I conveyed it.
Try to make the words you use short and sweet and be loud and clear to give a form of confidence even if you are not. Over time and with experience, the confidence of even the quietest goalkeeper will grow and this will become second nature.
A strong, commanding tone gives the things you say more impact and teammates will be more likely to respond. Don’t ask them to do something, tell them!
Your tone can also influence your teammates based on the degree of urgency of a situation. A harsher, more severe tone may be used to indicate a higher level of danger, while if there is a low threat, a softer tone may be used to indicate to team-mates that they can relax on the ball.
When you say these words
Communicate early and when necessary
You do not want your team-mates to be unorganised when an attacker is preparing a shot on goal At this late stage, the defence may be all over the place, but your focus should be on organising yourself to prevent the goal. When the attacker gets into shooting position, in most cases it is already too late for anything you say to have an impact on the game Therefore, saying something like “block” should at most be used as a quick command when you are setting up.
Communication should also come early to give players time to process the information and make a decision before a threat arises For example, saying “back” when your teammate is tackled will not be effective.
Finally, many coaches tell their players to talk constantly, but don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to talk non-stop. By not communicating constantly throughout the game, but only when necessary, you not only save your voice, but what you say will also have a greater impact on the players and they will be more likely to respond.